Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘1613’

Dog Days

Posted by Admin on October 12, 2010

When someone talks about dog days, they either mean those blisteringly hot days in the dead of summer or they’re referring to a period of stagnation.  Either way, dog days are draining days.

The traditional “dog days” of summer fall between early July and mid-August and are noted for their extreme heat and humidity.  In the Mediterranean, this period coincided with hot days that were plagued with disease and discomfort.

Sirius is the “dog star” from the constellation Canis Major (Latin for “Big Dog”), hence the name.  Sirius, the “dog star,” is within the constellation Canis Major and is the brightest in the heavens.

During this time of year, the star Sirius is at its brightest and can be seen rising alongside the sun.  In fact, the feast day of Saint Roch, the patron saint of dogs, just happens to be August 16.  

Natalie Babbitt’s book, The Prologue of Tuck Everlasting was published in 1975 and is set in the first week of August.  In the novel, the author wrote:

These are strange and breathless days, the dog days, when people are led to do things they are sure to be sorry for after.

There is a very descriptive use of the phrase “dog days” in Charles Dickens’ 1843 novel,  A Christmas Carol, that states:

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grind-stone, Scrooge! A squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

And in William Shakespeare’s King Henry VIII written in 1613, Porter and his Man are talking in the Palace Yard in Act 5, Scene 4.

MAN
The spoons will be the bigger, sir.  There is a fellow somewhat near the door, he should be a brazier by his face, for o’ my conscience twenty of the dog-days now reign in’s nose.  All that stand about him are under the line; they need no other penance.”

The phrase actually dates back to the Egyptians.  They believed that the star gave off extra heat and humidity to augment the already formidable heat of the sun.  In fact, dog days coincided with the annual flooding of the Nile which was important for a good harvest.

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Egypt, Greece, Idioms from the 19th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

For Goodness Sake

Posted by Admin on June 9, 2010

On Wednesday, February 22, 1922, the New York Times reported that “an agreeable if not brilliant musical comedy fashioned by various hands accustomed to the trade and briskly produced last night in the Lyric Theatre” opened to rave reviews with siblings Fred Astaire playing the role of Teddy Lawrene and Adele Astaire playing the role of Suzanne Hayden in the play “For Goodness Sake.”   It was reported that the siblings were “developing into delightful comedians.”

Prior to that, it was used often and as with so many other phrases, it can be found in one of Shakespeare’s plays.  In this instance, it can be found in “Henry VIII” in Act 3, scene 1 when Wolsey says:

For goodness sake, consider what you do, how you may hurt yourself—ay, utterly grow from the King’s acquaintance, by this carriage.”

It is believed that Henry VIII was written shortly before 1613, the year in which the Globe Theatre burned down during one of the play’s earliest known performances.  It is believed that the play was relatively new and had not been presented more than 2 or 3 times prior to the fire.  However, the term was already in vogue more than a century before Shakespeare made use of it. 

On December 21, 1502 Niccolo Machiavelli‘s friend and colleague, Biagio de Buonaccorsi wrote to Machiavelli regarding the latter’s wife who complained weekly to Buonaccorsi about her husband’s absense.  Machiavelli had to leave his wife almost as soon as they were married due to business demands, leaving her to struggle with managing his personal and financial affairs.  She pleaded with Buonaccorsi to write to her husband on her behalf.  In his letter he wrote:  “Monna Marietta blasphemes God, and thinks that she has thrown away both herself and her property. For goodness’ sake give orders that she may have her own dower, like others of her position, otherwise she will lose all patience with you.”

This minced oath is even older than that as some English translations of Plato‘s Republic indicates that when Glaucon encouraged Socrates to continue his consideration of “goodness” Glaucon asked Socrates to continue “for goodness’ sake.”

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Greece, Idioms from the 16th Century, Idioms from the 17th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »