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.
BUYING THE FARM – 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.COBWEB – The Old English word for “spider” was “cob”.
SLEEP TIGHT- Early beds were made with a wooden frame. Ropes were tied across the frame in a crisscross 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.
SHOWBOAT – These were floating theaters built on a barge that was pushed by a steamboat. These played 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”.
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. It was rarely effective. If you are over a barrel, you are in deep trouble.
HOGWASH – 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 were considered useless “hog wash”..
BARRELS OF OIL – When the first oil wells were drilled, there was 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. [42 gallons to the barrel is the standard]
HOT OFF THE PRESS – 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.