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Archive for the ‘Jewish’ Category

From Dan To Bathsheba

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 2, 2017

If someone has been from Dan to Bathsheba, it’s fair game to say that they’ve traveled a great distance and covered a great deal of territory.  It’s not quite the same thing as going to Hell and back, so it’s not wise to use the two expressions interchangeably.

On October 21, 2012 National Peoples News published an article about the Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Ibrahim Lamorde (from 23 November 2011 through to 9 November 2015 ) and a speech given by former Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan (in office from 2010 to 2015) at the funeral services for Kaduna (Nigeria) Governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa (1 December 1948 – 15 December 2012).

It is highly commendable that the intellectual President of the Nigerian federation has gone spiritual with the problems of the country to solve it from the spiritual substantiated planes of the esoteric wealth and this will surely witness rapid social, economic and industrial Development as well as will guarantee peace in the polity from Dan to Bathsheba.

SIDE NOTE 1:  Governor Yakowa died in a helicopter crash along with the former National Security Adviser General Owoye Andrew Azazi.  The were flying to Port Harcourt from Beyelsa State where they  had attended the funeral of Oronto Douglas’ father.

On Page 4 of the May 24, 1957 edition of the Beatrice Daily Sun in Nebraska reported on how the Soviet military attaché gave Chief of Staff of the Jordanian Armed Forces, Ali Abu-Nuwwar (1925 – 15 August 1991) 100,000 dinars to distribute among army officers to oppose Hussein bin Talal (14 November 1935 – 7 February 1999), King of Jordan (11 August 1952 – 7 February 1999).  Upon his return to Jordan, Abu-Nuwwar met with Jordanian Prime Minister, Sulayman al-Nabulsi (1908 – 1976) in the hopes that the King could be pressed into establishing diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.

The King refused both proposals on the basis that they would lead to Soviet domination over Jordan.” An army coup d’etat was then set. Twice postponed, it finally miscarried when one garrison misunderstood its orders and started fighting at 1500 hours (3 p.m.) instead of at 0500 hours the next morning.” This exposed the plot and enabled it to be crushed. Against reports of this kind, the raucous “Voice of the Arabs,” Radio Cairo, is stirring up trouble all over the Middle East. All this propaganda presents a challenge for the U.S. Information Agency to do a factual and efficient job in this part of the world, if it is to be saved from a Communist takeover. The Upper Room One of the usually accurate members of the Nebraska editorial fraternity, describing how his fellow citizens would react if he adopted a certain policy, wrote: “I would be cursed from Dan to Bathsheba.”

The November 2, 1907 issue of the New Zealand Observer in Aukland, New Zealand saw the expression shared in the  “Pars About People” column with regards to a politician by the name of C.H. Izard who served in the House of Representatives.  Charles Hayward (C.H.) Izard (1860 – 18 September 1925) was an established lawyer in Wellington and a Liberal member in the New Zealand Parliament for Wellington North from 6 December 1905 through to 17 November 1908.

Nobody ever had the hardihood to accuse C.H. Izard, the member for Wellington South, of beiung a religious man, and certainly a remark that he made in the House last week would seem to furnish proof ot the fact that he has not burnt the midnight oil in the pursuit of theological knowledge. In the course of debate, Mr. Izard made the startling announcement that he didn’t intend to travel from Dan To Bathsheba.  It is to be hoped not, indeed.  Mr. Izard’s Christian name is not David.

SIDE NOTE 2: C.H. Izard was the eldest son of Charles Beard Izard who immigrated to New Zealand in May 1860, and went on to represent the constituency of Wellington South and Suburbs in the tenth Parliament from 1887 to 1890.

In 1840,  Volume III of “The Literary World: A Journal of Popular Information and Entertainment with Numerous Engravings” edited by English author and antiquary John Timbs (17 August 1801 – 6 March 1875) remarked on a new book by German historian Friedrich Ludwig Georg von Raumer (14 May 1781 – 14 June 1873) titled, “Italy and the Italians.”  The review was extensive, leading readers to feel that the review was nearly as detailed as the book itself.

A German is not the man to travel from “Dan to Bathsheba” and say “all is barren.”  His characteristic mental energy, zeal, and patience, his comprehensive views of the various phases of the social system, his painstaking investigation of antiquities, his accurate appreciation of art, his aptitude for the studies of literature, and his industry and success in inquiring into the phenomena of nature – are all qualities which pre-eminently fit the German for travelling, and remind one of Johnson’s neat amplification of the Spanish proverbs:  “He, who would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry the wealth of the Indies with him.”

SIDE NOTE 3:  John Timbs also published under the pseudonym of Horace Welby.

The New York Journal of February 13, 1797 provided a short entry with regards to the Federalist persecution of the Tallow Chandlers.  The issue in question was self-defense of property and person, with an argument that even “good peaceable Quakers” had the right to defend themselves.

But even suppose the Tallow Chandlers once situated upon the pinnacle of Bunker’s Hill, what security have they that they shall long remain there undisturbed?  As soon as that will be known or heard, rolling along, with the accompanyments of wealth, will come from nabob. Some wise and pompous Treaty maker, or may be some son of Exculapius with his wife and we will not suppose with how many concubines, who perhaps finding his delicate smellers a little offended, and casting his eyes, will exclaim, “you dirty stinking dogs, you shall continue there no longer.  March for Kingsbridge.”  Thus, drive from pillar to post, even “from Dan to Bathsheba” the chandlers will have no rest for the sole of their feet, and like the rolling stone will be able to gather no moss.

The original saying is actually from Dan to Beersheba and is a biblical phrase used nine times in the Old Testament of the Bible.  It refers to the settled areas of the tribes of Israel situated between Dan to the North and Beersheba to the South.   Dan was Jacob’s fifth son and his was the last of the tribes to receive a portion in the Land of Promise.  The territory extended from the west of Ephraim and Benjamin to the sea, and included the cities of Lydda, Ekron, and Joppa along the northern boundary.  Beersheba was the site of a well that was dug by the Prophet Abraham about 2,000 years before the birth of Christ.  The well was used to water his flocks

Somewhere along the line, however, people confused Beersheba with Bathsheba, and references to both are found littered along the way through to the 18th century when Bathsheba won out.

Since the expression is found in the Bible (using Beersheba not Bathsheba) with detailed information that includes an explanation of how Dan came to be an area belonging to the tribe of Dan, what is meant by from Dan to Bathsheba or rather, Beersheba, pegs this idiom to the Old Testament of the Bible.

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Weak As Water

Posted by Elyse Bruce on July 14, 2015

When someone says another person is weak as water, it could mean it usually means the other person is easily influenced.  After all, water always chooses the path of least resistance in nature, and likewise, if someone is weak as water, they won’t want to cause waves.  They’ll also choose the path of least resistance.

It was in the newspaper The Age of Thursday, March 23, 1978 that news of the Australian federal government’s decision to free Queensland Aborigines from state laws governing the administration of Aboriginal reserves. According to the Aboriginal Affairs Minister at the time, the legislation would override the Queensland Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Act. But not everyone was impressed with the announcement.

The Queensland state government last night declared it would use every weapon available to block the legislation. The acting Queensland Premier, Mr. Knox, said he was astounded by the move. “We will oppose this attempt both politically and in the courts,” Mr. Knox said.

In Hong Kong, the Queensland Premier, Mr. Bjelke-Petersen, said the Federal Government’s actions were “as weak as water.”

On July 30, 1951 an Associated Press story written by William F. Arbogast went national and reported on the final congressional approval for an economic controls bill that President Truman would then be expected to sign even though he disagreed with the bill. If the bill wasn’t signed into law by the next evening, all existing government controls over things such as wages, prices, and rents would come to a screeching halt. Added to the situation was the fact that there wasn’t even enough time for the President to veto the vote by Congress. The article was aptly titled, “Weak As Water Controls Bill Nears Final Approval By Congress Once More Leaving Consumers Holding The Bag.”

Of course, sometimes newspapers and books yield up interesting situations such as the one mentioned in the Palm Beach Post newspaper of May 18, 1923 that ran a full-page under the headline, “Questions For Consideration At Mass Meeting Tonight To Discuss Municipal Ownership of Public Utilities.”   The issue at heart was that of the water supply to West Palm Beach, and included such questions as these:

Will they sell the water plant at actual cost and deduct the $20,000 or more estimated losses they will incur each year during the next eight years?

Who has been trying to enact a law in the State Legislature to take away power of increase and reduction of public utilities rates from municipal authorities and place this power with the State Railroad Commission?

Can three men who reside in Tallahassee fix public utility rates for all Florida and do justice to all concerned?

Did anybody ever try to put a yellow rope around Lorenzo Garland’s neck?

Is the request of the Water Company for an increase in rates as weak as water?

Who is willing to be the goat and stand up against the corporations who own public utilities and their agents, hirelings, and retained attorneys?

The Bryan Times of June 29, 1882 published a story by Rose Terry Cooke entitled, “Just Like A Man” that shared typical male and female interactions as seen through the eyes of the author. Halfway through the story, Sarah and her mother segue into this part of their discussion.

“Bless your soul and body,” Put in her mother; “I never see the thing yet you wa’n’t afeard of, Sary, horse or not.”

“Oh I know it, ma, but I am awfully afeard of a skittish horse; Tom, he don’t really sense it, and he says Jenny ain’t ugly, she’s just full of play; and I s’pose she is; she’s knowing as a dog, and I give her a bite of somethin’ every time he fetches her ’round, and she knows me real well, but she will jump and lash out and sky sometimes, and it makes me just as weak as water, so’t I don’t never drive her if I can help it.”

Reaching back into history, the expression is identified as a proverb in John Ray’s “A Compleat Collection of English Proverbs” that was first published in 1674. John Ray (29 November 1627 – 17 January 1705) was a Fellow of the Royal Society as well as the author of “Historia Plantarum.”  Since John Ray has identified this as a proverb, a quick search of the Christian Bible reveals that, indeed, it does appear in the Christian Bible in Ezekiel 21.

 “As for you, son of man, groan; with breaking heart and bitter grief, groan before their eyes.   And when they say to you, ‘Why do you groan?’ you shall say, ‘Because of the news that it is coming. Every heart will melt, and all hands will be feeble; every spirit will faint, and all knees will be weak as water. Behold, it is coming, and it will be fulfilled,’” declares the Lord God.

On a related parallel note, water isn’t actually weak. Water determines its own path in nature (and sometimes in the city as well). It can be transformed into liquid, gas, or a solid (ice). It can erode stone, concrete, and other hard substances. It can sustain bacteria and other living organisms. In other words, water is anything but weak.  But Idiomation digresses on the matter of the idiom at hand.

Back on topic, the Book of Ezekiel is found in the Old Testament, so it’s more than two thousand years old. What history tells us is that Ezekiel was taken to Babylon in the first captivity and served as a religious counselor to the Hebrews that lived along the banks of the Kebar River around 597 B.C. Portions of the Book of Ezekiel, however, were written prior to Jerusalem’s fall in 586 B.C. This puts the expression to the time the Book of Ezekiel was written. It may be older than that, but Idiomation was unable to find an earlier version of this expression.

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Jesus Boots

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 28, 2015

You may have heard someone talk about Jesus boots, Jesus shoes, Jesus sandals, or Jesus slippers at some point in your life, and you may have thought you knew what kind of boots, shoes, sandals, or slippers they meant.  You may have been right.  Jesus boots (or shoes or sandals or slippers) are sandals that resemble the sandals depicted in paintings of Jesus of  Nazareth.

In the New Strait Times of June 28, 2004 — in the Life & Times section — Debra Chong wrote an article entitled, “Straits Sea-crets.”  The article dealt with her week-long experiences onboard a 48-meter floating laboratory along  with what she called a wacky pack of scientists as they journeyed through the Straits of Malacca on the Scientific Expedition to the Seas of Malaysia aka SESMA.  The beginning of the adventure began with frustration and delays, with the cast-off finally happening five hours later than scheduled, and well past high tide.  She wrote this about the situation.

There is disappointment all around, but everybody keeps the peace.  Should our complaints cross the captain, we might have to “pu on (our) Jesus boots and walk to shore,” as warned by Tan Sri Halim Mohammad (boss of the Halim Mazmin Group and kind provider of the “floating lab” he calls his ship) in his stern bon voyage message.

When Felicity Jackson reviewed the most recent book by Sylvia Sherry for the Glasgow Herald on June 22, 1985 her opinion was clearly stated.  The review began with this statement.

