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With Bells On

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Ryan in Ketchikan, Alaska, reports that a couple of friends told him they’d attend his new gallery exhibition with bells, meaning they would be there “with great enthusiasm.” The far more common phrase is to be there with bells on, indicating that someone plans to arrive “ready to celebrate.” This expression didn’t appear in English until the late 1800s, and its origin is a mystery, although one possible explanation is that it alludes to adorning horses with bells to make a sleigh ride more festive. A number of listeners have suggested morris dancing, which features bells on the performers, as a possible origin. This is part of a complete episode.

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