"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Saved by the bell

Saved by the bell means saved by a last minute intervention.

It is said to originate in boxing and is first noted in the latter half of the 19th century. A boxer in danger of defeat can be 'saved' by the bell marking the end of a round.

There is a common misconception that the phrase is from the 17th century and describes people being saved after being buried alive thanks to being buried in a coffin from which ran a cord with a bell attached. Such coffins did exist and the person who had died - or his relatives - would arrange for someone to be paid to sit overnight in the graveyard to listen out for the bell. This became known as the graveyard shift.

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