Even the title “A Pair Of Desert Wellies” by Sylvia Sherry (£6.95: Jonathan Cape) raised suspicions about how a writer must be tempted to capitalise on the success of an earlier novel, in this case the popular “A Pair Of Jesus Boots.”  The opening chapters tediously rework much of the plot of the first book but it picked up in pace and dialogues.

One of the more humorous comments was found in the Boca Raton News as written by Lillian M. Bradicich in her column, “From Cupcakes To Cocktails” and published on April 11, 1971.  Between Easter and the performance of “Jesus Christ Superstar” which the writer had seen on stage, she was more than a little fuzzy warm about all things religious.  Her column included this descriptive tidbit.

Centuries of gold and marble build-up have been chopped away, and the young people accept Jesus for what He really is.  Their desire to identify with Him is manifest everywhere in the “Jesus hair styles”, “Jesus sandals“, “Jesus music”, and “Jesus love.”  

Eating in a pizza parlor these days is like sitting in the ‘upper room’ surrounded by Apostles .. and it had to be as edifying the night we overheard a bearded young man telling his girl that “Jesus didn’t keep quoting scriptures to people.  He went where He was really needed, and said what really needed to be said.”

On July 30, 1968 the Morning Record newspaper carried a story about Evangelist Billy Graham who was in Bern, Switzerland for the week-long Baptist Youth World Conference that was attended by more than 5,000 Baptist youth from 65 countries.  The article was about how, in Billy Graham’s opinion, the youth of the sixties were searching for the meaning of life, and that the solution they were seeking could be found in the Bible.  He was quoted saying:

“The youth of our time does not demonstrate against the church.  This shows they search for the teaching of Jesus.”

“Jesus had long hair.  So have our hippies.  And at least in the United States, they wear Jesus boots (sandals) and this seems to express their hidden longing for God.”

Thirty years earlier, the Free Lance-Star newspaper William T. Ellis’ column “Religion Day By Day” in their March 21, 1938 edition with a story about a child in Sunday school who said that her white sandals were Jesus shoes because they looked like the sandals Jesus wore in pictures she had seen.  The article talked about being shod with the Gospel of peace, being busy about the errands of Jesus, and going only where He led his followers. The title of the article in the column was simply, “Deborah’s Jesus Shoes.”

Although this is the earliest published version Idiomation was able to find that linked modern sandals to Jesus’s sandals, there was one other mention of Jesus boots much earlier in 1902 that referred to bare feet as Jesus boots.  Published in the Toronto Mail and Empire and published in many affiliated newspapers across Canada, “Doukhobors Face Death By Cold: Several Thousand Reach Yorkton Destitute” the events of October 28 were carried in the October 31, 1902 newspapers.

It was reported that sixteen hundred Doukhobors composed of men, women, and children (including infants in arms) had marched on Yorkton (Saskatchewan), camping on October 27 without shelter while the temperature dipped to a frigid eleven degrees below zero Fahrenheit. The story related how some wore rubber boots while others wore coarse sandals fashioned from binder twine while still others were barefooted.  The reference was found in this passage.

Siemon Tcherninkov, who talks little English, and whose bare feet bore witness to his insane zeal, explained tat they were “looking for new light, and looking for Jesus.”  When asked where his boots were, he held up his naked foot and cried, “Jesus boots!” while the light of insanity gleamed fitfully from his eyes.

Dominion immigration agent, C.W. Speers worked hard to get the sick, the women, and the children into immigration sheds and other buildings, and much of his work was made all the harder for him as the sick and the women went to these shelters against their will.  The unrest was so bad that special constables were being sworn in, and it was reported that the Riot Act would undoubtedly have to be read to the Doukhobors.  As a Plan B measure, the government was ready to call in one hundred and fifty Italian laborers who were working on railway construction in the vicinity if the Doukhobors became even more unruly, and violent.

Seven miles away, seven hundred more Doukhobors were camped near Pollock’s Bridge.  Another four hundred were on their way.

While it was acknowledged that the Doukhobors were primarily a peaceful group, there were concerns that they were suffering some sort of collective insanity.  What’s more, they had no troubles letting others know that they had killed and buried five priests of the Russian church, and when infants had died en route to Yorkton, they had thrown them into the bushes by the roadside.

