Historically Speaking

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Posts Tagged ‘Bible’

Fox In The Henhouse

Posted by Admin on March 6, 2013

If there’s a fox in the henhouse, you’ve got problems brewing. You see, in that one idiom, people are aware that someone has been put in a position where he or she can then exploit the situation to his or her own benefit. And what’s more, it’s not that the opportunity is there, waiting to be acted upon, it’s more likely than not that the person in charge absolutely will exploit the situation.

In other words, having a fox in the henhouse is no different from having a lunatic in charge of the asylum  or asking a thief to guard the bank vault, or expecting the wolf to guard the sheep, or asking a monkey to watch your bananas. They all mean the same thing, and in every instance, the watcher can’t be trusted to do the right job.

Back on December 24, 2002 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette posted a Letter To The Editor from Don Van Kirk of Franklin Park. He was concerned about the potential for abuse of power from George W. Bush’s new appointee to the SEC. He was so concerned that the author was compelled to comment:

His appointment of William Donaldson as head of the Securities and Exchange Commission is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. Donaldson is part of the Wall Street Club; under his leadership nothing of any magnitude will be corrected or changed.

Jumping back one generation to January 11, 1973, a news story published in the Miami News was also concerned about potential problems in government in an article entitled, “Fox In The Henhouse.” The problem this time had to do with the Watergate scandal and ensuing prosecution. It was reported in part:

In the first place, the Justice Department is prosecuting the seven defendants who broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters last July. That’s like having the fox watch the henhouse because the Justice Department is controlled by the national administration, which is generally believed to have been behind the spying on the Democrats.

Some say that the expression comes from “The Contre-League and Answere to Certaine Letters Sent to the Maisters of Renes, by One of the League who Termeth Himselfe Lord of the Valley of Mayne, and Gentleman of the Late Duke of Guizes Traine” published in 1589, and that this book gives the saying as the fox guarding the henhouse.

Some will say that the expression is implied in the nursery rhyme (but Idiomation disagrees) entitled, “Sleep, Baby, Sleep” where the first verse reads:

Sleep, baby, sleep.
Thy father guards the sheep.
Thy mother shakes the dreamland tree.
Down falls a little dream for thee:
Sleep, baby, sleep.

The fact of the matter is that the expression is first alluded to in the Christian Bible in Luke 13:31-35 where the following is found:

31 The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee.

32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to-day and to-morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected.

33 Nevertheless I must walk to-day, and to-morrow, and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.

34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!

35 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.

And before the Bible, it was a Latin saying: “Ovem lupo commitere.”  The Latin translates into “mettere un lupo a sorvegliare le pecore” which, in turn, translates into “to set a wolf to guard sheep.”   Whether the expression has to do with foxes and hens, or wolves and sheep, the meaning is the same and to this end, this confirms that the saying originated in Ancient Rome.

So what have we learned from today’s idiom? Don’t assign a job to someone who will then be in a position to exploit it for his or her own ends.

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Bible, Christian, Religious References, Rome | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Devil To Pay

Posted by Admin on August 9, 2011

When someone tells you that there’s the Devil to pay, you’re being told there’s trouble to be faced as a result of your actions.  There appear to be two very different origins for this phrase, both of which are very interesting. 

Let’s take a look at the first origin.

On January 21, 2010 Forbes magazine published an article by Daniel Fisher entitled “The Global Debt Bomb” which addressed the worldwide recession and what would be involved in paying off debt in a number of countries, not just America.  The article stated in part:

National governments will issue an estimated $4.5 trillion in debt this year, almost triple the average for mature economies over the preceding five years. The U.S. has allowed the total federal debt (including debt held by government agencies, like the Social Security fund) to balloon by 50% since 2006 to $12.3 trillion. The pain of repayment is not yet being felt, because interest rates are so low–close to 0% on short-term Treasury bills. Someday those rates are going to rise. Then the taxpayer will have the devil to pay.

Now back on June 1, 1900 the Edwards’ Fruit Grower and Farmer newspaper related quite an intriguing story.

