Check Out the Disturbing Meanings of 3 Commonplace Phrases

Language is a plastic thing, and the meaning of words and phrases evolve dramatically over time. Sometimes terms go from ho-hum to holy sh*t!—and sometimes it’s the other way around. Let's learn about some of today's seemingly benign catch phrases:

  1. The Seven-Year Itch. Current meaning: Decades ago the focus was on men—though currently this expression extends to people in general—getting the urge to screw someone other than their spouse, after the magic number of manageable matrimony: seven years.
    Ye olde meaning: Literally an itch—scabies! The red, inflamed rash caused by mites (often through prolonged skin-to-skin contact—so we still have the possible cheating angle) is extremely contagious, and before modern medicine, could reportedly afflict those infected for close to a decade
  2. Blue Blood. Current meaning: Other than a Tom Selleck police drama, the term refers to someone of high class and monied. You know, WASPy.
    Ye olde meaning: Comes from the Spanish term “sangre azul.” After 15th century Spaniards forced Jews and Muslims (peacefully coexisting!) to either get the hell out or convert to Christianity, the former needed a term to distinguish themselves from the newly-Christian(ish). They touted their pure Christian lineage via their relatively whiter skin and—because whiter skin more clearly reveals blue-looking veins—their hol(ier) blue blood.
  3. Mumbo jumbo. Current meaning: Nonsense used to trick the gullible (and anything the political candidate you aren’t voting for says).
    Ye olde meaning:  18th century European explorers’ reporting of an African god-man. It's unclear how much, if any, of these claims are accurate, but the term was popularized in England after the explorers claimed men in a Senegalese tribe took turns dressing up as a god—called Mumbo Jumbo—and settle disputes between men and women. And by "settle" they meant dole out punishments to the women: severe beatings, imprisonment, and death.

We’ll have to see how Ben Savage’s coining of “santorum” will evolve for future generations. (Image:

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