Author Archives: Emily Upton

The Origin of the Phrase “Pulling Your Leg”

Diane M. asks: Where did the expression “pulling my leg” come from? For those who aren’t familiar with the phrase, when someone says, “You must be pulling my leg!” they usually mean, “You must be joking/teasing/making something up.” Extremely popular in the 20th century, the origin of this phrase is still something of an enigma to etymologists. There are two […]

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The Goingsnake Shootout

Ezekiel Proctor was a 19th century Cherokee man who had walked the Trail of Tears from Georgia to the Indian Territory when he was just seven years old. He was proud of his heritage, and he still spoke the language and basked in the customs of the Cherokee people. When he grew up, he became a lawman. Jim Keterson was […]

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The Origin of the Term “Brownie Points”

Andrew M. asks: Why do we say “You just earned some brownie points.” What were brownie points originally for? There are many, many origin theories for this one. One of the most often repeated and widely accepted theories is that “brownie points”—imaginary points earned by someone for doing a good deed, and lost by doing something unfavourable—stem from the Brownies, […]

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The Origin of the Phrase “Mind Your Own Beeswax”

Today I found out the origin of the phrase “mind your own beeswax.” “Mind your own beeswax” and “it’s none of your beeswax” are common phrases you might hear being shouted by six-year-olds on the school playground. For the uninitiated, they basically mean “mind your own business” or “it’s none of your business,” but some people think it’s more complicated […]

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The Origins of Kitty-corner, Catawampus, and other Cat Words

Today I found out the origins of the words “kitty-corner,” “catawampus,” and other “cat” words. The word “kitty-corner” has many different variations: catty-corner, caddy-corner, cat-a-corner, or kit-a-corner. They all mean the same thing: something that is directionally diagonal from a certain point. Interestingly, despite all of the “cats” and “kits,” the word has nothing to do with domesticated felines. Rather, […]

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