There are many phrases commonly used in everyday language that we use to easily communicate something – sometimes to add a bit of fun or humor. For example, you may be super eager to celebrate a win after you made an online sports betting wager, but a friend warns you not to “count your chickens before they hatch” since the game isn’t over, or you overhear someone who’s lost on a race say “well, that’s the way the cookie crumbles.” What US horse racing fans (as well as interested readers from all around the world) may find surprising is that some of these phrases actually have their roots in horse racing.
Let’s take a look at some of these sayings, check out what they mean and discover their origins in racing.
Across the board
Modern popular meaning: To apply to everyone or everything.
Origin: This phrase has its roots in a type of bet where the gambler would wager equal amounts on a horse to win, place or show. This bet was known as an “across the board” wager. Whether you were learning how to bet on horse racing, or were just unsure of which position a horse would end up in, this wager could help you secure a win.
Chomping at the bit
Modern popular meaning: To be restless or impatient to start something.
Origin: The original phrase was “champing at the bit” and referred to how horses would “bite” on the bit in their harnesses if they were excited or nervous when competing in a horse racing tournament. However, as use of the word “champing” became less popular, the phrase evolved to become known as “chomping at the bit.”
Modern popular meaning: When little is known about a competitor in a race or activity and they unexpectedly win.
Origin: This phrase originally referred to a horse that was an unknown entity in a race. The fact that so little was known about the competitor meant that it was difficult to decide the odds on how likely the horse was to win.
Down to the wire
Modern popular meaning: When someone attempts to improve their position over others when competing for an opportunity.
Origin: This phrase came about from how jockeys would try to guide their horses into a better position to win a race.
Neck and neck
Modern popular meaning: When two competitors in a race or activity are very close and have an equal chance of winning. You’ll see it used in so many sports commentaries once you look out for it!
Origin: In all types of horse racing, two horses that were racing side by side towards the finish line were described as being “neck and neck.”
Modern popular meaning: Today this phrase is mostly associated with politics – more specifically, when an individual has agreed to help another person win a political position with the aim of claiming the deputy or secondary role to that position.
Origin: A running mate referred to a horse that was entered into a race by a stable to set the pace for another horse from that same stable.
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