Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Posts Tagged ‘1390’

In My Mind’s Eye

Posted by Elyse Bruce on July 7, 2010

While it’s true that Shakespeare used the phrase in his famous play, Hamlet, he didn’t make the phrase up as he did so many other phrases that are part of every day English these days.

A published version of the concept of seeing something in “my mind’s eye” can be found in a letter written by Hubert Languet to Sir Philip Sidney in 1577.   In his letter he wrote:

What will not these golden mountains effect … which I dare say stand before your mind’s eye day and night?

However, the concept of “my mind’s eye” was used by Chaucer in The Man of Law’s Tale, written in 1390, where he wrote:

It were with thilke eyen of his mynde, With whiche men seen, after that they been blynde.

But even before then, in 1183, a Christian mystic by the name of Joachim of Flora wrote “Exposition of Revelation” in which the reader can find this passage:

I suddenly perceived in my mind’s eye something of the fullness of this book and of the entire harmony of the Old and New Testaments.”

And so we see that even though Shakespeare made good use of the phrase, since at least the late 1100s, the words mind and eye have been paired in the sense of “a mental view.”

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Posted in Idioms from the 12th Century, Idioms from the 13th Century, Idioms from the 16th Century, Idioms from the 17th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

This looks like something Katie shot at and hit!

Posted by Elyse Bruce on March 24, 2010

This expression comes from the Czechoslovakian saying, “Potrefená Husa nejvíc kejhá” which, literally translated, is:  “A shot goose gabbles the most!”   The English equivalent is, “A guilty conscience needs no accuser.”

In 1744, Matthew Bishop used the English expression in his book, “The Life and Adventures of Matthew Bishop of Deddington in Oxfordshire.”  However, there are earlier versions of this phrase including the Scottish proverb recorded in 1721 that states:  “A guilty Conscience self accuses. A Man that has done ill shews his Guilt” and in 1597 in Elizabethan anthology, Politeuphuia in the passage that read:  “A Guilty conscience is a worme that bites and neuer ceaseth.  A  guiltie conscience is neuer without feare.”

It goes back farther than that and a version of the expression is found in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales written in 1390 in the story, “The Canon’s Yeoman’s Prologue.”  In this tale, Chaucer writes:  “For Catoun  seith that he that gilty is Demeth alle  thyng be spoke of him.”

However, all of those are a rewording of a passage from the Bible  from the book of Genesis  that speaks of the situation between Joseph and his brothers:   “And the men were afraid, because they were brought into Joseph’s house; and they said, Because of  the money that was returned in our sacks at the first time are we brought in; that he may seek occasion against us, and fall upon us,  and take us for bondmen, and our asses.” (Genesis 43:18)

So if a shot goose gabbles the most, then someone who speaks as if he or she is guilty is certainly going to look like “something Katie shot at and hit!”

Posted in Bible, Christian, Idioms from the 14th Century, Jewish, Religious References | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »