Just ask linguist Rosemarie Ostler, whos just penned Lets Talk Turkey: The Stories Behind Americas Favorite Expressions (Prometheus).
Ostler says her favorite metaphors are Western-themed ones such as Bite the dust because theyve been around longer than people think.
Bite the dust has appeared in forms like bite the bloody sand and lick the dust in ancient works like Homers Iliad and the King James Bible.
Keep the ball rolling is an interesting phrase, since its actually derived from the rules of an old Colonial ball game called shinny.
Out in left field refers to extreme opinions, but the metaphor can be traced to the shape of early ballparks, where left field went deeper and put players further away from the center of the baseball diamond.
While many expressions come from politics and sports, theres one thats always stumped Ostler: Go the whole nine yards.
She believes its a military term from the Vietnam War era, but hasnt found any conclusive evidence.
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