The Logic of Logos and Catchphrases

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Phrases are passed from one generation to the next, but do we really know what they mean?

Take the phrase- This is just the tip of the iceberg. How many times have you heard it? The phrase usually refers to a situation in which you or someone else is seeing only a small part of what really is a bigger problem. The iceberg is used to refer to the fact that there is a very big problem, and the tip is only a small part of that problem with expectations of more coming. An example, “The money missing from petty cash was only the tip of the iceberg of financial mismanagement.” This phrase alludes to the fact that the bulk of a floating iceberg is concealed beneath the water, leaving only a small portion, its tip, visible.

Hang up the phone- a throw back from yesterday yet people still use it. Have you yelled at your child lately to hang up the phone and you were referring to his cell phone? Originally people used to hang up the phone receiver when they were finished talking. We just can’t help saying it, even though your kids are now pushing a button. Want a good laugh, there’s some amusing videos out there where kids from this generation are trying to actually figure out how we used those rotary phones way back when.

Are you joshing me? One explanation of how this phrase came about was from the name Joshua and it was used to imply someone who was dishonest, cheating and misleading. Another story involved a deaf mute from the 1800’s named Josh Tatum. In 1883, the U.S. mint came out with a new nickel. It was called the liberty head nickel. On the reverse side was a numeral V on it. It didn’t have the word “Cents” or “Nickel” stamped on it. Josh Tatum, who might have been deaf and mute, was certainly not dumb, as he noticed that the coin was almost the same size as the U.S. $5.00 gold piece; which at the time was used as common currency. With the help of a friend who was familiar in electroplating, they turned the coins into replicas of the $5 coin. Josh used them at stores being very careful not to purchase anything more than a nickel. In those days a nickel bought a lot of things. The clerk would take the coin and give him back $4.95 in change. That same year after hearing of the deceit, the U.S. Mint added the word “cents” to the liberty head nickel in an effort to bring this type of fraud to a halt. Hence the famous saying, “You’re not joshing me are you?” This is similar to us today saying, “Are you kidding /joking/ fooling me?”

What is the meaning of the word Noel? You hear it a lot at Christmas time and there is a famous song titled, “The First Noel” but do you know what they are really singing about? It’s a term synonymous with Christmas, from carols to Christmas cards. The word Noel has multiple meanings. The French say Nouvelles, which means news. The English say Nowel, which means shout of joy. In Latin it’s Natalis, which means birth.

The first common usage of the word began in the middle ages of Europe. French and English carols began using the word within the context of songs referring to the birth of Christ.

The First Noel Carol was first published in 1823 by William Sandy’s, in his book, Christmas Carols Ancient and Modern. Local townspeople would all gather at Christmas time to sing such carols in worship and celebration remembering the birth of Christ. The song might have been penned in France in the 1200’s but the lyrics that we all know and love were added in the 1800’s. Noel represents the goods news of Christ coming to earth to forgive and save us all.