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Barefaced liar, Barking mad and the bees knees, what is the meaning,and where do they come from

Updated on April 23, 2015

World Wide Words

On finding the site world wide words, and through my husband buying me a book I became interested in just where do our words come from? Language changes all the while, it has to if only to give names to new inventions. Here is where Michael Quinion gives his ideas about where many well known words and sayings originate from..

I have decided to write about a few words myself, using his knowledge and what ever else I can glean from the internet, I do hope he dos'n't mind.

Polititians, some of our best bare faced liars

I felt that I wanted to look at words beginning with B here, hence the title.

The picture I am sure goes quite well with the words, as at one time or another most of them have been called this or similar terms.
So here we go then, lets look at some words.

Barking mad

Lets start with BARKING,

We all know dogs bark, trees have Bark, and a lot of us know of the suburb of Barking in London, but where and what does barking mean?

An often stated idea is that monks had an asylum at Barking in medieval times, but unfortunately that as it may be, the saying is not that old. It almost certainly does come from dogs frantically barking like mad. The records from a murder trial in 1876 is the oldest known use of the word I have found," The dogs were barking like tearing mad" It seems that in the late 1920s early thirties is was being used in literature to describe people. Ones who are mad like barking howling dogs.


This usually means someone who even if caught out telling a lie shows no remorse or shame. It is also I have found the name of a band, good old internet!

Lots of people use the word boldfaced or baldfaced these days, but there is much evidence that barfaced was the true and original meaning. Literally the bare faced man seeming more honest and acting in a forthright way, able to have his lies easily believed. It dates back to the 17th century.

So would you trust this man more or less?

I even found a band called barefaced liar


You may well have heard of the bees knees, the cats miaow or the cats whiskers. They all mean the same, something very good, stylish and in fashion.

These all date back to the 1920s when flappers did the charleston, wearing feathers and beads, and the youngsters of the time had their own language, as do ours.An Ohio newspaper in 1922 printed ""Bees Knees". That's flapper talk". So its American in origin.

Bees knees is now part of the English language along with the more modern and not so publicly acceptable Dogs bollocks!

These Really Are the Bees Knees



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    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Hi, had to laugh at the above comment! lol seriously this is interesting, there are so many of these sayings, I think the one that I always think of is, 'the eyes have it' but of course that comes from the Courts of a couple of hundred years ago, its not eyes its ayes! got me wondering now! cheers nell

    • profile image

      the gaffa 

      7 years ago

      wot a donut

    • dingyskipper profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Northamptonshire

      Ruffridyer at the time flappers had their own mode of speech which singled them out from the crowd. They used nonsense catchphrases amongst themselves most have died out, bees knees is one that didn't.

    • Wrath Warbone profile image

      Terry Chestnutt 

      7 years ago from Cleveland, Ohio

      Thanks for the link to world wide words. I have been looking for this for a long time.

    • Pinkchic18 profile image

      Sarah Carlsley 

      7 years ago from Minnesota

      So interesting!! I love finding out origins of different things like these. Thanks for sharing this.

    • profile image


      7 years ago from Dayton, ohio

      I still wonder, why "Bee's Knee's."


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