What does the phrase 'hands down' have to do with horses? Read on to find out. Image Credit: Unsplash/Jeff Griffith

Whether you’re pushing the envelope or going bananas, you likely use a number of strange-sounding phrases or expressions every day. But do you know their origins?

Click start to play today’s Crossword, where you have to find something delicious in the sky (figuratively, of course).

Here are the stories behind a few commonly used phrases that will put an end to the mystery:

1. Have your work cut out for you

This expression comes from the world of tailoring. In sewing jobs, pieces of fabric are cut out and laid down before they are sewn together. So, if you have your work cut out for you, you can see all your pending tasks – they’re all well-defined and ready to be tackled. However, there’s still the challenge of getting through the work, and that’s what the expression refers to.

2. Read the riot act

Reading the riot act to someone means giving them a stern warning. But did people actually read out something in the past? It turns out they did! A British law passed in 1714, called the Riot Act, was instated to prevent riots, but it only went into effect when read aloud by an official. So, when people would gather to stir up trouble, officers would inform them that if they didn’t disperse, they would face punishment.

3. Run of the mill

A phrase that describes something that’s average or ordinary, this expression is likely to have originated from work done in textile mills in the UK. When fabric was freshly manufactured, without any decorations or embellishments, it was termed ‘run of the mill’. Similarly, run of the mine meant chunks of coal that hadn’t been sorted by size yet, and run of the kiln meant newly produced bricks that hadn’t yet been sorted based on quality. They were nothing special.

4. Hands down

From the world of horse racing, hands down means something that happens easily and decisively, without much effort. In a horse race, if a rider is far ahead of everyone else, they could relax their grip on the reins and let their hands down. They’re going to win and they know it.

5. Push the envelope

In aeronautics, flight envelope is the term given to the limits of performance of an object in flight. Mathematical calculations determine the speed, thrust and atmosphere involved, and you can push it as far as possible, to determine where the boundaries lie. The Right Stuff, a 1979 book by American author Tom Wolfe, explored how pilots worked with experimental rocket-powered aircraft – his book propelled the phrase into wider use.

Which bizarre phrase do you use the most? Play today’s Crossword and tell us at