The origin of a phrase deserve to color your audience’s perception of its use. Beware the potential pitfalls behind these common idiomatic expressions.

You are watching: Cross my heart and hope to die meaning

By Laura Hale BrockwayAug. 15, 2018

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

While visiting Boston and also 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 the Boston Tea Party is the language offered to tell those stories. As it turns out, the language has actually a history of its own.

Many type of of our daily idioms and expressions have actually dark origins that day back to colonial times. Consider the background of these terms the next time you use them.

1. “Riot act”

Have you ever before been in so a lot trouble that someone “read you the riot act”?

In 18th-century England also, the Riot Act was a legislation offered to regulate unruly crowds. If a magistrate identified that a team of 12 or more people formed a “riotous and also tumultuous assembly,” the magistrate would certainly review them the Riot Act. If the group did not disperse within an hour of the reading, they can be arrested.

(Source: The Phrase Finder)

2. “Raise your appropriate hand”

Ever wonder why witnesses are asked to raise their ideal hands before they testify? This exercise days back to 17th-century England also as soon as criminals were regularly branded on the inside of their appropriate hands to permanently mark the crimes they had actually committed. “T” was for theft. “M” for murder. “F” for felon.

By increasing their right hand also if they appeared in court again, the judge and also jury would recognize what crimes the witnesses had 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 certain specifically where this expression came from, many type of believe it originated from eras of pester and also contagion. Centuries earlier, contagious illness regularly swept via neighborhoods easily, sickening and also killing human being en masse.

To contain and also treat the illness, those that passed away of infection were frequently hidden in mass tombs or were buried conveniently after death. This occasionally led to an unmindful or comatose patient being incorrectly pronounced dead and also buried. To prevent this, caregivers were shelp to stick a needle in the eye of the patient to ensure his or her death.

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

4. Saved by the bell.

Another method to avoid being hidden alive wregarding affix a bell to the exterior of your coffin that can be rung from inside the coffin. If you woke up while interred, you sindicate had actually to pull the rope to be “conserved by the bell.”

Several deindications for these “safety and security coffins” were patented in the U.S. in the 19th century. However, tbelow are no credible references of anyone making use of these coffins or being saved by them.

The even more likely origin of the idiom originates from boxing. A boxer who is dvery own for a count of 10 secs have the right to be saved from defeat if the bell rings and also marks the finish of a round before the 10-second countdvery own is over.

(Source: The Phrase Finder)

How about it PR Daily readers? Do you have actually any idioms to share?

Laura Hale Brockmethod is an Austin-based writer and editor, and a continual contributor to PR Daily. Read more of her write-ups at

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

There’s no riot without the have to draw attention to the police. No one chooses to say hope to die as a contact to not be buried alive. Third, you can’t brand letters on your hand that will feed you & others, no one wants to be hurt for you to label them as something many who are guilty commit even more crimes to blame the innocent. Lastly, a bell never before saved a life, specifically as soon as many are tone deaf to the dials of resurrection.

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

Didnt they offered to hang murderers or also equine thieves? It’s difficult to imagine that they’d brand also people

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

I grew up hearing this expression frequently. However before, first time I heard “no crosses count?!” remained in my 20’s from a Jewish girl. It was interesting, yet I did not desire to repeat that, as I am a Catholic… crosses carry out indeed count for us lol. I wonder if there is some etymological background there. Maybe non-Christians did not want to say cross my heart to swear, so they began saying no crosses count? I would love to learn even more about this.

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

They did indeed brand human being convicted of specific crimes. In enhancement to those provided in the write-up, they offered P for pirate.In Pirates of the Caribbean, the Admiral turns Jack Sparrow’s hand also over and also there’s a P branded on his wrist. The Admiral automatically knows he’s been convicted of piracy previously.