Why do we say 'spill the beans' and other expressions? Exploring the origins

FILE - An animal trainer sits with an elephant inside a room.

You've likely uttered phrases like "the elephant in the room" or "heart of gold" in everyday conversations, but have you ever paused to consider where these expressions come from? 

Phrases like these permeate everyday language, often carrying meanings that extend far beyond their literal interpretations. 

Nevertheless, these common phrases have a captivating history that illuminates their evolution and integration into our everyday language. Delving into the origins of these expressions reveals how they have adapted over time and become entrenched in our linguistic repertoire, enriching our communication and offering a glimpse into the past.

The story behind "the elephant in the room"

This expression paints a vivid picture of an issue as large and unmissable as an elephant that, paradoxically, everyone decides to ignore.

The origin of the saying is quite intriguing. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the phrase was first recorded in 1959, appearing in The New York Times. This initial usage marks the beginning of the phrase's integration into modern language.

On June 20, 1959, the publication noted that "financing schools has become a problem about equal to having an elephant in the living room. It’s so big you just can’t ignore it."

However, the concept dates back much further. In 1814, Russian writer Ivan Krylov penned "The Inquisitive Man," a tale about a character who visits a museum and, notably, fails to acknowledge the presence of an elephant presumably within the room. 

Discovering the roots of "spill the beans"

"Spill the beans" is another intriguing expression commonly used when someone reveals a secret. Historians suggest this idiom might have originated from an ancient Greek voting method where beans were used to cast votes. 

Spilling the beans prematurely could inadvertently reveal the election's outcome. Today, spilling the beans metaphorically signifies letting out secret information, often causing disruptions or surprises.

Understanding "kick the bucket"

"kick the bucket" is a colloquial way to refer to someone's death. There are multiple theories about its origin, but one popular explanation links it to the old method of slaughtering pigs. A bucket was placed under the pig, which it would kick during the butchering process. 

Over time, "kick the bucket" evolved into a euphemism for death, illustrating the phrase's grim historical context.

Unraveling the history of "go cold turkey"

The phrase "go cold turkey" originated in the early 20th century, initially used to describe blunt speaking but soon evolved to mean abruptly quitting addictive behaviors, possibly inspired by the cold, clammy skin and goosebumps resembling turkey skin seen in withdrawal. 

First recorded in 1921 in British Columbia’s Daily Colonist as describing straightforward cessation of vices for medical treatment, its frequent media usage during the 1920s helped solidify its current meaning.

FOX News contributed to this story.