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Deciphered body parts labeled on a white background for money idioms

Money Idioms and The Body parts deciphered

Ah, money – that ever-elusive paper (or digital figure) that keeps the world spinning and our wallets either bulging or weeping. It’s no surprise that over the centuries, humans, in their infinite wisdom and wit, have intertwined the concept of money with the very anatomy that carries them through life. Yes, we’re talking about those bizarre, body-related money idioms that make you scratch your head and wonder, “Who in the world came up with this?”

Let’s embark on a humorous exploration of some of the most popular money idioms that deal with body parts, and attempt to uncover their origins. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy, laughter-filled ride!

Paying Through the Nose

Picture this: You’re at a marketplace, and the merchant, upon seeing your interest in a rather ordinary turnip, demands you pay an outrageous sum. You’re essentially paying through the nose for it. But why the nose, of all places?

Legend has it that this idiom harks back to the 9th century when the Vikings (yes, those bearded, seafaring warriors) conquered Ireland. They imposed a rather peculiar tax on the locals – a nose tax! If you couldn’t pay up, they’d quite literally slit your nose. Ouch! So, the next time you feel like you’re paying too much for something, be thankful that it’s only a metaphorical slit to your wallet and not your actual nose.

Foot the Bill

Ever been out with friends, and when the bill arrives, everyone suddenly finds the ceiling or their shoes fascinating? And there you are, left to foot the bill. But why foot? Are we kicking the bill down the road? Not exactly.

Historically, “foot” also meant to stand or to base something. So, when you’re footing the bill, you’re essentially standing as the foundation or support for the payment. It’s not as painful as paying through the nose, but your wallet might still feel a bit kicked around.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Ah, the classic call-out to anyone who’s all talk and no action. This idiom challenges someone to back up their words with cold, hard cash. Its origins are a bit murky, but it’s believed to have come from betting scenarios where someone would have to literally place their money down as a bet to prove their confidence in what they were saying. So, next time you’re feeling bold, remember to have your wallet ready, just in case you need to do some literal eating of your words.

Living from Hand to Mouth

This idiom paints a vivid picture of someone taking food in their hand and putting it directly into their mouth, with no detour to a savings account or a stash under the mattress. It’s all about living with just enough resources to get by, without any surplus for savings. While it doesn’t have a gruesomely fascinating origin like paying through the nose, it’s a stark reminder of the hand-to-mouth existence that was common in historical times (and, sadly, still is for some).

Cost an Arm and a Leg

Ever paid for something so expensive, you felt like you’d given up vital body parts in exchange? That’s “costing an arm and a leg” for you. There are several theories about its origin, but one of the most interesting (and slightly morbid) relates to portrait painting. Back in the day, having your portrait painted was a big deal, and the price would go up if you wanted more limbs included. So, a full-body portrait with all limbs intact? That’ll cost you an arm and a leg, quite literally.

In the grand tradition of human creativity, we’ve managed to link the essential elements of survival – money and our bodies – in ways that are both humorous and slightly bizarre. These idioms serve as a reminder of the quirky paths language takes to describe the human condition. So, next time you use one of these idioms, spare a thought for their origins – and maybe have a little chuckle at the expense of history.

Tom Rooney

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