Hello and welcome, to another edition of “Common English Phrases”, bringing you the origins of common English phrases and idioms from today and yesterday. Here’s another four phrases for this latest addition to our list…
“Red Carpet Treatment”
To be given the “Red Carpet Treatment” or to “Walk the Red Carpet” means to be pampered and treated like a celebrity. This phrase comes from the early 20th century in the United States. The famous express locomotive, the 20th Century Limited, ran a nightly rail service between New York City in New York, and Chicago in Illinois. To guide passengers of the express towards the train, porters and 20th Century Limited employees would quite literally…roll out the red carpet…so that passengers travelling on the exclusive train would know where to go.
Recieving the original “Red Carpet Treatment” on the 20th Century Limited
The Graveyard Shift
To work the ‘Graveyard Shift’ means to work late at night. This comes from the 19th century where police-officers would literally have to work an all-night shift in church graveyards to prevent people breaking into cemetaries to steal dead bodies for medical research.
“The Rule of Thumb”
The ‘Rule of Thumb’ is a rule or a consistency that never changes. The original ‘Rule of Thumb’ actually referred to wifebeating, which was common (and legal!) in several countries in the 19th century. Laws, such as those in England, stated that a man could beat his wife with a wooden stick, provided that the stick be no thicker than his own thumb, hence…the rule of thumb.
To be caught ‘red handed’ means to be caught in the act of committing a crime. This saying comes from the 19th century when modern policing was just being introduced. Without forensic sciences like what we have today, most of the time, the only way to catch murderers was to literally catch them in the act of murdering, with the blood of their victim/s on their hands…hence, to be caught red-handed.