Judge Houtchens and Mr. Noll fished until they got tired and started for camp.  They reached an Indian tepee and there found Mr. Gagnon asleep.  He had missed the camp.  They had done the same.  They explained their predicament as best they could to the Indian and he offered to guide them to their camp for $10, which they paid.

The Indian earned his money.  He guided them back to the lake and then in an entirely opposite direction from that they took on leaving the lake, he led them to where the wagon, Judge Ross — and the ammunition — were.   The horses were gone.  The judge said he had watered and fed the animals and lain down to take a snooze while they were eating.

Here was the devil to pay — in the shape of an Indian.  He demanded $10 to guide them to Arlee and $10 more to find the horses.  They closed with the offer, paid him $10 in cash and Mr. Gagnon volunteered to stay with the wagon — and ammunition — until the horses were found; and then pay the remainder of the sum agreed upon.  The Indian piloted the men safely to the railroad. 

He then returned to his squaw, who had the horses concealed, in a thicket. She brought up the fiery, untamed animals, which they rode into camp, and after assisting Mr. Gagnon to harness them to the wagon, demanded $10 more to guide him to the railroad.  He paid it.  When the main road was reached the Indian pointed west and told Phil that was the way to Missoula, but he had his bearings at least and started off in the opposite direction.

Almost a hundred years before that, the Courant newspaper of Hartford, Connecticut published a news story entitled, “The Devil‘s To Pay.”  The news story began with:

There is an old Gentleman in my neighborhood, a man of good sense and moderate in his politics, with whom I sometimes spend a leisure hour in familiar conversation. Calling on him the other day, and asking if he had any news, he replied with some earnestness, news! news! Yes, the devil‘s to pay.

And nearly 100 years before that, Thomas Brown wrote “Letters From the Dead to the Living” published in 1707.  The following passage is found:

Do not you know damnation pays every man’s scores and tho’ we tick’d in the other world for subsistence, it was not with a design to cheat you or any body else? for we knew we should have the Devil to pay one time or other; and now you see, like honest men, we have pawn’d our souls for the whole reckoning, and so a start for our creditors: you see we had rather be damn’d than not to make general satisfaction, and yet, you are not satisfied.

This origin for the phrase reaches to John Faustus, the conjurer of Wittenberg in Germany, who sold his soul to the Devil in the book “Historia von D. Johann Fausten” published in 1587 with a number of subsequent Faust books published in that era.  That being said, making deals with the Devil goes back to the Bible as seen in Matthew 4:1-11.  It begins with:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

And it ends with:

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.’”  Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

As readers learned from yesterday’s entry “Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea” the devil, in nautical terms, is a seam in the planking of a wooden ship on, or below, the waterline.  Since seams need caulking, and caulking with pitch was called paying — from the Old French word “peier” meaning to pitch — whoever was charged with the job of caulking the seam in the planking of a wooden ship had the Devil to pay.

This use of paying in this context is recorded in the book “Discovery of Barmudas”  written by Sil Jourdan and published on October 13, 1610.

The greatest defects we found there, was tarre and pitch for our ship, and pinnis, in steede whereof wee were forced to make lime there of a hard kind of stone, and use it: which for the present occasion and necessitie, with some wax we found cast up by the Sea, from some shipwracke, served the turne to pay the seames of the pinnis Sir George Sommers built, for which he had neither pitch nor tarre …

And so readers can see that the nautical reference shores up all of the above and the Bible is the first to make references about poor choices leading to the poor person having the Devil to pay.

Posted in Bible, Christian, Idioms from the 16th Century, Religious References | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Beat The Air

Posted by Admin on August 1, 2011

When someone beats the air, it’s because he or she is fighting without accomplishing anything.  If you imagine someone’s arms flailing about at nothing, that’s a good literal representation of the figurative meaning of the phrase beat the air.

On July 17, 2006, the Boston Globe published a story by staff writer, Ron Borges in their Sports section about a boxing match between Fernando Vargas and Shane Mosley entitled, “Mosley Back In Picture: Vargas Fades Out.”  It began by reporting the following:

This rematch ended far more decisively than their meeting Feb. 25. Although Mosley stopped [Fernando Vargas] both times, the first fight ended when referee Joe Cortez stepped in to prevent Vargas from fighting the last two rounds because his left eye was swollen shut. When Cortez waved his hands, Vargas beat the air with his fists and insisted he would have beaten down the tiring Mosley had he been given the chance.

