The origin of a expression can shade your audience’s perception of its use. Beware the potential pitfalls behind these common idiomatic expressions.

You are watching: Cross my heart hope to die stick a needle in my eye

through Laura Hale BrockwayAug. 15, 2018

history is about much more than just dates and places—it’s storytelling in ~ its finest.

if visiting Boston and the city’s historical sites this summer, ns was captivated by the stories and storytellers i met there. Tied very closely to the background of Plymouth Rock, the flexibility Trail, and also the Boston Tea Party is the language used to call those stories. As it transforms out, the language has actually a history of its own.

plenty of of our day-to-day idioms and also expressions have dark beginnings that date back to early american times. Think about the background of this terms the next time you use them.

1. “Riot act”

have you ever remained in so much trouble the someone “read friend the revolt act”?

In 18th-century England, the revolt Act to be a legislation used to control unruly crowds. If a magistrate figured out that a group of 12 or an ext people created a “riotous and also tumultuous assembly,” the magistrate would review them the revolt Act. If the group did no disperse in ~ an hour of the reading, they can be arrested.

(Source: The expression Finder)

2. “Raise your right hand”

ever wonder why witnesses room asked to raise their appropriate hands before they testify? This exercise dates ago to 17th-century England as soon as criminals were often branded ~ above the within of their appropriate hands come permanently mark the crime they had committed. “T” to be for theft. “M” because that murder. “F” because that felon.

By increasing their appropriate hand if they showed up in court again, the judge and also jury would know what crime the witnesses had previously committed.

(Source: Proceedings of the Old Bailey)

3. “Cross mine heart, expect to die, pole a needle in my eye”

Though nobody is details exactly where this expression came from, many believe it originated from periods of plague and also contagion. Century ago, contagious diseases regularly swept through areas quickly, sickening and killing world en masse.

to contain and also treat the disease, those who died of infection were often buried in mass graves or were buried quickly after death. This sometimes caused an unconscious or comatose patience being wrongly pronounced dead and also buried. To protect against this, caregivers were stated to stick a needle in the eye the the patient to ensure his or she death.

to say “cross mine heart, hope to die, pole a needle in mine eye” was to look for assurance the you would not be buried alive.

4. Conserved by the bell.

Another means to avoid being hidden alive to be to connect a bell to the exterior of your coffin that might be rung from inside the coffin. If you woke up when interred, you simply had to traction the rope to be “saved by the bell.”

numerous designs because that these “safety coffins” to be patented in the U.S. In the 19th century. However, there space no credible references of anyone using these coffins or being conserved by them.

The much more likely origin of the idiom comes from boxing. A boxer that is under for a counting of 10 seconds can be conserved from defeat if the bell rings and also marks the finish of a round prior to the 10-second countdown is over.

(Source: The phrase Finder)

How about it PR Daily readers? do you have any type of idioms to share?

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor, and a continuous contributor to PR Daily. Read more of her write-ups at

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anonymous says: October 31, 2020 at 2:23 am

There’s no riot without the need to attract attention come the police. Nobody chooses to say hope to die as a speak to to not be buried alive. Third, you can’t brand letters on her hand that will certainly feed friend & others, no one wants to be hurt for you to brand them as something most who space guilty commit more crimes to blame the innocent. Lastly, a bell never ever saved a life, specifically when most are tone deaf to the dials that resurrection.

David says: November 26, 2020 at 11:21 pm

Didnt they used to cave murderers or even horse thieves? It’s difficult to imagine the they’d brand people

Nolan says: April 6, 2021 in ~ 6:43 afternoon

I thrived up hear this expression often. However, first time i heard “no the cross count?!” was in my 20’s from a Jewish girl. It was interesting, however I did not want to repeat that, as I am a Catholic… the cross do undoubtedly count for us lol. I wonder if over there is some linguistic history there. Probably non-Christians walk not desire to say cross my heart to swear, therefore they started saying no the cross count? I would certainly love to learn more about this.

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Jodi Junkins Shadle says: July 12, 2021 in ~ 2:17 pm

They did certainly brand world convicted of particular crimes. In enhancement to those provided in the article, they provided P because that pirate.In Pirates of the Caribbean, the Admiral turns Jack Sparrow’s hand over and there’s a p branded on his wrist. The Admiral automatically knows he’s been convicted that piracy previously.