Wednesday, April 11, 2012

K - All Keyed up about Kicking the bucket in a Kangaroo court


Today's idioms are brought to you by the letter 'K' - the most difficult letter I've done so far, since most of them were literal, but I haven't failed to find interesting origins for you yet, and am not about to start now.

1.  My old '77 Mustang finally kicked the bucket. (My second car - born the same year as me.)

Meaning:  to die or stop working.

Origin:  Used as early as 1600s in England, this term originated from the practice of hanging a criminal by having him stand on a bucket, then kicking the bucket out from under him.  Prisoners who committed suicide would often kick a bucket out from under their own legs.  Today, it can be applied to any manner of death.

2.  The criminal cried "Kangaroo Court" when he was given the death penalty.

Meaning:  An unfair, biased, or hasty judicial proceeding that ends in a harsh punishment; an unauthorized trial conducted by individuals who have taken the law into their own hands, such as those put on by vigilantes or prison inmates; a proceeding and its leaders who are considered sham, corrupt, and without regard for the law.

Origin: The concept of kangaroo court dates to the early nineteenth century, and is thought to have been made popular during the California Gold Rush of 1849.  Scholars trace its origin to the historical practice of itinerant judges on the U.S. frontier. These roving judges were paid on the basis of how many trials they conducted, and in some instances their salary depended on the fines from the defendants they convicted. The term kangaroo court comes from the image of these judges hopping from place to place, guided less by concern for justice than by the desire to wrap up as many trials as the day allowed.  The first recorded use is from 1853 in a Texas context.  The phrase is considered an Americanism, despite the fact that we have no kangaroos here.

3.  I was all keyed up after my meeting.

Meaning:  stressed, tense, anxious, excited.

Origin:  This phrase refers to the string of a piano key or a guitar string, which when tightened, put a lot of stress on the string and cause it to vibrate quicker.  So when a person is keyed up, it refers to their inability to stop moving.


39 comments:

  1. Ooh, I feel clever today! I already knew about two of those, but I didn't know the origin of keyed up. :D

    ReplyDelete
  2. keep em comin! fascinating learning abot the origins!
    and i will be featuring you on x day =)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very cool. Again. You are the master of idiom instruction.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Replies
    1. I don't know that I've actually heard it used before, but it sounds cool.

      Delete
  5. Do you end up in Kangaroo Court only if you've been arrested by the Keystone Cops?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL - I had to look up Keystone Cops. Didn't know that one.

      Delete
  6. Oh, I never would have thought Kangaroo Court was an American thing.
    I like the keyed up one. ^_^

    ReplyDelete
  7. Interesting to see how a phrase like keyed up actually got started.

    Nice to meet you, and I hope you're enjoying the Challenge!

    KarenG
    A to Z Challenge Host

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, I'm having lots of fun with this.

      Delete
  8. I never would have guessed at kangaroo court, but it makes perfect sense :-)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Reading these word origens is always so cool! I like the Kangaroo Court one a lot. As far as you finally running your Mustang into the ground, a friend of mine who has a place in North Carolina has an old Mustang in her yard that her son drove there. I loved the image of weeds and bushes growing up around it so very much that I did a painting of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Awesome. I haven't had that car since 1999, and don't even remember what happened to it...I think my dad sold it when I was in college, after he gave me his truck.

      Delete
    2. It would be cool to see your painting of it.

      Delete
  10. Yay. I finally know a couple of them. Never heard of Kangaroo court, though.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I absolutely LOVE the title of this post! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. LOL, it was the first time I was able to string them together in an actual sentence.

      Delete
  12. EUU! That "kicked the bucket" one was grim. I think I'll stop using that idiom. :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry to have ruined it for you. Boo me. LOL.

      Delete
  13. I love learning about word/phrase origins. that kick the bucket though--made me shudder!
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com
    Just A-Zing around!

    ReplyDelete
  14. I never knew what Kangaroo Court meant! Now I'm thinking I used it in the wrong way at some point. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Eh, that's okay. I'm sure no one noticed...or they were too nice to tell you. :D

      Delete
  15. Guess I can say my guitar is keyed up!

    ReplyDelete
  16. I really love these origins posts of your! So interesting. I just found out my sons ancient rabbit kicked the bucket while we are on spring break vacation! Sad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww, another VW bites the dust. Sad-face.

      Delete
  17. Never heard of kangaroo court. These are so interesting. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me, either, until the day I posted this. :)

      Delete
  18. Oh, good ones. I just love hearing the history on these. Sorry, if I'm repeating myself, but I really do love that you include how they came about. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Repeat away! Lol. Glad you're enjoying these.

      Delete
  19. These are great. You're doing a fabulous job. I'm always interested in finding out the origins of things. Kangaroo Court was new to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! It's fun introducing new phrases to people. I should make a movement to bring some of the older ones back and make them popular again. It'd be fun trying, but probably pretty futile.

      Delete