Odd facts???

Maybe true, maybe not, but definitely on the ‘odd’ side…


In the old west a .45 cartridge for a six-gun cost 12 cents and so did a glass of whiskey. If a cowhand was low on cash he would often give the bartender a cartridge in exchange for a drink. This became known as a “shot” of whiskey.‘

American fighter planes in WW2 had machine guns that were fed by a belt of cartridges. The average plane held belts that were 27 feet (9 yards) long. If the pilot used up all his ammo he was said to have given it the whole nine yards.‘

This is synonymous with dying. During WW1 soldiers were given life insurance policies worth $5,000. This was about the price of an average farm so if you died you “bought the farm” for your survivors.

This came about from the iron-clad ships of the Civil War. It meant something so strong it could not be broken.

Most men in the early west carried a jackknife made by the Buck Knife company.  When playing poker it was common to place one of these Buck knives in front of the dealer so that everyone knew who he was. When it was time for a new dealer the deck of cards and the knife were given to the new dealer. If this person didn’t want to deal he would “pass the buck” to the next player. If that player accepted then “the buck stopped there”.

The Mississippi River was the main way of traveling from north to south. Riverboats carried passengers and freight but they were expensive so most people used rafts. Everything had the right of way over rafts which were considered cheap. The steering oar on the rafts was called a “riff” and this transposed into riff-raft – or riff-raff, meaning low class.

The Old English word for “spider” was “cob”.

Traveling by steamboat was considered the height of comfort. Passenger cabins on the boats were not numbered. Instead they were named after states. To this day cabins on ships are called staterooms.

Early beds were made with a wooden frame. Ropes were tied across the frame in a criss-cross pattern. A straw mattress was then put on top of the ropes. Over time the ropes stretched, causing the bed to sag. The owner would then tighten the ropes to get a better night’s sleep.

These were floating theaters built on a barge that was pushed by a steamboat. These played the small towns along the Mississippi River. Unlike the boat shown in the movie “Showboat” these did not have an engine. They were gaudy and attention- grabbing which is why we say someone who is being the life of the party is “showboating”.

In the days before CPR a drowning victim would be placed face down over a barrel and the barrel would be rolled back and forth in a effort to empty the lungs of water. It was rarely effective. If you are over a barrel you are in deep trouble.

Heavy freight was moved along the Mississippi in large barges pushed by steamboats. These were hard to control and would sometimes swing into piers or other boats. People would say they “barged in”.

Steamboats carried both people and animals. Since pigs smelled so bad they would be washed before being put on board. The mud and other filth that was washed off was considered useless “hog wash”.

The word “curfew” comes from the French phrase “couvre-feu”, which means “cover the fire”. It was used to describe the time of blowing out all lamps and candles before sleeping for the night. It was later adopted into Middle English as “curfeu”, which later became the modern “curfew”. In the early American colonies homes had no real fireplaces so a fire was built in the center of the room. In order to make sure a fire did not get out of control during the night it was required that, by an agreed upon time, all fires would be covered with a clay pot called-a “curfew”.

When the first oil wells were drilled they had made no provision for storing the liquid, so they used water barrels. That is why, to this day, we speak of barrels of oil, rather than gallons.

As the paper goes through the rotary printing press, friction causes it to heat up.   …therefore, if you grab the paper right off the press, it’s hot. The expression means to get immediate information.


Odd facts??? — 9 Comments

  1. Barrels of oil originally were of whale oil. They were wooden barrels the same length and diameter as a modern 55 gallon drum, but as they were curved sided and wooden, they only held 42 gallons. That is the current measure of a barrel of crude oil.

  2. I suspect that these were true at some places and times, but bit universally.
    For example, both whiskey and ammo prices varied alot depending on location and type.
    I’ve always read that a shot was what a person could drink in one swallow, and that with strong alcohol a person acted like they’d been shot.

    I don’t know about on the Mississippi, but some places”staterooms” were called that because they seemed fit for heads of state (whether they were was another question!)

  3. Folk etymologies are fun but almost always wrong…
    Here’s a link from the OED dating “the whole nine yards” in the US to a New Albany, IN paper as early as 1855:

    William Safire did a piece on the phrase for the NYT:
    ( https://archive.ph/hSBsZ#selection-755.270-755.351 )
    linking it to an earlier expression of the “whole SIX yards” which incremented to nine over time by “ ‘numerical phrase inflation,’ as he puts it, that turned ‘Cloud 7’ to ‘Cloud 9.’ ”

    One writer claims to have dated “the whole six yards” in print as early as 1846 here ( https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/390644601/ ) in the Derby Mercury of Derbyshire, England, but I am too lazy to set up a free account to verify.

    I once did enjoy hearing a landlocked soul confidently explain to me how a “shot over the bough” (yes, ‘over the bough’ and not ‘across the bow’) originated from an expression for using a pistol to convince a person or critter to get back down out of a tree.

    “The Eggcorn Database” is a fine collection of mis-heard sayings: https://eggcorns.lascribe.net/

  4. jrg- Yep…

    John- You are correct.

    Jon- Specifically on the Mississippi steamboats, it was true. The other places, I have no idea, but yours makes sense.

    Guy- Sigh… figures… LOL

  5. The term “the whole nine yards’ refers to the length of Tartan required to make a great kilt. This is dated about 17th Century Scottland

  6. Most concrete truck (not front loaders at 10 yards) can hold nine yards, but routinely only carry 8 for safety. So if you get the whole nine yards……

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