Saturday, March 11, 2017

Common Expressions and their Origins, No. 12: Saved By The Bell

Saved By The Bell

buried alive

Meaning: Rescued from an unwanted situation.

History: As scary as it sounds, being buried alive was once a common occurrence. People who feared succumbing to such a fate were buried in special coffins that connected to a bell above ground. At night, guards listened for any bells in case they had to dig up a living person and save them “by the bell.”


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A coffin with escape hatch was  invented by Frank Vester in 1868. Unlike an ordinary coffin, it has an escape tower with ladder. When you're buried, a rope is put in your hand and it stretches to a bell on top of the tower. If you're buried, but then happily come back to life, you can climb up the ladder and escape. Or ring the bell for help. No joke! Back in 1868, before modern medicine, it was harder to tell whether people were dead and many people were afraid of being buried alive.


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