The non-American guide to some of our Colloquiaslism and the reason behind them.
- I need your John Hancock. This means I need you to sign your name or signature on a bill or invoice. Why do we use a name for that? There is a myth that John Hancock signed his name on the Declaration of Independence so large that King George III could read it without his glasses. His name is huge in later copies of the Declaration, but the first copies were read out loud and never sent to England. His name is printed on the bottom of the first copy because he served as president of Congress when they came up with the Declaration.
- Can I get the check? Would you like the check? The check in this case is the bill. No idea why we use check for the bill.
- Benedict Arnold. It means treason, to be a traitor, to turn your back on something or someone. Benedict Arnold was in the American Revolution, he sold out America to the UK, and his name has been synonymous with a turncoat ever since.
- Monday-morning quarterback. It’s when people tell you what they would have done in a situation they aren’t in charge of and have no experience or knowledge of the events in question. This refers to a critical position in American Football; the quarterback is the one who throws the football, makes the call, and sets the pace for the team. I’m sure there are similar positions in other sports.
- Shotgun! I call Shotgun! This is the front seat next to the driver in a car/vehicle. If you watch a western movie, the driver, the person holding the reins to the team of horses, is on the left. The person sitting next to the driver has a shotgun in case of attack/robbery. So calling Shotgun means I want the other front seat.
- Plead the Fifth. It means I’m not saying anything to anyone. It’s referring to the Fifth Amendment in US Constitution, saying we have the right not to answer a question if it screws us over. “nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself”.