Is the Golden Rule still the Golden Standard?

Golden_Rule_by_Norman_RockwellThe term ‘gold standard’ was the system they used for rating the rate of currency to the gold for which it could be exchanged. The gold standard was mostly abandoned during the Great Depression of the 1930s; but the phrase stuck around to represent that that something is the best and should be used to gauge how good other items in that category are. Another ‘golden’ phrase that has been around for thousands of years is now commonly known as the Golden Rule. The term “Golden Rule” was coined as early as 17th century Britain by Anglican theologians/preacher Thomas Jackson and British novelist Charles Gibbon. Anglican preacher Thomas Jackson used the term “Golden Rule” to represent a specific ‘rule’ given by Jesus in his famous Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is quoted as saying for us to “do to others what you want them to do to you” is a perfect summary of the Torah. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus finishes by saying that, “(t)his is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets.” Historians have pointed out that this idea of ‘treating others as we would want them to be treated’ is not unique to Jesus nor was he historically the first person to instruct or suggest his people to do this; but while there is a similarity, there are still differences to the ‘Golden Rule’ that is found elsewhere.346px-The_Sermon_on_the_Mount_-_William_Brassey_Hole

The versions of the ‘Golden Rule’ have been found in countless written works; and has been used in many religions and belief systems:

African Traditional Religions: One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts. (Yoruba Proverb – Nigeria)

Aristotle: We should behave to our friends as we wish our friends to behave to us.

Baha’i Faith: He should not wish for others that which he doth not wish for himself.

Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. (Udanavarga 5:18)

Christianity: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you and love thy neighbor as thyself.

Confucius: “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” (Analects 15:23)

Hinduism: Do nothing to they neighbor which thou wouldst not have them do to thee. “This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” (Mahabharata 5:1517)

Islam: No one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.

Jainism: A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.

Judaism: What you hate, do not do to anyone.

Sikh: As thou deemst thyself, so deem others.

Taoism: Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.

Zoroastrianism: Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others.

The Golden Rule is now known by social psychologists as the Law of Reciprocity, which they surmise that when ‘someone does something nice for you, you will have a deep-rooted psychological urge to do something nice in return. As a matter of fact, you may even reciprocate with a gesture far more generous than their original good deed.’ In regards to Biblical teaching, you could call the Law of Reciprocity, the ‘Law of Sowing and Reaping’. Though the ‘Golden Rule’, through its many variations, has major differences; but it is the Golden Rule as presented by Jesus that we see a positive command to show love proactively. The inverted nature of the non-Christian ‘Golden Rule’ will rely on passivity and are stated negatively.

Even though the ‘golden rule’ is closely associated with the Christian religion, the ethics of this concept are universal. The message was clear from everyone from African tribes to John the Baptist to Buddha…’treat others the way we want to be treated’. Sadly we have prematurely forgotten about this or that despite its many variations….it must have gotten lost in translation.

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Images:

An Illustration of the Golden Rule by Norman Rockwell used as the cover of the April 1, 1961 edition of the Saturday Evening Post, obtained from http://www.flavinscorner.com/goldrock.JPG, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47391481

The Sermon on the Mount by William Hole, http://www.wikigallery.org/wiki/artist49352/William-Brassey-Hole/page-1, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34083673

La Justice by Bernard d’Agesci, painter (Jeffdelonge pict) – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8713098

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Water Flowing Through My Place in this World

IMG_0637 2My mom has always said, in times of trials and tribulations, that ‘this place is not my home’. She was of course referencing Bible verses found in the book of John that tell us that we are “not of the world” and that God’s “Kingdom is not of this world.” John 17:16 that says, “(T)hey are not of the world, just as I am not of the world,” and this is a verse that a lot of Christians lean towards in our modern times. They lean on the the hope of what is to come; just as much as the Jews and Christians that would have read these words 2000 years ago. My current place in this world isn’t that bad. Saying that “I am blessed” may be a cliche thing for Christians and non-Christians alike to say; but in comparison to so so many, I am. When I think about someone being grateful for their current situation; I think about Huck Finn. Huck Finn was along on that rift with Jim. Jim was free of the bonds of slavery while Huck was being carried away from not only his abusive father but from the civilizing life in St. Petersburg. Huck says that, “you feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.” Huck was beginning to realize the freedom that water possesses. The solitude of that raft allowed them to stay away from the crazy reality that lie beyond the shore.

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The water is a representation of finding freedom from society’s corrupt fingers and symbolizes how life continues to flow. The reality that Huck and Jim ran from consisted of a set of dishonorable rules and jaded authority figures. While on that raft, they are like the water. They have no one to answer to and no rules to abide by. Water, even when dammed, still has life unless it is allowed to become stagnant. When Huck and Jim stop on land, then they find chaos and death. Then that life within it dies. When I stand on the shore of the creek behind my house or find myself drifting on the river like Huck and Jim with only the thin aluminum of the boat between myself and the water; I am like them. I am caught betwixt the society which I find to be mostly dishonorable and jaded, and the freedom that I see in the flowing water. When I find myself leaving my earthly home…I shall then find complete freedom since I truly am not of this world.

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Words that Differ in American English

We have lots of (what would be considered by some to be arguments) discussions about a variety of topics at my house. One all too common discussion is the proper pronunciation of words. As an English teacher, my patience is depleted all too frequently when we argue about words and their meaning. Now after saying that I sound very pompous and I must admit that I do make mistakes. I’m not the end-all authority on the English Language despite my ‘vast knowledge’ (inside joke). One of my college English professors told us that the written English language is the most difficult language to learn. To English as a second language learners, the every day grammar and word usage that we find so easy to comprehend are the things that confuse our foreign friends. When watching TV or talking to someone from another English speaking country, the things we hear our foreign brethren say sometimes make us laugh because the word’s definitions are sometimes different from country to country. The most noticeable difference between American English and that of our foreign friends (specifically British English) is the vocabulary. There are countless words that are different in American English that are vastly different from those of our British cohorts. For example Americans open the hood of their car to access the engine while the British would ask you to open the bonnet to look at the engine.

It doesn’t even have to be a word difference though. It would be spelling differences; like the word that caused our family discussion/argument the other night: flavor/flavour. There are hundreds of minor spelling differences between British and American English. Thanks to American lexicographer Noah Webster. You probably recognize his name from what he is famous for; his dictionary. The author, teacher and politician started to reform the English spelling in the latter pat of the 1700s. As an intelligent man, he grew weary of the inconsistent spelling differences between the American and British spelling of different words. As a way to better show America’s independence from England, he would do simple spelling changes like taking the u out of colour. Other changes that he proposed would thankfully fail to be approved. Like his proposal of changing the spelling of women to wimmen.

Its not just nouns that differ across the pond. Americans tend to end their past tense verbs with the ending -ed; while the British tend to use the -t. (Example: They dreamed of a beautiful sunset vs They dreamt of a beautiful sunset.)

So now that we’ve established that there is a difference but I know that you want to know more. Whether you’re traveling abroad and won’t have some magic genie to help interpret the language in a new country or if you’re just as nosey as I am; don’t fret. Everyone knows how I love to make a list; so I have put together a word list to show how meanings and words differ in America vs other English speaking countries (specifically in our case Britain). So here is the – Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Words that differ in American English.


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10. Bird

British: A colloquial term for a woman.

American: A winged mammal.

9. Shag

British: Colloquial term for a sexual act

American: A type of carpet

8. A jumper

British: A wool pullover jacket worn during the winter

American: Someone who commits suicide by jumping from a building or bridge

7. A geezer

British: A tough guy or gang member

American: An old man

The_Rawleigh_Man

6. Solicitor

British: A legal representative

American: A door-to-door salesman

5. Pants

British: Underwear

American: Trousers

4. A rubber

British – A pencil eraser

American – A slang term for a male contraceptive

3. Trainer(s)

British: Athletic shoes

American: Person who trains you to work out at the gym

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2. Bog

British: Toilet/Bathroom

American: Marsh/swamp/quagmire

 

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1. Chips

British: French fries or thinly sliced fried potatoes

American: Thinly sliced, deep fried, baked and/or kettle-cooked crunchy potatoes (which are called crisps in the UK)


 

Images:

Featured Image – Blue Jay Cyanocitta Cristata Welland by and accredited to Rob Hanson from Welland, Ontario, Canada – Blue Jay – Cyanocitta cristata, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3201406

The Rawleigh Man accredited to the Stephenson County Historical Society “This is a postcard depicting The Rawleigh Man. A door-to-door salesman of medicine and other products. 1909 – Stephenson County Historical Society, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46933270

Wavy French Fries sold in Canadian Supermarket by and accredited to Gab kiwi32 – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16105222

Marsh in Bird Sanctuary by and accredited to Liam M. Higgins – Own work. Taken with Kodak Z740 Zoom Digital Camera, Copyrighted free use, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=876501

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Best Banned Books

More times than not, when you tell someone not to do something…they are going to want to do it even more after that. This is definitely the case with my yearning to want to read banned books. Governments, school districts and churches (as well as the Office for Intellectual Freedom) are arguing back and forth over what books should be banned. In the past and in different parts of the world, books have been burned or removed 1933-may-10-berlin-book-burningcompletely based on the book’s differing religious or political views. While the Nazis even removed books strictly because they were not of German origin; most books in modern America are challenged by parents in a public or school library because of questionable themes, sexual content, offensive language, or topics that are unsuitable for that age group. Since the American Library Association began in 1990, Stephen King and Judy Blume have surprisingly had the most books challenged or banned.

With that being said, I am sharing with you the Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Best Banned Books. This list is based on my favorites out of the banned books list.


BraveNewWorld_FirstEdition

10. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Reason for Censor: Offensive Language, Sexual Content, Anti-family Themes

Plot: The anti-utopian novel, Brave New World, was originally published in 1932. The novel itself follows the illegitimate son of a governor who, now in a future London, was raised in America and is not aware of the new empire. The book shows the culture-clash that he experiences living under the new set of rules and the author propounds that the economy and lack of jobs will create an atmosphere where the government controls the population through technology and psychological manipulation.

My take: Brave New World may have received mixed reviews early on but it is now ranked as one of the most most significant novels of the 20th century. I read Brave New World in college after reading 1984 and is in line with utopian novels like The Giver by Lois Lowry and Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy. The anticipated actions of the governments in this future environment are not far from the fears that many of us have today. For a mature reader, this novel is a great read.

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9. Ulysses by James Joyce

Reason for Censor: Sexual Content

Plot: Ulysses is a modernist novel that chronicles the itinerant appointments and occurrences in the life of Leopold Bloom. The story takes place in Dublin but the novel parallels the life of Odysseus (the hero of Homer’s epic poem Odyssey) and Leopold Bloom. (Example: Joyce alludes the comparison between Bloom’s trip to Bella Cohen’s Brothel and Odysseus’s time with Circe.)

My Take: Despite a 1921 American obscenity trial while being banned and burned in both the US and England in the early 1900s; since its publication, Ulysses is regarded as one of the greatest literary works in history. The writer’s stream-of-consciousness writing technique and beautiful prose writing creates a rich and humorous book. The story definitely has adult themes and sexual content; but is a great read for the appropriate audience.

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8. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

Reason for Censor: Thematic Elements, Occult/Satanism

Plot: Harry Potter is a series of fantasy novels that chronicles the life of young wizard, Harry Potter and his friends. The story essentially centers around Harry’s growing in his wizardly knowledge and abilities while being threatened by the evil dark Wizard Lord Voldemort; who wishes to not only to rule the wizard and non-magic realms but wants to kill Harry based on his family lineage.

My Take: It took me a while to get on board with Harry Potter. I did think that the book series’s increasingly dark tones, gruesome violence, and occult practices were somewhat questionable early on; after I first read the story I realized that even though some more conservative groups could see the occult tones as questionable, the writer helps readers understand death, prejudice, corruption, and even mental illness. The book series are now a cultural phenomenon; leading to a successful movie series, amusement park attractions and endless amounts of memorabilia.

of mice and men cover

7. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Reason for Censorship: Offensive language, Racist Language, Violence, Thematic Elements

Plot: The 1937 novella tells the story of George Milton and Lennie Small traveling through California. The two displaced migrant ranch workers move place to place searching for new job opportunities during America’s Great Depression.

My Take: I read Of Mice and Men in school and it is taught in many school systems around the US, but the book is constantly targeted by the censors and is on the American Library Association‘s list of the Most Challenged Books of the 21st Century. Though the book’s events are somewhat tragic and most of the characters are truly depressing, it is a wonderful book that displays a sad reality of real life. The depressing nature of the book did lead one critic to challenge the book in one school because of the ‘depressing themes’…but this shouldn’t keep you from reading it.

The_Hunger_Games_cover

6. Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Reasons for Censorship: Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited for Age Group, Anti-Family

Plot: The Hunger Games trilogy center around teenagers: Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. The novel is set in the dystopian setting of a the country of Panem. The country is made up of the wealthy Capitol and 12 specific districts that in different levels of poverty. Every year, children from the 12 districts are selected to participate in the Hunger Games. The Hunger Games, which are compulsory, are an annual televised death match.

My Take: The book was singled out for being overly religious, even though religion nor any deity was mentioned in any of the books. The books depiction of violence is very straight forward and graphically described; but it is tastefully done. The books are very well written and the writer does a good job at causing the reader to become emotionally involved in the story’s characters.

