Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

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 »

Fat Of The Land

Posted by Admin on September 14, 2010

When a person has the best of everything in life, word has it that he or she is living off the fat of the land.  So how did come to mean that and from where does the phrase, the fat of the land,  originate?

In a news story published in the The Quebec Saturday Budget newspaper on February 8, 1890 in a story entitled, “On Behalf of Ireland’s Cause: The American Press to be Bought With British Gold to Malign the League” the story read in part:

The Chicago Times of the second instant, says editorially ‘hold no convention, is the advice to the executive of the National League in America from the gentlemen over the sea, but send us more money.  As to the money part, that has been the cry from time immemorial.  Since 1886, this one agency of the League alone has collected a quarter of a million of money and the demand is for more.  Men who are living as Members of the British Parliament on funds raised in America, and living on the fat of the land, or gossip does them great injustice, will naturally cry with the horse-leech’s daughter ‘Give, give.’

In the 1500s, the fat of something was considered to be the best or richest part.  In fact, if you read any of the recipes from that time period, you will soon appreciate the fact that fat was where it was at! 

But in the end, this phrase is from The Bible as well in Genesis 45:17-18 where it is written:

And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, Say unto thy brethren, This do ye: lade your beasts, and go, get you unto the land of Canaan;  And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.

Posted in Bible, Christian, Idioms from the 16th Century, Idioms from the 19th Century, Jewish, Religious References | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »