20 Surprising Meanings Behind Everyday Expressions

Let The Cat Out Of The Bag

Today when you let the cat out of the bag it means you’re exposing a secret. But centuries ago, merchants would sometimes rip off customers at the farmer’s market by charging them for a pig, and secretly slipping a cat in the bag instead. The customer wouldn’t discover the secret until they arrived at home and let the cat out of the bag.

Out Like A Light

Ah, the blessings of falling asleep fast, or being out like a light! This expression dates back to the early 1900’s when electricity became more common and people could control it by flicking a switch. Since it had become much faster to turn the lights off, the expression was used to refer to something that happens quickly.

Beat Around The Bush

Today, we know that to beat around the bush means not getting to the point (i.e. stating the obvious or avoiding the truth about something). But did you know that this expression dates back to the 1500’s when “beaters” were hired to drive out the small animals for the hunters to get better shots. They used long sticks to beat around the bush instead of in the bush so they didn’t drive the animals out too soon (before the hunters arrived).

Worth Your Salt?

If you are worth your salt, then you are someone who’s earned their keep and worth what they’re paid. Although it’s a 19th century expression, it dates back to the Ancient Rome when the soldiers were paid in salt or with money to purchase salt. If they did a good job, they were worth their salt.