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5. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Reasons for Censorship: Offensive Language, Sexual Content, Unsuited for Age Group

Plot: The novel centers around Holden Caulfield, a teenager from New York City,  who is living in a southern California mental hospital (or sanatorium) near Hollywood, CA in the 1950s. Holden tells the story of his time at the Pencey Prepatory Academy in Agerstown, PA in which he flunked out of. After many altercations, he decides to leave to go home early and stay in a motel in New York City. The story continues as he interacts with different people and the teenage angst and alienation;  before the end of the story where he decides to go to another school and is optimistic about his future.

My Take: There is no denying the impact that this novel has had on popular and literary culture; but the book is definitely not for the younger age groups. The book made Time’s 100 Best English-langauge novels written since 1923 list and is #15 on the BBC’s The Big Read list. While the novel tackles complex topics like losing your innocence, self identity, a sense of belonging, and dealing with loss; the Holden Caulfield character is a very relatable. Though many view the books protagonist as an icon for teenage rebellion; I view him as your average teenager trying to make it in our complex world.

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4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Reasons for Censorship: Drug/Alcohol Use

Plot: The books center around a girl named Alice who goes on an adventure. Alice falls through a rabbit hole and enters into a fantastic new world full of very peculiar humans and anthropomorphic creatures. Alice finds herself to hold a pivotal role in the future of world that she has fallen into.

My Take: Though many have hinted at a sexual or lustful relationship between Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) and Alice Pleasance Liddell (the little girl whom inspired the story); nothing has ever come to light. In fact, my young adult literature class in college spent about half of the semester dissecting the sexual and literal imagery found in the books. Since the tale was written to the girls, it is more commonly believed that Dodgson was writing it to warn the girls of the life that they will experience as they grow up; and the ‘drink me’ and ‘eat me’ portions of the book could be taken as a precautionary tale of the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Either way, the story (taken at face value) is considered to be one of the greatest examples of literary nonsense; and has long been celebrated in popular and literary culture.

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3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Reasons for Censorship: Sexual Content, Drugs/Alcohol Use, Unsuited for Age Group, Homosexual Themes

Plot: The epistolary novel is a modern day coming-of-age tale. The novel centers around an introverted teenager named Charlie, who is trying to journeying from the worlds of adolescence and adulthood. Charlie was encouraged to write the letters, of which the novel is comprised of, by his English teacher based on his passion for reading and writing. Charlie is struggling in his first year in high school. The novel takes place after two truly traumatic events take place in his life: the dead of his only middle-school friend and the death of his favorite aunt. Charlie is befriend by two seniors but is shunned by the group after a fallout with a girl. Charlie regains his friends but is anxious about losing his friends when they graduate. The novel explores and talks about many avenues of life, relationships and love.

My take: I first read The Perks of Being a Wallflower on the suggestion of a friend of mine in college (who was also in that Young Adult Literature class where we discussed the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland books); and I don’t say this lightly but this book truly touched me. It was a life altering experience. The love and loss that Charlie experiences, along with the hurt and pain that happens to us all during our adolescent years causes an inexplicable bond to be made with the characters. The books themes are not appropriate for younger age groups. The book has been on the top 10 American Library Association banned book list 7 times since publication but I feel that older teenagers…especially we wallflowers, need to read this book.

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2. Slaughterhouse-Five or The Children’s Crusade by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Reason for Censorship: Violence, Offensive Language, Sexual Content, Thematic Elements

Plot: The story, which is told in nonlinear order with events (taking place via flashbacks or time travel experiences) ranging from his time in the war, to postwar, to his early years. The unreliable narrator, Billy Pilgrim, was an ill-trained, disoriented, and fatalistic American soldier; who refused to fight. The central events of the story is then Prisoner-of-war Pilgrim’s survival during the firebombing of Dresden and his experience with time travel to and from the war and his time spent in the ‘human exhibit’ in an alien zoo.

My Take: Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death is not only one of my favorite books that has been censored but it is one of my favorite books period. The science fiction-infused anti-war novel is a complicated but amazing read. What I find interesting is that the events of the firebombing of Dresden have been described by Vonnegut as semi-autobiographical. The book’s anti-war sentiment was immensely popular after its publication in 1969 amidst the ongoing Vietnam War, causing the novel to top the New York Times Best Seller list. The sexual acts that are described in the novel may be a bit much for younger readers but older teenagers may appreciate the style of writing.