The Hartford Courant published a short news article entitled, “Let’s Talk It Over” on December 17, 1944 that stated in part:

How easy it is to pass the buck for our failures, to flounder through life blaming somebody else or even some thing else instead of ourselves. I’m thinking of Hannah, nearing 30. She has a job of a sort ….

It explains how desperate Hannah is to secure a husband and includes this bit of insight:

No wonder he always runs. What a pity no one tips Hannah off. What a shame for her to beat the air from one year to the next.

In New Zealand, the Marlborough Express published a news story on April 21, 1904 about then Opposition leader, Mr. Massey and how the electorate in New Zealand saw both him and his party.  The following is an excerpt of that news story.

It is too late in the day to go back to first principles to find a line of party cleavage.  And to tell the people that the present Government has fallen away from the lines of grace laid down by Mr. Ballance is to beat the air to no purpose.  The old lines are obliterated beyond all human power of redrawing, as Mr. Massey himself admitted when he contended that there is nothing to find fault with in the legislation of the Government, which is the party in power.

On November 5, 1841 the Public Ledger newspaper republished a story run in the Morning Herald entitled, “The Corn-Law Repealers And The Government.”  Lord Melbourne who was said to have “contempt for facts and realities” verbally attacked the Duke of Wellington for “simply stating a truth as palpable to everyone who will use his senses as the nose that completes and adorns his face, and on Saturday morning he was forthwith denounced as a monster and a modern Herod.”  The Duke of Wellington had angered Lord Melbourne because the Duke “announced a fact adverse to dishonest and unsuccessful agitation” and Lord Melbourne was now painting him as “cruel” because the Duke refused to deceive the public.  This comment was included in the story:

Unfortunately for the whig press it might “as well beat the  entrenchant air” as attack the Duke of Wellington; the character of the noble Duke is a national concern; and in whig abuse of his grace the people of England feel themselves insulted.

Going back several centuries to the days of the Apostles, the lower regions of the atmosphere was referred to as air as opposed to the higher regions of the sky which was referred to as the heavens (1 Thess. 4:17; Rev. 9:2; 16:17).  Ancient philosophers regarded air as an element since they didn’t know that air is essentially a mixture of oxygen and nitrogen with a small amount of carbon dioxide.  This is important to note as the expression beat the air is found in the Bible.  In fact, the earliest published version of the phrase beat the air is attributed to St. Paul.

I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air.  (1 Corinthians 9:26)

While it’s true that boxing was a sport that ancient Romans and ancient Greeks enjoyed, and while it’s true that there are accounts of boxers beating the air prior to a boxing match, Idiomation was unable to find an earlier published version of this phrase.

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Bible, Christian, Greece, Religious References, Rome | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Rob Peter To Pay Paul

Posted by Admin on July 20, 2011

Tuesday’s entry at Idiomation stated that making ends meet wasn’t the same as robbing Peter to pay Paul.  That expression means that the solution to a problem creates a new problem that is just as urgent and important to resolve as the original problem.  In other words, in order to solve the first problem, you must take tagged resources from another area, now leaving you with the same problem for the second problem as you were facing with the first problem.

For example, let’s say you have a mortgage payment due in 3 days and a bank loan payment due tomorrow but you don’t have the financial resources to pay both debts due.  If you take money set aside for the mortgage payment and pay the bank loan, this leaves a deficit in the money set aside for the mortgage even though the bank loan has been paid.   You have just robbed Peter to pay Paul.

It’s a phrase that’s found in many languages.  The French know it as “Decouvrir saint Pierre pour couvrir saint Paul.”  The Spanish know it as “Desnudar a uno santo para vestir a otro.”  The German know it as “Dem Peter nehmen und dem Paul geben.”  Yes, this is an expression that has certainly had an impact on a number of cultures around the world that have been touched by Christianity.

Now it’s true that the apostles Peter and Paul share the same Saints’ Day on June 29.  However, before the Reformation, Church taxes had to be paid to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. When there wasn’t enough money to pay both taxes, creative financing was introduced. 

