Have you ever described something as “the bee’s knees”? It’s a common saying which means something is great or amazing. It also makes zero sense. Bees don’t even have knees, let alone great ones! In truth, the phrase was coined during the 1920s, when many similarly silly animal sayings like “the cat’s pajamas” were popular. But it’s not just our honey-making friends that we talk nonsense about.
Imagine playing soccer on a hot day. You’re dripping with sweat. One might say you’re “sweating like a pig.” But pigs don’t sweat like people. They can’t because they don’t have working sweat glands. The saying actually comes from iron smelting. A smelter would know that a piece of “pig iron,” a crude type of iron, was ready to move when it started to “sweat,” that is, water beads would form on its surface.
Another strange saying is “cute as a bug’s ear.” Bugs don’t really have ears that we can see, and what we can see certainly isn’t cute. This saying came about in the seventeenth century when “cute” meant “o hear well” which is without a doubt a more suitable term for sharp-eared bugs!