February 18, 2021
You know all those expressions you hear at work? You probably know what they mean, but do you know why they mean what they mean?
Here are the top five idioms used – and overused – in work settings, and their supposed origins:
Go the extra mile
Meaning: To do more than what people expected.
Origin: In the first century AD, a Roman soldier had the right to force someone to carry their gear for up to one mile. The Gospels challenged people to accept the burden willingly and to go even further.
Learn the ropes
Meaning: To learn the basics of something.
Origin: The origin of ‘learn the ropes’ is nautical. Back when all ships had sails, new recruits had to learn how to tie knots and manipulate the ropes that moved the sails effectively.
Raise the bar
Meaning: To set the standards or expectations higher.
Origin: Raise the bar seems to come from the sport of track and field, where the high jump and pole vault both involve raising a crossbar incrementally to see how high athletes can go.
Put a stake in the ground
Meaning: To make an important decision.
Origin: After the Civil War in America, there was a rush for land where stakes were driven into the ground to mark the boundaries of a home.
Push the envelope
Meaning: To extend the limits of what’s possible.
Origin: The phrase comes from the world of aeronautics and was popularized by Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff. The ‘flight envelope’ is the boundary or limit of performance of a flight object, which you push as far as you can to discover its limits.