But first a little bio background on Hadleigh. The man is proficient in five languages: English, Spanish, French, German and Italian…and probably not necessarily in that order. He also is a prolific writer, having authored more than 15 books and written articles for more than 100 leading publications.
And, he is a man who doesn’t like to stay in one place with homes in Beverly Hills, Calif. and Sydney, Australia plus many road trips during the calendar year. In his travels, he has met many famous people and even earned this praise for his book by the iconic Doris Day, actress and founder/president of The Doris Day Animal League. On the first page of the Holy Cow! book, she declares: “If animals could read, they’d love this!”
In this book, Hadleigh offers these explanations behind these popular sayings:
• Holy cow: This expression soared in popularity in the 1960s because of TV’s twice-weekly Batman series in which Robin, the Boy Wonder, habitually blurted out “holy” exclamations. Hadleigh notes that in India, cows are held in high esteem and revered as holy cows.
• Cat’s meow: Also referred to as the cat’s pajamas, this phrase surfaced in the 1920s when pajamas were a fairly new women’s fashion item. In 1922, the New York Times described an unknown woman strolling Fifth Avenue dressed in yellow silk pajamas in tandem with four pet cats similarly dressed. The media crafted popular catch phrases of “the cat’s pajamas” and “the cat’s meow” to mean A-1, the best of the best and tip-top.
• Hush puppies: In the period of poverty following the Civil War in the South, mothers often served up bits of fried corn batter to quiet the hungry cries of children and dogs. They often said, “Hush, child” or “Hush, puppy.” The cornmeal morsels were also tossed by hunters to quiet down noisy dogs.
• Straight from the horse’s mouth: In the olden days, a horse was comparatively as expensive as a car is today and one did not want to overspend on a horse with the possibility of having not much work left in it. The chief method of gauging a horse’s age was to examine his teeth and see how much they had worn and how far the gum line had receded.
• Piggy bank: Piggy evolved from pygg, the name of a clay once widely used in Britain to make kitchen earthenware items. People often used to store money in kitchen jars and pots made of pygg and later piggy banks. That’s why they are not referred to as a doggy bank or kitty bank.
• Lame duck president: A lame duck is someone unable to fend for himself — like, literally, a lame duck. But it is most often used in reference to a lame-duck president, one whose term of office is nearly at an end — as well as his influence. The first people called lame ducks were 17th century members of the London Stock Exchange who couldn’t pay their debts and so lost their seats and reputations.
And Hadleigh’s dogged research discovered another word origin puzzlement. It turns out that horseradish, now a popular condiment, has nothing to do with horses or radishes. It’s more of an English mistranslation for this German plant that grew along the coastline. Meer (German for the word, sea) was confused with the English mare (a female horse).
By Sarah Zumhofe