All that being said, while the term Jesus boots was used in the 1902 article, it’s the article from 1938 that is used in the spirit in which Jesus boots, Jesus shoes, Jesus sandals, and Jesus slippers is commonly used.

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My Brother’s Keeper

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 17, 2015

It was October 20, 2010 and President Barack Obama was at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.  The President was there to address a crowd anxious to hear him speak.  At one point in his speech, he shouted:

So we believe in a country that rewards hard work and responsibility. We believe in a country that prizes innovation and entrepreneurship. But we also believe in a country where we look after one another; where we say, I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper. That’s the America I know. That’s the choice in this election.

When the idiom my brother’s keeper is used, it implies that you are responsible for what someone else does or for what happens to that person.  It’s been an idiom that’s been discussed in literal, figurative, and metaphorical terms for centuries, and has led to a great many philosophical debates.

The Prescott Evening Courier newspaper of September 16, 1965 published an editorial that began with discussing an accident near Stanfield, Arizona where a truck driver burned to death while a passing motorist ignored his cries for help.  The editorial then discussed that, according to psychiatrists, society was moving towards developing a shell of non-involvement that set people at ease when they chose not to involve themselves in helping those in need.  The editorial was titled, “My Brother’s Keeper.”

A little more than thirty years earlier, G.R. Ingram, Secretary of the Nelson County Farmers Union (in North Dakota) wrote and published a poem in the Mouse River Farmers Press on November 30, 1934 in the midst of the Great Depression.  The poem entitled, “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” ended with this stanza:

To each of us upon this earth
God sets a task:
To aid and cheer our fellow man
His hand to grasp.
To show to him, as best we can
The way to save his home and land,
That Faith in God means faith in man —
This is our task.

Almost a hundred years before that, in the “Church of England Magazine” edition of June 5, 1841 (Volume X, No. 287) the subject and idiom were discussed at length in the article, “The Social Feelings Enlisted and Hallowed by Christianity.”  While the author isn’t credited, his article includes this passage:

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” was once the language of a conscience-stricken criminal.  But the words may issue from our lips in a different spirit.  Am I, indeed, my brother’s keeper?  Is it true that God hath committed to my keeping the soul of a brother for whom Christ died, and whom he desires to bring to glory?  Is it true that we are joined more closely and more mysteriously than limb to limb?  Is it true, in the thousand ways that I can see, and in a multitude of ways which I cannot see, that we touch and affect each other, so that no little act of either of us can be sure to end with himself?

In 1703, Laurence Clarke compiled a complete history of the Christian Bible that was printed by Princeton University.  It was entitled, “A Compleat History of the Holy Bible: Contained in the Old and New Testament In Which Are Inserted the Occurences That Happened During the Space of Four Hundred Years, From The Days of the prophet Malachi, to the birth of our Blessed Saviour.”  The title is actually longer than this, however, the gist of the subject matter is obvious in the portion of the title that’s been shared here.  The idiom is found in this passage in the book:

And as if he had been affronted by being questioned about his Brother, he surlily answered, “Am I my Brother’s Keeper?” But the Lord not only charged him with the Murder of his Brother, but convicted him of it too.

Based on this, it’s obvious that the idiom is from the Old Testament.

In Genesis 4:9 God asks Cain where Able is and Cain replies, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” to hide the fact that he does know where Able is and what has happened to him.  For those of my readers who aren’t familiar with the Christian Bible, Cain and Abel were the sons of Adam and Eve.  Cain was a farmer while Abel was a shepherd, and in a fit of jealousy, Cain murdered Abel.  Afterwards, he denied having any knowledge of where his brother could be found.  In other words, he tried to hide the fact that he had murdered his brother by claiming no responsibility for his brother.

The idiom therefore dates back to the Old Testament of the Bible and Idiomation is unable to find an earlier version of it as this idiom dates back to a time when papyrus was in use.

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Skin Of His Teeth

Posted by Elyse Bruce on October 17, 2011

If you know someone who tells you that something happened to him or her by the skin of his or her teeth, it means that person either narrowly escaped a negative experience or narrowly managed to succeed,  and it all happened at the last minute! 

In Ontario, the recent provincial election at the beginning of October (2011) was a real nail biter in some regions.  In fact, it was reported on the website www.viewmag.com that some candidates barely won their seats.

