Now then (go the Wales!), after yesterday’s vitriolic outburst I promised you something a little more cheery, so here goes my loves 🙂
I’ve previously declared my love for the British language, and this is what inspired this post.
A couple of days ago I was having a mini coughing fit (probably due to my smoking – no, I still haven’t stopped), and my colleague said
“Are you ok?”
I said “Sure, no problem, I just have a frog in my throat”
He said “You have a what?”
He grew up in Australia and had never heard of the saying. As I tried to explain it, it struck me that it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.
When we Brits say we have a frog in our throats, it means we have a cough. But what on earth does a frog have to do with a cough? And why do we say we have frogs in our throats?
Well, first things first – the phrase ‘a frog in my throat’ is an idiom.
According to Wikipedia an idiom can be defined as “a phrase whose meaning cannot be determined by the literal definition of the phrase itself, but refers instead to a figurative meaning that is known only through common use.”
So where does the phrase come from?
Well I’ve done a little digging, and the answer I like best goes as follows (source):
It used to be thought that if you drank water from a pond that had frogspawn in, a frog could live and hatch out in your throat, which naturally would block your voice. (I love this! I wonder if this was something which was perpetuated by the Daily Mail? – I can see the headlines now…)
Quacksalvers (that’s the traditional English equivalent of snake oil merchants) used to have a scam whereby the quack’s stooge used to pretend to be so afflicted; the quack would administer his medicine, lo and behold the stooge would cough up a live frog and “regain his voice”, and all the gullible peasants would buy this wonderful cure. For this reason, an obstruction in the throat is known as a “frog”.
So now you know.
I’ll leave you with this my dears – a pretty cool snow sculpture of a man with a frog in his mouth – image credit jgasal via flickr