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Anecdotes on Idioms

A bad penny always turns up: Recurrence of any unwanted event or reappearance of an unwanted person which or who is considered a spoiler. In olden days coins used as penny used to lose its value after wearing off due to its overuse and moreover it was easy to produce counterfeits. So a holder tried to get rid of it by passing it off unscrupulously and as everyone did the same thing the same coin used to circulate back to the same holder again and again. A bolt from the blue The term refers to a bolt of lightning or thunder that comes from a blue (cloudless) sky and hence not anticipated. Although “blue” was a poetic allusion to the sky by 1700, the precise expression dates from the early nineteenth century. It appears in Thomas Carlyle’s description of chaotic events of the French Revolution: “Arrestment, sudden really as a bolt out of the blue, has hit strange victims.” A dark horse An unexpected potential winner or a winner who wins unexpectedly. The term dates from the nineteenth century and comes from racing, where a horse is termed “dark” when its ancestry and history are unknown. It was so used by Benjamin Disraeli in his novel, The Young Duke (1831), but the precise origin is obscure. Some think it comes from the owner’s dyeing a horse’s hair to disguise it and so get better odds; others cite the practice of a particular American horse trader who made his fast black stallion look like an ordinary saddle horse, rode into town, set up a race, and consistently came out a winner. The term was soon transferred to political candidates on both sides of the Atlantic. The first American presidential dark horse was James Polk, who won the 1844 Democratic nomination only on the eighth ballot and went on to become president.

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