In Thunder Bay–Atikokan, Liberal Bill Mauro held on again by the skin of his teeth, although this time he increased his plurality to 452 votes over the NDP.

The Democratic Convention back in 1956 also had its nail biting moments during their primaries.  In fact, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported the following in an article entitled, “Adlai Skins His Teeth” in their May 31, 1956 edition:

By the skin of his teeth, Adlai Stevenson has taken 22 of Florida’s 28 Democratic convention votes in an apathetic primary contest with Senator Estes Kefauver.  The closeness of the vote, however, will soon be forgotten.  The important thing is that Mr. Stevenson won.

It seems that the world of politics like to use the phrase moreso than others.  The phrase is found in the New York Times article of June 22, 1912 in an article entitled, “Democrats’ Method Of Nomination Best” where the following appears:

The Democratic way is really the better way.  It prevents a mere majority, by whatever means obtained, by bribery or force or promise, from compelling the party to accept the leadership of the candidate chosen by the skin of his teeth to do battle for the party.  Better make the choice of candidates a little harder than subject the party to defeat, even for the sake of making an Oyster Bay holiday.

On April 11, 1846 the Courrier de la Louisiane published a news story entitled, “Whig Victory” where the newspaper reported the following in part:

But in all the multitudinous and infinitely diversified changes and shiftings of political parties ever imagined, who expected to hear S.J. Peters affect to exult over a triumph of the Second Municipality?  And what is the triumph over which he exults?  He is re-elected by the skin of his teeth Alderman in the second ward, and two sound Democrats are elected in the same ward, where, four years ago, Peters would have told any man he was made who should have thought of opposing him or his Whig followers: Crossman is elected Mayor although is in a very small minority — other branch of this magnificent “triumph of the people!”

Now the phrase did appear in the King James Bible of 1611 with the entire verse being:

Yea, young children despised me; I arose, and they spake against me. All my inward friends abhorred me: and they whom I loved are turned against me. My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.

However, before the King James Bible, the phrase appeared in 1560 in the Geneva Bible, where, in Job 19:20, the literal translation of the original Hebrew is given as being:

I haue escaped with the skinne of my tethe.

That being said, the phrase appears in Latin in the Medieval Latin Bibles produced by hand before the invention of printing and in Greek in Greek texts.  And so, the phrase dates back to Biblical times but how far back? 

Based on information provided in the Book of Job, readers know that it happened well after Noah and the flood and it happened in the time of Esau who was the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham.  The name of Job is found in the Amarna letters of 1350 B.C. and in the Egyptian Execration texts of 2000 B.C. 

So while Idiomation is unable to put an exact date on the first use of the phrase skin of his teeth, it absolutely dates back far enough for readers to know it’s a very ancient saying.

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Strong As An Ox

Posted by Elyse Bruce on February 8, 2011

Based on the concept that an ox is a very strong animal, the cliché “strong as an ox” is well-known but not used as often as one would think.

It certainly packs a certain punch when used, such as in the article by journalist Paul Wiseman published in USA Today on December 28, 2009 where the headline read “Texas’ banks are strong as an ox.”

The cliché has been a favourite of some established writers, whether we’re talking novels or cartoon scripts. In fact, in 1946 when Foghorn Leghorn burst on the animated scene, he was oftentimes heard uttering characteristic catch-phrases such as “the gal reminds me of the highway between Forth Worth and Dallas — no curves” and “that boy’s as strong as an ox, and just about as smart.”

In Chapter 9 (How The Wogglebug Taught Athletics) of “The Emerald City of Oz” written by L. Frank Baum and published in 1910, Baum wrote:

“It’s a fine thing,” declared Aunt Em, admiringly. “If we’d had it in Kansas I guess the man who held a mortgage on the farm wouldn’t have turned us out.”

“Then I’m glad we didn’t have it,” returned Uncle Henry.

“I like Oz better than Kansas, even; an’ this little wood Sawhorse beats all the critters I ever saw. He don’t have to be curried, or fed, or watered, an’ he’s strong as an ox. Can he talk, Dorothy?”

Almost 100 years before that, James Fenimore Cooper wrote “Imagination and Heart” published in 1823 where readers find:

“I guess he is–he’s as strong as an ox, and active as a cat,” said the other, determined he should pass.