At about the same time, Westminster Abbey was known as the Abbey of St. Peter.  After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the Abbey of St Peter in the west was the focus of political power, while St Paul’s Cathedral in the east was the focus of the City’s commerce and trade.  The two Churches were linked by the Thames which was the main highway of London.

King Henry VIII then designated the Abbey of St. Peter to become a second Cathedral with its own bishop and diocese. Some of the lands belonging to the Abbey of St. Peter were sold off and used to repair St Paul’s Cathedral.  For many who were loyal to the Abbey of St. Peter, this was seen as robbing [St.] Peter to pay [for St] Paul.

Now that may seem to answer the question as to the origin of the phrase, seeing that two churches — St. Paul’s Church and two different St. Peter Churches — use the exact two names found in the phrase.  However, there is proof of the phrase’s existence prior to this time.

The expression was a common expression nearly 200 hundred years prior to the Church incident.  Oxford scholar, priest and theologian John Wyclif — well-known throughout Europe for his opposition to the teaching of the organized Church which he believed to be contrary to the Bible — had this to say in his book “Select English Works” in 1380.

Lord, hou schulde God approve that you robbe Petur and gif is robbere to Poule in ye name of Crist?

While many would like to believe that the phrase is somehow found in the Bible, the fact of the matter is that a similar phrase is found in the Ancient Chinese idiom:

Dismantle the east wall to patch up the west wall.

While this may not refer to either Peter or Paul, the spirit of the phrase is the identical and so while the original expression using the names dates back to at least the 1300s, the original spirit of the expression dates back to Ancient China.

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

Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

Posted by Admin on July 15, 2011

Most people you meet who are nice are genuinely nice.  But every once in a while you meet someone who’s described as a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  In other words, they seem nice and charming but looks can be deceiving …. the person is actually very dangerous.

On July 6, 2009 the Bismark Tribune newspaper ran a Letter to the Editor sent in by Ralph Muecke Gladstone.  His opening comments were:

As you should know by now, the U.S. House passed HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.  Better known as the cap and trade bill.  This disastrous and dangerous bill is truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  It supposedly addresses the problem of man-made global warming, which is one of the biggest hoaxes ever conceived.

In Chapter 17 entitled, “The Deadly Peril of Jane Clayton” in Edgar Rice Burrough’s book “Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar” published in 1918, the following passage is found:

Shouldering his way through the crowd he approached the doorway, and had almost reached it when one of the Arabs laid a hand upon his shoulder, crying: “Who is this?” at the same time snatching back the hood from the ape-man’s face.

Tarzan of the Apes in all his savage life had never been accustomed to pause in argument with an antagonist. The primitive instinct of self-preservation acknowledges many arts and wiles; but argument is not one of them, nor did he now waste precious time in an attempt to convince the raiders that he was not a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Instead he had his unmasker by the throat ere the man’s words had scarce quitted his lips, and hurling him from side to side brushed away those who would have swarmed upon him.

Center Church in New Haven, Connecticut was founded in 1639 by English Puritans led by Reverend John Davenport, leading the church from April 25, 1638 when it was founded, up until 1668.  Their church was seen as a culture-shaping force as their communities were known as “Bible Commonwealths.”  Records show that revivalist James Davenport, grandson of the founding paster of the Church, accused the Church’s fourth pastor, Reverend Joseph Noyes (pastor from 1716 through to 1758) of being:

… a hypocrite, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a devil incarnate …

Italian poet, Giovanni Maria Verdizotti (1525 – 1600) published his book of fables entitled “Cento favole maroli” in 1570.  One of the stories included was one about a wolf dressed as a shepherd who, upon trying to call the sheep to him, wakes the real shepherd and his dogs who, of course, catch the wolf as he tries to run away now that he has been discovered as being fake as well as dangerous.

The proverb appears in the book “Hecatomythium” by Italian professor, writer and librarian, Laurentius Abstemius (1431 – 1503) and published in 1495.  It should be noted that Laurentius Abstemius was also known by the name of Lorenzo Bevilaqua.  This book is a collection of 100 fables written in Latin, many of which were translated from Greek.  The story of a wolf in sheep’s clothing published in this book is the version that credits Aesop as the author.  The story about the wolf begins with:

A wolf, dressed in a sheep’s skin, blended himself in with the flock of sheep and every day killed one of the sheep.

