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From a GUIDEPOST user
“A SHOT OF WHISKEY”
In the Old West, a .45 cartridge for a six-gun cost 12 cents.
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.”
“THE WHOLE NINE YARDS”
American fighter planes in World War 2 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 of his ammo,
he was said to have given it “the whole nine yards.”
“BUYING THE FARM”
This is synonymous with dying.
During World War 1 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.
“IRON CLAD CONTRACT”
This came about from the ironclad ships of the American Civil War. It meant something so strong it
could not be broken.
“PASSING THE BUCK” & “THE BUCK STOPS HERE”
Many men in the Old West carried a jackknife made by the Buck Knife Company.
When they were playing poker, it was common to place one of the Buck knives
in front of the dealer so 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, “the buck stopped there.”
The Mississippi River became the primary 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 raff,” meaning low class.
“HOT OFF THE PRESS”
As paper goes through a rotary printing press, friction causes it to heat up.
Therefore, if you grab the paper right off the press, it is hot. The expression
“hot off the press” means to get immediate information.
Traveling by steamboat was considered the height of comfort.
Passenger cabins on the boats were not numbered. Instead,
they were named after states, and to this day, cabins on ships
are called “staterooms.”
These were floating theaters built on a barge that was pushed by a
steamboat. They played in small towns along the Mississippi River.
Unlike the boat shown in the movie “Showboat,” they did not have
an engine. They were gaudy and attention-grabbing, which is why
we say that someone who is the-life-of-the-party is “showboating.”
“OVER A BARREL”
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 an effort to empty
the lungs of water, but It was rarely effective. If you are “over a barrel,” you’re
in deep trouble.
Heavy freight was moved along the Mississippi River in large barges,
pushed by steamboats. They were difficult to control and would sometimes
swing into piers or other boats. People would say that they “barged in.”
Steamboats carried both people and animals. Since pigs smelled so bad,
they would be washed before being loaded 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 for blowing out lamps and candles.
It was later adopted into English as “curfeu,” which later became “curfew.”
Since early American colonial homes had no real fireplaces, 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.”
Texts, prints, photos and other illustrative materials depicted in GUIDEPOST have been either contributed by the authors of each published work or, to the Magazine’s good-faith knowledge, are in the public domain or otherwise benefit from the allowances of Articles 9(2), 10, 10(bis), and applicable others of the Berne Convention for the Protection of literary and artistic works.