“The end of the earth”
Like most other ancient cultures, the ancient Israelites thought it obvious that since the earth was flat it must have limits. “The ends of the earth” therefore appears repeatedly in the Old Testament as a way to describe the furthest reaches of the then-known world. When, in the Book of Job, God is said to “direct his lightning to the ends of the earth,” it’s just a poetic way of saying that God is in charge everywhere. Of course, it wasn’t long before the ancient Greeks discovered that the earth is in fact not flat but spherical. Not everyone, however, is convinced of the earth’s inconvenient roundness. Daniel Shenton, head of the modern Flat Earth Society, gives the Scottish verdict: “Not proven.” According to him and his fellow “flat-earthers,” the world is a flat disc, centered on the North Pole, surrounded at its Antarctic rim by a wall of ice. The moon landings, he says, and photos showing the round earth hanging in space, were faked. If any ship or aircraft really did fly past the ends of the earth, he says, it would simply fall off the edge and into the infinite abyss below. These are common phrases you use that have a much different meaning than what you really think.
The biblical Jehoshaphat is one of the lesser-known Jewish Kings, who ruled over the southern kingdom of Judah in the ninth century BC. He seems to have done a pretty good job as monarch, doing that “which was right in the sight of the Lord.” But it isn’t his wisdom or justice which have made him famous. In fact, he owes his immortality to the lucky accident of having a name that sounds a lot like “Jesus.” The 10 Commandments forbid Christians from “taking the Lord’s name in vain”—saying “Jesus” or “God” as an expletive counts as blasphemy. So, if an unfortunate “Je–” happens to slip out accidentally, one way to stay within the rules is to turn “Je–” into Jehoshaphat, in the same way that people these days sometimes say “oh fudge!” This typo in the bible originally made adultery mandatory. “Jehosaphat” first appears as an exclamation in Samuel Hammet’s 1857 novel Sam Slick in Texas, and it retains an “Old West” feel today, rarely used without the addition of a corny cowboy accent. As for why Jehoshaphat is so often “jumping,” we can, alas, only speculate.
“Kiss of life”
“Kiss of life” is thought to have entered English as an opposite to Judas’ treacherous “kiss of death.” It’s been used in Britain since at least 1961 as a term for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, and its use in a more general sense goes back even further—in 1947 the phrase was briefly an advertising slogan for a firm of Detroit car salesmen. Today, however, the kiss of life—both as a phrase and as an action—is falling out of favor. Research shows that unconscious patients do better with chest compressions alone than they do when someone’s trying to blow air down their throat. And mouth-to-mouth resuscitation can go horribly wrong, with patients coughing up blood and vomiting and other such unpleasantness. In one famous incident from the 1970s, a British man almost died from a disease he caught when he gave the kiss of life to his dead pet parrot. You’d never guess that these everyday words were actually invented by accident!