A second book by Abstemius contained an additional 97 fables and was entitled, “Hecatomythium Secundum” published in 1499. 

Some attribute the saying to Aesop’s “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” fable however there is no record of this fable attributed to Aesop as being written by Aesop prior to the 12th century, casting doubt as to whether it is, indeed, a true Aesop’s fable.  There is, however, a similar story attributed to Greek rhetorician Nikephoros Basilakis in his work “Progymnasmata.”

However, in the end, the spirit of the expression in its original form is found in the Bible in Matthew 7, verses 14 and 15.

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

It was such a well-used and referenced comment that a Latin proverb came into vogue after Jesus’ time, pelle sub agnina latitat mens saepe lupina (under a sheep’s skin often hides a wolfish mind).

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Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

Posted by Admin on December 31, 2010

The old saying, let sleeping dogs lie, means more than just to let sleeping dogs lie, which is very sound advice in the first place.  It also means that one ought not instigate trouble.  In other words, people should leave situations or people alone else it might cause them trouble.

The Atlanta Constitution newspaper reported on a court case on August 6, 1909 that dealt with a Mr. Jerome who had menaced a Mr. Carvalho who had threatened Mr. Jerome.  The article read in part:

“You’d better let sleeping dogs lie, Mr. Jerome,” exclaimed the witness, before the district attorney had said a word. As he spoke the expert’s eyes flashed and he pointed an agitated finger at Jerome.

In November of 1870, the New York Times ran an article entitled, “Russia and India: The Frontier of the Russian Empire.”  The article asked whether England was on the verge of losing its Asiatic possessions.

Let us consider why Russia has gained enough to suppose she is sufficiently strong to infringe the wholesome rule to “let sleeping dogs lie” when applied to the English. The Crimean War showed her plainly that her people were barbarians, and that her strength lay in brute force.

The saying “let sleeping dogs lie” was a favourite of Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of Great Britain, who exercised considerable influence over King George I as well as King George II from 1721 through to 1742.  He was quoted as saying this on more than one occasion regardless of whether it had to do with matters of the King’s Court, the American Revolution or any other situation where difficulties had arisen.

Geoffrey Chaucer used a similar phrase in his story, Troilus and Criseyde, published in 1374.

It is nought good a sleepyng hound to wake.

It’s recorded in French even earlier in the 14th century, as found in the Proverbia Vulgalia et Latina, where the saying is:  “Ne reveillez pas le chien qui dort.”  Translation: Do not wake the dog that sleeps.

As the phrase is referenced in the Proverbia Vulgalia et Latina, it is most likely that it comes from the Latin saying, “Quieta non movere” which means “Do not move settled things.”

That being said, the Book of Proverbs (26:17) says:

He that passes by, and meddles with strife belonging not to him, is like one that takes a dog by the ears.

In other words, the saying “let sleeping dogs lie” has its roots in the Bible.

Posted in Ancient Civilizations, Bible, Christian, Idioms from the 14th Century, Religious References, Rome | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Adam’s Apple

Posted by Admin 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.

Posted in Bible, Christian, Idioms from the 15th Century, Jewish, Quran, Religious References | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pour Salt In An Open Wound

Posted by Admin on December 9, 2010

Whether it’s “pour salt in an open wound” or “rub salt in an open wound” or simply “salt in wound” the meaning is the same.  Whatever has been said or done, hurts as much as having salt applied to a wound in the hopes that it will make everything better eventually.

In May 1965, “A Hurt Mother” wrote to Dear Abby wherein she complained:

I have never been a butting-in mother-in-law, but my sons’ wives never cared much for me.  I’ve never gone to their homes without an invitation, and those invitations were very rare.  But the wives’ families were always in and out.  I wasn’t missed.  My sons slowly turned away from me.  On Mother’s Day I always get expensive gifts with beautiful cards with verses saying what a wonderful mother I am and how much they love me! It is like rubbing salt in the wound.  One son hasn’t been in my home for three years.

