July 4 surprises: The fascinating American history of three popular expressions

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The Fourth of July is celebrated yearly as people all over our country raise their American flag for Independence Day. 

Barbecues, boats and beers are often associated with the summer holiday, but the American holiday also has a rich history, commemorating America’s independence. 

“Happy Fourth of July” is a popular saying among patriots on the day — but there are other unique expressions with interesting origins as well. 

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Why do we say “Have a Yankee Doodle Day” and “Home of the Brave,” for example? 

Here are three idioms related to July 4th with interesting national backstories.

The 4th of July is celebrated annually to commemorate America’s founding. (iStock)

3 popular sayings surrounding the 4th of July

1. ‘Have a Yankee Doodle Day’

A “Yankee doodle dandy” was originally a term used in the 1770s — ‘Yankee’ meaning an American colonist and “doodle” meaning a fool.

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Over the years, the song “Yankee Doodle” grew in popularity, specifically during the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

That is when “patriotic colonists soundly defeated the British soldiers” and would sing the tune, per the Golder Lehrman Institute of American History. 

American flags

“Have a Yankee Doodle Day” is a popular expression that some people use on the Fourth of July.  (iStock)

The song was also often used to joke about how some people would dress and the emphasis they would put on their appearance. 

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Telling people to “Have a Yankee Doodle Day” is essentially telling them to enjoy their festive day in whatever manor they desire. 

2. ‘Happy Birthday, America’

On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence — marking the birth of the United States of America. 

The 13 North American colonies would separate from Great Britain, as Britannica noted. 

Birthday cake

“Happy Birthday, America!” is a popular expression used to celebrate Independence Day each year.  (iStock)

From that day on, July 4th was celebrated as the birthday of America — hence, why people say “Happy birthday, America” on this celebratory day. 

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This year, America turns 248 years old on July 4. 

3. ‘Home of the Brave’

The popular expression “Home of the Brave” is most recognizable as a lyric in “The Star-Spangled Banner” — with a rich American backstory.

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It’s believed that an American lawyer and poet named Francis Scott Key wrote a poem that would end up as “The Star-Spangled Banner” as we know it. 

Key was aboard a British ship during negotiations for a prisoner release when he was forced to spend a night on the enemy’s ship, according to the New Jersey State Bar Foundation. 

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During that time, he witnessed the bombing of Fort McHenry before spotting the American flag still standing the next day, on Sept. 18, 1814 — during the War of 1812. 

Soldier coming home

“Home of the brave” appears in “The Star-Spangled Banner,” our national anthem. (iStock)

Key was so stirred by the sight he decided to write a poem based on what he saw called “Defence of Fort McHenry,” which is what we know as “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

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Within the poem, the lyrics “home of the brave” are written — and now sung daily — to represent the brave soldiers who were fighting for America. 

In 1931, Congress passed a bill to make “The Star-Spangled Banner” the national anthem, according to The Kennedy Center — and it was signed by President Herbert Hoover.

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The actual flag raised over Fort McHenry by the dawn’s early light on Sept. 14, by the way, enjoys a place of honor at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. It’s known as the Great Garrison Flag.

Kerry J. Byrne of Fox News Digital contributed reporting.