“Well, then,” said the aunt, in her satisfied way, “let every thing be ready for us in Albany by next Tuesday. We shall leave home on Monday.”

The cliché goes back for centuries, all the way back to Psalm 92 of the Christian Bible and translates as follows:

You have made me as strong as a wild ox; you have blessed me with happiness.

It appears this way in a number of languages including French (“Et tu me donnes la force du buffle; Je suis arrosé avec une huile fraîche”), Spanish (“Pero tú has exaltado mi poder como el del búfalo; he sido ungido con aceite fresco“) and Italian (“Ma tu mi dài la forza del bufalo; io son unto d’olio fresco”).

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Adam’s Apple

Posted by Elyse Bruce on December 10, 2010

The “Adam’s apple” is the lump on the forepart of the throat that is especially visible in men. Most people assume that the term “Adam’s apple” comes directly from Genesis in the Old Testament but the fact of the matter is, it doesn’t.

Yes, contrary to popular belief, the Bible does not identify the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge as being an apple.  The fruit is simply called the “fruit from the Tree of Knowledge” with no specification as to which kind of fruit it happens to be.

So how did the popular misconception come about?  It was Flemish painter Hugo Van Der Goes who first implied that an apple was the forbidden fruit.  In Van Der Goes‘ painting of 1468 entitled “The Fall of Man” he expressed his personal feelings on the tragedy of the drama of the Fall and Redemption.

During Roman times, the pomegranate was a particularly popular fruit. Pliny the Elder, the Roman encyclopedist, termed the phrase for the pomegranate tree as being “malum punicum” — the Carthaginian apple.  To this end, it’s easy to see why Van Der Goes would choose to paint apples and not pomegranates in his painting depicting the event leading up to Adam and Eve being thrown out of Paradise.

However, the reference to the larynx being an apple originated sometime earlier in the Middle Ages.  Pietro d’Argellata, wrote a detailed description of his examination of the body of Pope Alexander V, who died suddenly at Bologna on May 4, 1410. His notes on the procedure — which is now customary in the Coroner’s office — provided this as part of his description:

I ordered the attendants first to cut the abdomen from the pomegranate to the OS pectinis.

It was understood by all medical personnel at the time that the “pomegranate” when speaking in medical terms was the larynx.

The myth during Medieval times was that while in the Garden of Eden, the forbidden fruit Adam ate became lodged in his throat, causing him to choke.   In this respect, the pomegranate was associated with the “lump” in Adam‘s throat. 

The fact of the matter is that the Latin term “pomum Adami” means “male bump” and when coupled with the myth, the Latin term and the myth lead to a mistranslation of “Adam’s apple” when referring to the larynx.

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Manna From Heaven

Posted by Elyse Bruce on September 17, 2010

From time to time, you hear people who get unexpected help or something very good they didn’t expect say that it’s “Manna from Heaven.”

The reference is to the food God gave to the Israelites after the food they had brought with them out of Egypt had run out.  In the Book of Exodus, the Israelites found it one morning after the dew had evaporated. 

Upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground.  (Exodus 16:15)

Manna was the name given by the Israelites to the food they found.  In the Quran, the Arabic word for manna is “manna-o-salva.”

The Ark of the Covenant is believed to be the most sacred and revered object of ancient Israelite worship. Built under the direction of Moses, it is said to contain the original tables with the Ten Commandments written upon them, some of the Manna from Heaven sent to the Israelites as they fled Egypt, and the rod of Aaron. 

Historical documents show that the Ark of the Covenant was installed in a Temple by King Solomon around 950 BC.  After the dedication of the Temple by King Solomon, there are two references to the Ark of the Covenant in the entire Old Testament.

Put the holy ark in the house which Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, built; you need no longer carry it upon your shoulders.  (II Chronicles 35:3)

And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the Lord, they shall no more say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; it shall not be made again.  (Jeremiah 3:16)

A mural painting in All Saints Church, Friskncy, Lincolnshire, England painted around 1542 bears the title “The Descent of the Manna from Heaven.”  This painting shows manna on a hill-side, the slope of ground being from the right to left of the picture.  In strong relief against the distance, represented by a dark crimson background, a group of people is engaged in gathering the manna.

