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Who said that?


JONATHAN VAN BILSEN Special to The Standard


Have you ever pondered the peculiarities of certain everyday practices or objects? From the reasoning behind sailors' response of ‘Aye Aye’ to the significance of being in the limelight, there's often a fascinating history or logic behind these quirks.

Let us unravel some of these mysteries, starting with the maritime tradition of responding ‘Aye Aye’ to orders. The first ‘Aye’ signifies acknowledgement and understanding of the order, while the second confirms commitment to carry it out.

Ever noticed men's clothes typically feature buttons on the right, whereas women's garments have them on the left? This custom traces back to the practicality of buttoning clothes for predominantly right-handed individuals. Wealthy women were often assisted by right-handed dressmakers or maids, and so had buttons placed on the opposite side.

The distress call ‘mayday,’ used by ships and aircrafts, derives from the French term ‘m'aidez’, meaning ‘help me’.

In the world of tennis, a score of zero is called ‘love’, stemming from the French word ‘l'oeuf’, meaning ‘egg’, as the zero on the scoreboard resembled one.

The tradition of signing letters with X's, symbolizing kisses, dates back to the Middle Ages, when illiteracy was common. Individuals would sign documents with an X, and then kiss it as a pledge to honour the contents.

The phrase ‘passing the buck’ originated from card games, where a buck, symbolizing responsibility, was passed from player to player to designate the dealer.

Before drinking a toasting, clinking glasses served as a mutual trust gesture, as guests would exchange a small amount of their drink with the host, in the clinking's splash-over, to ensure the drink was not poisoned.

Being ‘in the limelight’ dates back to the invention of limelight (or crude spotlight) in the 19th century. It illuminated performers in theatres and lighthouses, making them the focal point.

Feeling ‘on cloud nine’ refers to the highest cloud altitude, analogous to a state of euphoria detached from worldly concerns.

Even the term ‘caddie,’ in golf, has historical roots, originating from Mary Queen of Scots' enjoyment of golf in France. She was accompanied by cadets (pronounced as ‘caddies’ in Scots dialect).

The pig-shaped coin banks find their origin in a linguistic misunderstanding, when ‘pygg’, a type of clay, was mistaken for ‘pig’, leading to the creation of pig-shaped banks.

So there you have it, now you can impress your friends at parties… knock ‘em dead, or maybe just stun them.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Watch his show, ‘Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel’, on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube.

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