The beginning of a expression can shade your audience’s perception of its usage. Beware the potential pitdrops behind these prevalent idiomatic expressions.

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

By Laura Hale BrockwayAug. 15, 2018

History is about more than simply dates and also places—it’s storytelling at its best.

While visiting Boston and the city’s historical sites this summer, I was captivated by the stories and storytellers I met tbelow. Tied carefully to the background of Plymouth Rock, the Freedom Trail, and also the Boston Tea Party is the language supplied to tell those stories. As it transforms out, the language has actually a background of its very own.

Many kind of of our day-to-day idioms and expressions have dark beginnings that day earlier to colonial times. Consider the history of these terms the next time you usage them.

1. “Riot act”

Have you ever remained in so much trouble that someone “read you the riot act”?

In 18th-century England also, the Riot Act was a regulation provided to regulate unruly crowds. If a magistprice identified that a team of 12 or more world created a “riotous and tumultuous assembly,” the magistrate would read them the Riot Act. If the team did not disperse within an hour of the analysis, they might be arrested.

(Source: The Phrase Finder)

2. “Raise your best hand”

Ever wonder why witnesses are asked to raise their appropriate hands before they testify? This exercise dates earlier to 17th-century England once criminals were regularly branded on the inside of their right hands to permanently note the crimes they had actually committed. “T” was for theft. “M” for murder. “F” for felon.

By elevating their ideal hand also if they appeared in court aacquire, the judge and also jury would certainly recognize what crimes the witnesses had actually previously committed.

(Source: Proceedings of the Old Bailey)

3. “Cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye”

Though no one is particular precisely wright here this expression came from, many kind of think it originated from periods of plague and also contagion. Centuries ago, contagious illness regularly swept through areas conveniently, sickening and killing civilization en masse.

To contain and treat the condition, those who died of infection were regularly buried in mass graves or were hidden quickly after death. This occasionally led to an unaware or comatose patient being wrongly pronounced dead and also buried. To stop this, caregivers were said to stick a needle in the eye of the patient to encertain his or her fatality.

To say “cross my heart, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye” was to look for assurance that you would certainly not be hidden alive.

4. Saved by the bell.

Another way to protect against being hidden alive wregarding connect a bell to the external of your coffin that could be rung from inside the coffin. If you woke up while interred, you ssuggest had to pull the rope to be “saved by the bell.”

Several designs for these “safety and security coffins” were patented in the UNITED STATE in the 19th century. However, tbelow are no credible referrals of anyone using these coffins or being saved by them.

The even more likely origin of the idiom originates from boxing. A boxer who is down for a count of 10 secs 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 Brockmethod is an Austin-based writer and editor, and also a constant contributor to PR Daily. Read even more of her posts at

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

There’s no riot without the must draw attention to the police. No one chooses to say hope to die as a call to not be hidden alive. Third, you can’t brand also letters on your hand also that will certainly feed you & others, no one wants to be hurt for you to label them as somepoint a lot of that are guilty commit even more crimes to blame the innocent. Lastly, a bell never before conserved a life, particularly once the majority of are tone deaf to the dials of resurrection.

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

Didnt they supplied to hang murderers or even steed thieves? It’s hard to imagine that they’d brand people

Nolan says: April 6, 2021 at 6:43 pm

I flourished up hearing this phrase often. However, initially time I heard “no crosses count?!” remained in my 20’s from a Jewish girl. It was amazing, but I did not desire to repeat that, as I am a Catholic… crosses do indeed count for us lol. I wonder if tbelow is some linguistic history there. Maybe non-Christians did not want to say cross my heart to swear, so they began saying no crosses count? I would certainly love to learn even more around this.

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

They did indeed brand also people convicted of specific crimes. In addition to those listed in the post, they supplied P for piprice.In Piprices of the Caribbean, the Admiral transforms Jack Sparrow’s hand over and also there’s a P branded on his wrist. The Admiral instantly knows he’s been convicted of piracy formerly.