Take someone down a peg - The expression probably originally referred to a ship’s flags. These were raised or lowered by pegs – the higher the position of the flags, the greater the honor. So to take someone down a peg came to mean to lower the esteem in which that person is held.
Touch and go - Dates back to the days of stagecoaches, whose drivers were often intensely competitive, seeking to charge past one another, on narrow roads, at grave danger to life and limb. If the vehicle’s wheels became entangled, both would be wrecked; if they were lucky, the wheels would only touch and the coaches could still go.
Doesn't ring a bell - Old-fashioned carnivals and amusement parks featured shooting galleries, in which patrons were invited to test their marksmanship by shooting at a target – often with a bell at the center: if something was right on target, it rang the bell. Similarly, to say that something ‘doesn’t ring a bells’ means that it doesn’t strike any ‘target’ (evoke any response) in your mind.
Put on your thinking cap - In previous centuries, it was customary for judges to put a cap on before sentencing criminals. Because judges were respected thinkers, it was referred to as a “thinking cap.”
Paint the town red - This term probably originated on the frontier. In the nineteenth century the section of town where brothels and saloons were located was known as the ‘red light district.’ So a group of lusty cowhands out for a night on the town might very well take it into their heads to make the whole town red.”
Get off scot free - In the thirteenth century, scot was the word for money you would pay at a tavern for food and drink, or when they passed the hat to pay the entertainer. Later, it came to mean a local tax that paid the sheriff’s expenses. To go scot-free literally meant to be exempted from paying this tax.
LAST DEATH FROM SMALLPOX - In September, 1978, Janet Parker, an English medical photographer, was exposed to smallpox as the result of a laboratory accident. She subsequently died. On May 8, 1980, the World health Organization declared smallpox eradicated.
LAST EXECUTION IN TOWER OF LONDON - The last execution in the Tower of London took place on Thursday, August 14, 1941, when Josef Jakobs, a German spy, was shot by an eight-man firing squad. Because he had suffered a broken ankle when he had parachuted into England on the night of January 31, 1941, he could not stand before the firing squad and he was, instead, seated in an old Windsor chair and tied up.
LAST PERSON BURNED AT THE STAKE - Phoebe Harrius was convicted of coining false money, a crime of high treason at that time, and was executed by being burned at the stake in front of Newgate Prison in England, in 1786.
LAST SURVIVING SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE - Charles Carroll was the last of the 59 men who signed the Declaration of Independence to die. He passed away in 1832 at the age of 95.
LAST VIET NAM WAR DEATH - The last American soldier killed in the Vietnam War was Kelton Rena Turner, an 18-year old Marine. He was killed in action on May 15, 1975, two weeks after the evacuation of Saigon, in what became known as the Mayaguez incident.
LAST US PIRATE HANGING - The last person hanged in the US for being a pirate was Capt. Nathaniel Gordon, in New York City on March 8, 1862. Gordon had been smuggling slaves into the US.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS:
The telephone was not widely appreciated for the first 15 years because people did not see a use for it. In fact, in the British parliament it was mentioned there was no need for telephones because "we have enough messengers here." Western Union believed that it could never replace the telegraph. In 1876, an internal memo read: "This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication."
Irish scientist, Dr. Dionysius Lardner (1793 - 1859) didn't believe that trains could contribute much in speedy transport. He wrote: "Rail travel at high speed is not possible, because passengers ' would die of asphyxia' [suffocation].
In 1966, Time Magazine predicted, "By 2000, the machines will be producing so much that everyone in the U.S. will, in effect, be independently wealthy." In that year too CoCo Chanel said about miniskirts: "It's a bad joke that won't last. Not with winter coming."
In the early 20th century a world market for only 4 million automobiles was made because "the world would run out of chauffeurs." Shortly after the end of World War II (1945), the whole of Volkswagen, factory and patents, was offered free to Henry Ford II. He dismissed the Volkswagen Beetle as a bad design.
In 1894, the president of the Royal Society, William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, predicted that radio had no future. The first radio factory was opened five years later. Today, there are more than one billion radio sets in the world, tuned to more than 33 000 radio stations around the world. He also predicted that heavier-than-air flying machines were impossible. The Wright Brother's first flight covered a distance equal to only half the length of the wingspan of a Boeing 747.
In 1927, H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, asked, "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" In 1936, Radio Times editor Rex Lambert thought "Television won't matter in your lifetime or mine."
CALIFORNIA GRIZZLY - Although it is the central figure in the state's flag, the last grizzly in California was spotted in the Sierras in 1924.
GREAT AUK - The last great auk (Pinguinus impennis) was killed by collectors on Eldey Island in 1844.
MEXICAN SILVER GRIZZLY - The last Mexican Silver Grizzly was killed in 1964 by ranchers protecting their herds.
WOLF - The last wolf in Great Britain was killed in Scotland, in 1743. The wolf became extinct in England in 1486, Scotland in 1743, and Ireland in 1770.
CAROLINA PARAKEET - The last known Carolina parakeets were sighted on Lake Okeechobee in 1904 by ornithologist Dr. Frank Chapman.
PASSENGER PIGEON - The last passenger pigeon, named Martha, died in captivity in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. Her stuffed body is on permanent display at the Smithsonian Institution.