I used to hear a variation of Michelle's phrase at home... "hurts like the devil". In curiousity I looked up "dickens" in my old dictionary and came up with this:
dickens, n. devil; deuce (usually preceded by "the"). 1590-1600; apparently a fanciful use of "Dicken", diminutive of "Dick", proper name. Ouch! That hurts like the dickens (or is it the devil or the deuce)!? Interesting!
Where did the phrase "the whole nine yards" come from?
Also, in the restaurant business, when we run out of something, we say "86" the item. Been in this business a long time and no one can tell me what that means or where it came from. Thomas: Do you use this term?
There's an interesting British web site called World Wide Words that discusses the origin of obscure words and expressions. There doesn't seem to be a consensus for the whole nine yards, but the one that sounds most plausible to me is
it was invented by fighter pilots in the Pacific during World War Two. It is said the .50 calibre machine gun ammunition belts in Supermarine Spitfires measured exactly 27 feet. If the pilots fired all their ammo at a target, they would say that it got ?gthe whole nine yards?h
The explanation for eighty-six is similarly shrouded in obscurity. The site owner's favorite explanation was submitted by one of his readers
?gThe term was current in the late 1930s when I was a teenager in New York City. It was supposed to have derived from the street-car line that operated on First Avenue on the East Side of Manhattan. The line ran from 14th Street to 86th Street (both major east-west streets). As a north-bound car came to the last stop, the motorman would call out (usually in a rich brogue), ?gEighty-six! End of the line! All out!?h
Yes, we use that too. I always thought 86 was known as a file in the military. The trash can file. When someone would ask the boss where to file a piece of paperwork he would tell them "file 86." In other words, throw it away we don't need it anymore.
Here's another: It's raining cats and dogs! If that's ever true I need to get some more Puppy Chow!
Apparently "The Whole Nine Yards" comes from the construction business. A standard concrete truck holds nine cubic yards of concrete. So when you order, you can order a partial load, or "the whole nine yards."
"Well-heeled" harkens to the days when only the wealhty could afford to replace shoes, when needed. If you saw someone who had a fair amount of leather between the soles of their feet and the ground, you knew that person had money.
There are some dandy books on word/ophrase origins out there.
I have three or four and they are great winter-by-the fireplace or bathroom reading.
I know lots of them from saiing. Three sheets to the wind? The devil to pay?
Would be a great Christmas/holiday gift.
What I dislike is the "slanguage" that purports to get the user past cussing. "Oh, shoort." "Oh, sugar." "Darm." "I hate those flipping [insert hate tagket here.] "It was the worst freakin' date of my life."
I don't remember who wrote it, but one of the best books about it is "Mother Tongue."
One of the things explained is why we have "four," and "fourteen," but also "forty." That's just one example.
Supposedly, "kick the bucket" comes from the days when mortuary science consisted mainly of keeping enough ice on hand. The corpse was on a well hidden bed of ice. There were 'weep' holes in the bottom of the coffin and a bucket was underneath, behind the bier bunting to catch the melt. It was considered an omen of impending death if a mourner bumped or in any way spilled the bucket's contents. With etymology, as with other things, you have to wonder just how much is urban legend, or popular folklore.
And in hurricane season ,it may be appropriate to mention "Holy mackerel!." It comes from sporadic "fish" rains, associated with hurricanes and other cyclonic weather. European peasants though it was God delivering manna.