Desde 1995
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A Coruña
Santa Cruz

Expired expressions
miércoles, 21 de enero de 2015

The English language is always changing. The way we speak is very different to the way people spoke in the past. However, there are some sayings which we still use in everyday speech, even though we don't use the same technology which they refer to...

Sound like a broken record”

Meaning: to say something that you have already said many times before.

Origin: often used in reference to politicians and people who suffer from short-term memory loss, this expression comes from the days when gramophones and vinyl were the equivalent of today's iPods and MP3s. When a vinyl record had a scratch or crack it would cause the needle to skip a groove and play the same part of the song over and over and over again. Hence, if you make the same promises over and over, or complain about the same things every day, you will sound like a broken record.

Another similarly outdated phrase that is used today is “spin the track”, used to prompt someone to play a song. Of course, nowadays we simply have to press play!


Hang up the phone”

Meaning: to stop a phone-call.

Origin: Sometime in between the days of mobiles and horseback messengers there was the humble land-line telephone. These telephones were usually situated upon a vertical wall, meaning that once the user had finished their phone-call they would literally hang-up the phone. Today we still use this expression to refer to finishing a phone-call even though we put the phone into our pockets when we are finished.


Roll down the window”

Meaning: to open the window in a car.

Origin: There are still a few cars on the streets today in which you have to roll – or wind – down the windows but the majority of modern cars have electronically powered windows. That said, we still might ask someone to “roll down the window.” It may not be accurate but it sounds better than “apply pressure to that button for a few seconds to open the window, will you?”


Spend a penny”

Meaning: to go to the toilet.

Origin: this expression comes from the UK, where in the past you had to insert a penny coin into a machine in order to enter a public toilet. Nowadays, the expression is still used by some people in the UK as a euphemism. 

Hold your horses”

Meaning: stop what you are doing.

Origin: this comes from the old days when horse and carriage was the foremost method of transportation on the roads. The expression today can mean “calm down” or simply “stop”. If you think that travelling by horse and carriage is bad, just remember that they didn't have electronically powered windows either.

We also use the word “horsepower” today as a unit of measurement to refer to the power of machines such as motor-engines.

The press”

Meaning: the news media, newspapers.

Origin: Before the rise of the internet, and even television news programmes, news media boasted a huge print industry. Today we can get news online using devices such as smartphones and tablets but we still refer to the news as “the press”. The word appears in many different places referring to the media. For example, we say “hot off the press” to refer to breaking news, and “press conference” to refer to a meeting of journalists and officials such as politicians. 


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