Back on September 12, 1957, the Milwaukee Journal carried a somewhat amusing story about President Eisenhower.  It seems that he had taken some time away from his formal duties as President for a round of gold in Newport, Rhode Island.  The news bite entitled “Ike’s Gold Slips, Then He Gets Salt In Wound” relayed that:

President Eisenhower has been playing something less than satisfying golf since he started his vacation at this seaside resort.  He has been shooting two and three strokes over par on an embarrassing number of holes at the Newport Country Club.  And as though his own efforts were not enough, the chief executive underwent a shaking experience the other day.  A man playing in front of him shot a hole in one.  The lucky golfer was Gus Pagel, an electrical designer who plays at the country club on week ends.  Pagel, of course, was delighted to the point of jabbering to every person within range of his voice.   The president made the clubhouse turn and encountered Pagel, who told him in painstaking detail about his wonderful shot.  “I’ve only seen two of those,” the president said seriously.  “Well, sir, I’ve only seen one,” Pagel replied.

In 1949, The Spartanburg Herald carried a column by Robert Ruark.  On March 4 he wrote a piece entitled “Robert Ruark Says Navy and Air Force Carrying On Cold War.”  It was a lengthy piece and near the end of the piece, he wrote:

A lot of Navy feels today that if Mr. Symington fulfills an undeclared but fairly obvious aim to control everything that flies then the big Navy is a defunct duck.  Along these lines the Air Force’s successful public relations coups, such as stealing the Navy’s present show with a dashing feat like the round-the-world nonstop trip, is sheer salt in wound, and regarded as remarkably dirty pool.  The assumption is that a tour de force like the big round-tripper is coldly designed to impress Congress and the public with the fact that you no longer need a special air branch in your sea forces, and that ground-based airpower can win all alone.

The Glasgow Herald published a review of the movie “Sweet Devil” on June 21, 1938 that read in part:

British comedy films in many foreign countries have the reputation (however unjustly) of being close to the custard pie stage.  It would have been much better in this film if the custard pie throwing had been omitted — it was too much like rubbing salt in the wound.  Bobby Howes and Jean Gillie can hardly be expected to rise above such adolescent humour.  Such characters as t hey are supposed to portray never existed, except in Mack Sennett’s earliest efforts.

In the end, though, the phrase “salt in the wound” comes from the days when salt was rubbed into wounds as an antiseptic.   During the earlier centuries, when England was establishing its navy, most sailors were forced into service.  While at sea, punishment was often lashes with a cat’o’nine tails. These whippings would almost always break the skin, and salt was rubbed into the wound to prevent infection.  In this way, “salt in wound” was a very literal, stinging phrase.

And then there are those who will tell you that the early beginnings of the phrase come from the Bible.  Jesus did not tell his disciples, “You are the sugar of the world.” He is credited as saying to them, “You are the salt of the earth.”  Even back then in ancient times, doctors would sprinkle wounds with salt in the hope of fighting off infection. 

Since salt was an antiseptic that performed the negative function of preventing meat from spoiling and the positive function of disinfecting wounds.  The sting of having one’s negative behaviours brought to the forefront by the teachings of the disciples was akin to “salt in wound.”

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Milk Of Human Kindness

Posted by Admin on June 10, 2010

The first published version of this phrase appears in William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth written sometime between 1603 and 1607.  In Act 1, Scene 5 when Lady Macbeth complains that her husband isn’t ruthless enough with his rivals.

LADY MACBETH
Yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness.

Lady Macbeth belittles her husband’s courage and manhood, countering his arguments about sparing Scottish King Duncan’s life until Macbeth finally relents and agrees with her that they should kill their overnight guest.  Of course, from that point on, Macbeth needs no encouragement from his lady to continue with his plans to secure the throne for himself.

There’s a fair bit of discussion about the milk of human kindness in the Old Testament of the Bible however, contrary to popular belief, the phrase itself never appears.

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Man After My Own Heart

Posted by Admin on June 4, 2010

This phrase is one of the easiest phrases to trace back as it hails directly from the Bible.  Among other places, it can be found in Samuel 13:14:

“But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.”

And it is found in Acts 13:22:

“And when he had removed him, he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.”

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