Have you ever wondered where some of those clichés and worn phrases come from? Let's check out a few.
Above board, in open sight. This comes from 1610-20, from having to keep your hands on the table (the board) to discourage cheating at cards.
A basket case, made powerless or inefficient by nerves etc. This originates from WWI. Back then it meant a soldier who was missing both his arms and legs, and had to be carried around in a basket, according to Wictionary.org.
The bee's knees. The term first emerged in the 18th century, and back then it meant something very small. The modern meaning is from 1920s American slang, meaning an outstanding person or thing. Other examples include the cat's whiskers, the canary's tusks, and my personal favourite, the flea's eyebrows.
Come on, everybody. Let's bring back "the flea's eyebrows." It's a perfectly good phrase, right?
A bone of contention, meaning something disputed. This comes from two dogs fighting over the same bone.
Blow smoke up someone's ass, to give someone insincere compliments. So, apparently in the 1700s doctors actually blew tobacco smoke up people's rectums. Why? To resuscitate people presumed dead, especially drowning victims. I guess it wasn't very successful, because they came up with a plethora of other ailments to treat with this, such as headaches, hernias, respiratory problems, and abdominal cramps. Check out the link: there's a hilarious picture of the equipment they used. http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/05/origin-expression-blow-smoke-ass/