10 Expressions That Came From the Ancient World


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By the Skin of Your Teeth
Job lies in a heap of refuse surrounded by his three "comforters." SuperStock/Getty Images

This can be a bit perplexing. After all, no one has skin on their teeth. So what does it mean? It means you escaped or achieved something — death, a bad date, a top grade — by a very slim margin.

We have the Bible to thank for this phrase, and specifically the Book of Job. Job is a character who undergoes innumerable tragedies, and sighs, complains and rails against God because of this, although he never loses his faith. In Job 19:20, Job says, "I am nothing but skin and bones; I have escaped only by the skin of my teeth." He's saying he's narrowly escaped death — that he escaped death by a margin so slim, it's as thin as the skin on your teeth. No one has skin on their teeth; that's the point, and it's why it indicates such a minute amount [sources: Addis].

Author's Note: 10 Expressions that Came from the Ancient World

I always enjoy reading these types of lists — the ones that explain popular expressions or sayings — so it was a lot of fun to research and write my own!

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Sources

  • Addis, Ferdie. "12 Common Phrases You Never Knew Were from the Bible." Reader's Digest. (Oct. 27, 2014) http://www.rd.com/slideshows/common-bible-phrases/
  • Bible Gateway. "Daniel 5." (Oct. 28, 2014) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Daniel%205
  • Bible Gateway. "Job 19." (Oct. 30, 2014) https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+19&version=NIV
  • Bloomsbury International. "Butter someone up." (Oct. 27, 2014) http://www.bloomsbury-international.com/en/student-ezone/idiom-of-the-week/list-of-itioms/101-butter-someone-up.html
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  • ENotes. "Nothing can come of nothing." (Oct. 27, 2014) http://www.enotes.com/shakespeare-quotes/nothing-can-come-nothing
  • Frederick, Ben. "15 hidden meanings of popular food phrases." The Christian Science Monitor. May 4, 2013. (Oct. 27, 2014) http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Food/2013/0504/15-hidden-meanings-of-popular-food-phrases/Butter-someone-thing-up
  • Guinness World Records. "Best Selling Book of Non-Fiction." (Oct. 28, 2014) http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/records-1/best-selling-book-of-non-fiction/
  • Horgan, John. "Aesop's Fables." Ancient History Encyclopedia. March 8, 2014. (Oct. 27, 2014) http://www.ancient.eu/article/664/
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  • Martin, Gary. "Carpe diem." Phrases. (Oct. 27, 2014) http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/carpe-diem.html
  • Martin, Gary. "Sour grapes." Phrases. (Oct. 27, 2014) http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/sour-grapes.html
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  • Myths and Legends. "Pandora's Box." 2006. (Oct. 27, 2014) http://myths.e2bn.org/mythsandlegends/origins562-pandoras-box.html
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  • Wilson, Dick R. "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin." BibleStudyTools.com. (Oct. 30, 2014) http://www.biblestudytools.com/encyclopedias/isbe/mene-mene-tekel-upharsin.html

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