Jump to content
Linguaholic

The Origins of English Sayings.. Help me with "hunker down"!


Recommended Posts

Yesterday, I was on a thread where we were discussing the "fish in the sea" saying as it relates to other potential people to date. It made me start thinking (because frankly, there are way too many fishing terms that apply to dating) there are a lot of sayings people may not understand.

Several of these sayings are routed in historical events which are carried back to cultures as common phrases.. "in the crosshairs" comes to mind. How many people know what NATO is not a name, but an acronym. Do they know what it means?

Simple phrases, which we understand without thought can really trip up someone who is trying earnestly to learn the English language. "Do you think I was born yesterday?" For example, would make no sense to someone learning the language because of the obvious answer: if you can say or write that, the answer is "no". When we all know the question was really "Do you think I am that stupid?"

How we must be so confusing to those learning our complex and dynamic language that gets it claws into something flashy and adopts it into our regular communication. That reminds me - does language have "claws"?

So, as I still resist surfing the web for the answer, I am still asking about the origins of "hunker down" so commonly used when it comes to staying safe in the face of adversity. Someone here knows...

I'm thinking it could be nautical, but am challenging someone here to come up with the answer.

Do you have any common sayings for which you cannot identify the origin? I'd love to hear some more.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Improve your knowledge of any language online

I just came across a blog by journalist Ron Franscell that explained a likely origin of "hunker down" is probably from the Old Norse word huka, which means "to squat," or the old Dutch word hurken, which means the same thing. The phrase "hunker down" was used by the Scots in the 18th century. If a person squats, they are closer to the ground and less likely to be moved. They have a better chance of surviving and getting through tough times essentially.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you so much for that..

I just came across a blog by journalist Ron Franscell that explained a likely origin of "hunker down" is probably from the Old Norse word huka, which means "to squat," or the old Dutch word hurken, which means the same thing. The phrase "hunker down" was used by the Scots in the 18th century. If a person squats, they are closer to the ground and less likely to be moved. They have a better chance of surviving and getting through tough times essentially.

So I was wrong about it being nautical, but that is a great answer! I can finally put that one to rest.  :party:

Link to post
Share on other sites

The saying, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" is a good one. When I was younger I thought it made no sense but apparently it means that if someone gives you something, you shouldn't complain about it, just be thankful. I'm not sure how it came to be but it's very old.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Scribendi: World-Class Editing and Proofreading

Hey Pojokers

We do use "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" in German as well. In German it is "Einem geschenkten Gaul, schaut man nicht ins Maul". The meaning is exactly the same but the nice thing in german is that the two nouns sound like a rhyme --->Gaul / Maul

Link to post
Share on other sites

"Hunker down" is a reference to battening down the hatches while out at sea during a storm.  It means to secure all items on deck and head to the lower level of the ship.  The one that really gets me, as well as George Orwell, is "toe the line".  Most people think the proper phrase is "tow the line", when in reality the origins of the actual phrase are from old english people expressing how one should not overstep a boundary.  Toe the line means to use tact and caution to avoid breaching a barrier.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I've always thought about it as a way of saying your going to endeavor on doing something until it's done. It usually relates to taking on a challenging or tedious task for example, "I'm gonna hunker down and finish my project tonight".

Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting thread. Word origin can be very interesting. Does anyone know a site where you can look up the origin for different words? With real explanations.

Yes, there is such a site for English language phrases and their origins.  This one is very thorough and detailed and beautifully organized alphabetically as well as by specific categories of phrases (e.g. nautical, biblical, etc.)

http://www.phrases.org.uk/index.html

In fact, it's such a great resource one can easily lose track of time exploring all the fascinating details of how these various phrases came about! 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, there is such a site for English language phrases and their origins.  This one is very thorough and detailed and beautifully organized alphabetically as well as by specific categories of phrases (e.g. nautical, biblical, etc.)

http://www.phrases.org.uk/index.html

In fact, it's such a great resource one can easily lose track of time exploring all the fascinating details of how these various phrases came about!

Thank you, Laura. I will definitely check it out. =) What I like about studying the English language is that there are so many resources available online. I wish there was a good site like this for Swedish because there are some really funny idioms that I'd really like to know the origin of. We have sayings going like this: 'You shit in the blue cabinet' and 'you have your beard in the mailbox' - I mean, there must be some funny background stories to those ones, hehe.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...