If you escape something dangerous, like a possible ninja assassin or your mother’s rage after forgetting her birthday yet again, you just might catch yourself saying, “Whew, I escaped that by the skin of my teeth.” In others words, you almost didn’t make it out at all, but why would we say something that sounds kinda painful?

This descriptive phrase actually comes from the Bible. In Job 19:20, God lets Satan do pretty much whatever he wants to do to poor Job. The Devil works the loyal servant over something fierce. After the terrible ordeal, Job lets it be known that he got a pretty raw deal, by declaring: “My bones stick to my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth."

Not a pleasant picture at all, when you really think about it. Of course, teeth don’t actually have skin, but that doesn’t stop the message of a ‘narrow escape’ from getting across.

[World Wide Words]