Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thursday Trivia: the Bee's Knees

Well, you learn something new every day. Who knew that bees carry pollen back to the hive on their legs?

Bees have knees - who knew? (photo: Sanchez, creative commons 3.0)

Not that this is where the phrase "the bee's knees" came from or anything. Nope.

The website phrases.org tells us it was just a nonsense phrase initially used in the 1900's to refer to something nonsensical. Like a snipe hunt. Or a sky hook. Or striped paint.

Dancing the Charleston
(public domain)
They cite the example of a New Zealand newspaper, The West Coast Times, which published a humorous 'report' on the cargo carried by the ship SS Zeelandia which included "seven cases of bee's knees."

The same usage crops up in other places as well, such as
newspaper cartoons (Fort Wayne Sentinel, May 5, 1914)
and writer Zane Grey's 1909 short story, The Shortstop.

When it became fashionable in the 1920's to use nonsense phrases as a way to express that something was pretty cool, "bee's knees" found its way back into popular culture.

Or...

It could possibly be thanks to dancer Bee Jackson, the woman credited with introducing the Charleston to Broadway in 1924!


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Sources:
Phrases.org.ukThe Oxford Dictionary


14 comments:

  1. MOL we had eleventy billion of them in our yard last year. That' a lot of bees knees.


    The Florida Furkids

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  2. Why that is just... The Bee's Knees!
    Very cool as Dad is reading us Mary Matthews "Grace, Jack & Magical Cats Romantic Cozy Mystery Boxed Set Vol I"
    which is set in the roaring 20's.
    Purrs

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  3. What? What?? WHAT???

    ZEALANDIA???

    Dash... Savvy... Have you seen this?

    Purrs,
    Nissy

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  4. After seeing that picture of the bee, I don't know that I could ever call anything cool 'bees knees' again... ugh!

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  5. Well, isn't that just the Bees Knees! he he

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  6. Love learning the meanings of these and their origins. Have a tremendous Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

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  7. Ugh. The closeup of the bees knees gave Mommy goosebumps. It reminded her of those gross roaches.

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  8. I'm interested in learning more about the SS Zoolander.
    ...where Blue Steel is the Bee's Knees.

    ; )

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  9. Are the bee's knees like the cat's pajamas? Purrrrrrrrrrrrrrs.

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  10. www.dashkitten.comJuly 18, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    Wow - and don't you just love the saying eh?! I love learning new stuff guys - thank you!!

    @DashKitten and @Whskr

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  11. We thought everybody knew that bees did that. We used to have an entire support column filled with Italian Black bees, but they got vacuumed out and sent to hives. The humans got some very nice honey. Purrs and hugs, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Josette

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  12. *waves hand a la Hermione Granger*

    I knew I knew.. I didn't know about it being a nonsense term originally.. but I knew the first two.

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  13. what cool information...luvluvluv it!!

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Coolio! A comment? For US?