Today we will present you with more phrases of special interest.
"When the chips are down:"
Means tough times, when things are looking bleak.
Example: A bit of advice for you - when the chips are down you need to fall back on a technique I like to call quitting.
Origin: from the practice of using chips as a substitute for money when gambling. When winning you accumulate a lot of chips. But when you loose, your chips dwindle down.
"Drop the hammer:"
Means to kill someone.
Example: during the killer's trial, the big question was not his guilt but if the jury would drop the hammer and call for the death penalty.
Origin: The "hammer" is the hammer of a gun. When the gun is cocked, the hammer has been pulled back. Pulling the trigger drops the hammer onto the cartridge, firing the gun.
"Son of a gun:"
Means exclamation of disbelief.
Example: I'll be a son of a gun. I didn't think you could keep a job for more than six months.
Origin: Early warships had very cramped quarters. Sailors slept between the cannons because that was the only space available. They sometimes had female company on board. Some ships actually carried prostitutes. Other times a sailor's wife would be allowed on board so that he would not have to leave the ship, and potentially desert.
In any case, many children were conceived between the cannons, or guns. Woman who gave birth on the ships typically also did so between the guns.
The male children were thus called "son of a gun."
"For the love of Pete:"
Means I am frustrated with this situation.
Example: For the love of Pete, can we just pick a restaurant and stop searching? I am hungry.
Origin: This phrase and phrases like "for Pet's sake" are euphemisms for the phrases "for the love of God/Christ" or for "God's/Christ's sake" and hail from a time when those phrases were considered blasphemous. Nowadays, phrases like "for the love of god" are commonly used, but the euphemisms are still used.
Why Peter? Most likely it is a reference to the catholic Saint Peter.
"Knock on wood:"
Means if good luck is willing.
Example: I am sure that your tax returns will not be audited, knock on wood.
Origin: One theory is that it originated in the middle ages when there were in circulation pieces of the Holy Rood or Cross on which Jesus was crucified. To touch one of these was supposed to bring good luck hence touch the wood for good luck, There were several Holy Foreskins around the time … but that was a different story!