Combined Minds: The girls discuss old sayings and what they mean now. 


Carmen: When editing a recent article, our copy editor Kerry Speckman was a bit confused when the writer referred to someone’s actions as “out of pocket” since her definition of the term made no sense in that context. When she asked us about it, we explained that it meant someone did something or said something (a little crazy) out of nowhere. 


Ambar: This then led us to be confused as to why she was confused. Since when did “out of pocket” mean anything other than causing chaos by saying untimely remarks? Well, it turns out that back in the day, the term “out of pocket” was used to express being broke or unavailable. 


Carmen: Obviously, this sent us down a rabbit hole of finding words or sayings that once meant one thing and now mean something completely different. The first one we found was “awful.” I know what you’re thinking … how could “awful” mean anything other than the worst … well, back in the day, the term was used to describe things being “worthy of awe.” When we, as a society decided to make the switch, is beyond us.  


Ambar: “Running amok” didn’t always mean wild or erratic behavior; it originally had a more serious meaning. Picture this: 18th- and 19th-century European travelers stroll into Malaysia, only to witness seemingly ordinary tribesmen turning into accidental horror movie extras, unleashing brutal and random chaos. Of course, it ended up being a very normal mental condition that is still diagnosed to this day. But we’ll keep using the term for when we have one too many at the bars. 


Carmen: Here is another fun one. What do you think of when you hear the term “church bells ringing”? I think of love being in the air. I think of meeting someone and hearing the “church bells ringing” referring to future wedding bells. Well, that was not always the case. It used to refer to a chatty woman, specifically, a lovely lady who likes to yap, specifically during church sermons.  


Ambar: Recently told somebody that they’re barking up the wrong tree? 


Carmen: I am constantly barking up the wrong tree 🙁


Ambar: Yeah, well, aren’t we all? Back in the early 1800s, “barking up the wrong tree” literally meant a hunter’s dogs were pointing out the wrong tree. Now we use it to tell someone they are taking the wrong action because their information is incorrect. Ah, the good old days of simplicity in both society and language.


Carmen: OK, how about Y2K? When I, being Gen-Z and all that, hear the term, I think of the year 2000 and the trends it started. I think of low-rise jeans, flip phones and glitter everything — as most Gen-Zers do. But, if you ask a millennial or anyone over the age of 28, Y2K stands for the mass havoc that was spread due to a computer programming problem that was expected to create all kinds of chaos once the new millennium began. People genuinely believed the world would go into a total blackout once the ball dropped in 2000.


Ambar: And it just keeps getting better. The hangover cure term “hair of the dog” has a medieval origin. It was said that if you were bitten by a rabid dog, the victim would be cured by applying the same dog’s hair to the wound. Doesn’t sound like the best solution but neither does drinking more alcohol when you’re hungover. 


Carmen: I am a firm believer in “hair of the dog.” There is nothing like four Bloody Marys the morning after to cure a disgusting hangover. 


Ambar: Listen, if it works, it works. Who am I to deny facts? 


Carmen: Once you get past the initial gag reflex to the smell, it’s smooth sailing. 


Ambar: Which also applies to all of this talk about modern-day slang having meant something else entirely back in the day. Once you get past the idea that we will constantly be coming up with new meanings for words that already have definitions, everything will be (as Carmen put it) smooth sailing.