The Whole Story Of 'Whole Hog' and Others

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The expression "to go whole hog" has nothing to do with pigs, for not all hogs are swine. In the late 13th century, a "hog" also referred to a young unshorn sheep.

Wool has always been a valuable material. When there was plenty of it around, the young sheep, or "hogs," were left alone. Besides, their fleece was so short that to shear it was difficult and not worth the bother. Therefore, farmers would clip them at best, and usually without much care. But some farmers felt that a little could go a long way. So they went "whole hog," shearing the lamb closely all over. This practice by thrifty shepherds led to the expression meaning "without compromise or reservation, going all the way, full steam ahead, seeing something through to the end."

Wear your 'dusty' uniform

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Khaki means "dust" in Hindustani. It's also the name of the British Army's earliest camouflaged uniforms. They were in wide use by the Indian Mutiny (1857-58).

To protect themselves against native snipers, British soldiers began to dye their white uniforms with curry powder or the mud and dust ("khak") at the battle sites. The color did not last in the sun and changing weather, however, and soldiers had to dye their uniforms repeatedly. Officers felt the urgent need for a battle dress in a dusty color that was washable and fade-resistant.

In 1883, an English cloth salesman, a Mr. Leeman, and a dyer got together to experiment. They used Leeman's kitchen as their laboratory. Samples of cloth were boiled in copper pots. No success. A breakthrough came one evening, however, while Mrs. Leeman was using all the pots to prepare dinner.

Impatient for a pot, the men boiled some cloth in an old rusty pan. The dye they used, chromium oxide, was fixed by the iron oxide (rust) of the pan. Khaki was on the cloth to stay! Later, the khaki battle dress was adopted by British troops throughout the Empire.

Who put the 'hand' in 'handkerchief'?

Dramatists and spectators have waved this linen square since Roman times; ladies dropped it as a token of love, while Marie Antoinette's tears on her lace gown propelled the lace handkerchief into vogue.

Originally, the handkerchief had no connection with a hand. It was a simple cloth used in the East to protect one's head from the sun. Historians believe sailors brought the idea to France, where it soon became fashionable as a "covering for the head" - couvrir chef. When the cloth crossed the Channel, the British transformed the word to "kerchief." However, this light covering did little to protect the head in the cold English climate, so people took them off their heads and carried them in their hands and pockets. The wearers duly acknowledged the new way of carrying the cloth by adding "hand" to its name, creating a monstrous hybrid word: "hand-kerchief" or "hand-head-covering," a word that got its prefix only at the end of its long history.

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