In a United Press International (UPI) article entitled “The Irish Famine: A Hunger For History” dated April 13, 2001, the author wrote: 

Well written history is like manna from heaven, it is intellectual nourishment for the soul.

And so we can see how it is that the phrase “Manna from  Heaven” now refers to something very good the person felt he or she needed that came to the person unexpectedly.

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Sour Grapes

Posted by Elyse Bruce on September 16, 2010

The phrase “sour grapes” hints at a rich history with many twists and turns along the way and the phrase surely doesn’t disappoint to this end.  In fact, it has been used often and prolifically and always to good effect.

In 1890, the New York Times published an article on April 23rd with a headline that read:  “Any Sour Grapes Here?  Bulkeley Is Not Seeking A Renomination For Governor.”  Nearly a decade before that, in 1882, his book “The Tyne And Its Tributaries,” William James Palmer wrote:

The ambition to become connected with the house of Stuart, ascribed to the grandfather, had realization in the marriage of his son to Mary Tudor, youngest natural daughter of Charles II.  But the sour grapes were left for the son of the marriage, and the beheading on Tower Hill, February 24, 1716, seems to have followed in almost natural sequence.

John Wycliffe (1324 – 1384), an Oxford-educated English theologian, lay preacher, reformist and university teacher was known as an early dissident in the Roman Catholic Church during the 14th century.  In 1371, the popularity of his doctrines were seenseen in the oft-repeated complaints of Archbishop Arundel, who wrote that “Oxford was a vine that brought forth wild and sour grapes, which, being eaten by the fathers, the teeth of the children were set on edge; so that the whole Province of Canterbury was tainted with novel and damnable Lollardism, to the intolerable and notorious scandal of the University.”

Rabbi Raschi,  born at Troyes in 1040, is credited with a story about a fox and a wolf who visit a Jewish house to prepare food for the Sabbath.   Upon arriving at the house, the wolf is chased away while the fox is welcomed.  When the wolf asks the fox for an explanation, the fox replies: 

This has happened not on thy account but on account of thy father who helped prepare the food and then swallowed every fat bit.  The fathers eat sour grapes and the chidlren’s teeth are set on edge.

The fable owes some of its story line to the Greek philosopher, Aesop.  In the Aesop fable “The Fox and the Grapes” the fox sees a cluster of ripe grapes hanging from the vine.  Despite her most ardent efforts, she cannot reach them and rather than admit defeat she proclaims, “The grapes are sour, and not ripe as I thought.”

And yes, the phrase even appears in the Old Testament of the Bible in Jeremiah 31: 28-33:

And it shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them, to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict; so will I watch over them, to build, and to plant, saith the LORD.

In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity: every man that eateth the sour grape, his teeth shall be set on edge.

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD:  But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

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Apple Of My Eye

Posted by Elyse Bruce on September 15, 2010

The phrase “apple of my eye” is best remembered for its inclusion in Sir Walter Scott‘s popular novel Old Mortality published in 1816 where he wrote:

Poor Richard was to me as an eldest son, the apple of my eye.

Shakespeare used the phrase in his play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in Act III, Scene 2 where Oberon says:

Flower of this purple dye,
Hit with Cupid’s archery,
Sink in apple of his eye.
When his love he doth espy,
Let her shine as gloriously
As the Venus of the sky.
When thou wakest, if she be by,
Beg of her for remedy.

But before Scott and Shakespeare, the phrase appeared in a work published in 885 entitled Gregory’s Pastoral Care which is attributed to King Aelfred the Great of Wessex.   During this era, the pupil of the eye was thought to be a solid object and because an apple was the most common round object around, the pupil was referred to as an apple.

Because one’s eyesight was particularly important, the phrase also took on a figurative sense when speaking of someone the speaker considered as precious to him or her as his or her own eyesight.  That the phrase was used in this way implies that the phrase had been in use for quite some time before it was included in King Aelfred the Great‘s book.

In the end, the phrase “apple of my eye” shows up time and again in the Old Testament of the Bible.

He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.  (Deuteronomy 32:10)

Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings.  (Book of Psalms 17:8)

Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.  (Proverbs 7:2)

Their heart cried unto the Lord, O wall of the daughter of Zion, let tears run down like a river day and night: give thyself no rest; let not the apple of thine eye cease.   (Lamentations 2: 18)

For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.  (Zechariah 2:8)

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