Holy_Bible

1. The Holy Bible

Reason for Censorship: Religious Viewpoint, Sexual Content, Unsuited for Age Group, Incitement to Violence

Plot: A canonical collection of sacred texts or scriptures by many different authors that Jews and Christians view as a product of divine inspiration and a record of the relationship between the Judeo-Christian God and humans.

My Take: The United States is home to more Christians than anywhere else in the world but it is also home to more challenges to the book that the Christians view as the most holy. The Holy Bible is listed as the sixth most challenged book in America. The ALA, whom I have referenced many times in this report have been collecting information from the books that have been challenged, banned or censored from American schools or libraries since 1990. The ALA has listed many reasons why a book would be banned:

homosexuality, immigration, religious viewpoints, political viewpoint, occult/satanism, antiethnic, prostitution, suicide, evil, Islamic, Unsuited for Age group, Cultural Insensitivity, liberal propaganda, racism, sexual, slavery, gender non-conformity, glorification of criminals, alcohol, drugs, smoking, violence, anti-family, confuses children, promotes perversion, bisexuality, racist to whites, glorifies Islamic Jihad, Nudity, sex, anti-police, abortion, offensive, atheism, and mentions of Allah.

The ALA defines that any challenge is a ‘formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.’ Religious viewpoints is the fourth most common challenge recently, and the Holy Bible is one of the books that is receiving an increasing amount of challenge. Many people view a Bible being in a school library as a violation of the seperation of church and state, while some have complained that some of the topics and content is inappropriate to minors. I agree that some younger children needed to be guided through their reading of the Bible. As a Christian I view the Bible as an important historical, religious and sacred document but if it is just viewed as a piece of literature over an extended amount of time….it is amazing that that many writers could get their stories straight over thousands of years.

Whatever your feelings on censorship, we ultimately have to do what we feel as right; as long as what we feel as right doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. And my right to read something shouldn’t be infringed on because you don’t like something that is in my selected book. But with that being said, if something violates a viewpoint that I do not agree with; I do not want someone forcing my child (or me) to read that piece of text. It’s a complicated situation that we are in, in this day and time where the world around us is constantly changing.

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Images:

Nazi Book burning in Berlin, May 1933, accredited to Unknown – United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Public Domain (PD-US-unpublished), https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1253020

Brave New World cover accredited to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8103565

Ulysses cover, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=555052CC

Crowd outside a book store for the midnight release of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince accredited to Source, (SA 3.0), https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=226679

Of Mice and Men cover by Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19545457

Hunger Games Trilogy Boxset cover accredited to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49711016

The Catcher in the Rye cover accredited to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1709640

Original Cover of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland accredited to source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47434658

The Perks of Being a Wallflower cover accredited to Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8206705

Slaughterhouse-Five cover accredited Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5481972

Holy Bible image by and accredited to Lyn Lomasi – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15744249

Book burning in Chile following the 1973 coup that installed the Pinochet regime accredited to Source, CIA Freedom of Information Act, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49711016

Just in the Nick of Time: A History of Interesting Idioms and Colloquial Phrases – Part 8

It has been quite some time since I’ve written about one of my favorite things: the idioms and colloquial phrases that we use in our every day language. As we have discussed before; these idioms and colloquial phrases sometimes sound completely ludicrous out of context, but many of them have very real and amazingly explainable origins.  This time we will look into the history of:

Hold a candle to, One in the hand is better than two in the bush, The pot calling the kettle black, Bust your balls, It’s getting deep, Blood is thicker than water



Candela_al_buio

“Hold a Candle to” – 

Origin: The phrase ‘hold a candle to’ has a pretty straight forward origin. Before the advent of electricity, apprentices were expected to hold a candle for the more experienced workman could stay focused on their task. Someone who was not able to live up these expectations would not even able ‘to hold a candle’ for whom the person tried to apprentice. The phrase was first found in the writing of Sir Edward Dering where in 1641 he wrote that he “…be not worthy to hold the candle to Aristotle.”

Meaning: To compare yourself to an expert when you are unfit to even hold a subordinate position to said expert.



Bowl_with_a_rider_hunting_with_a_falcon,_Iran,_Nishapur,_9th-10th_century,_slipped,_painted,_and_glazed_earthenware_-_Royal_Ontario_Museum_-_DSC04580.jpeg

“One in the Hand is better than Two in the Bush/A bird in the Hand is worth Two in the Bush”

Origin: Sometimes old idioms and colloquial phrases are actually ancient proverbs that we still find ourselves using in our modern day. This reigns true for the “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” proverb that has two possible and Bird-in-Hand,_PA_Keystone_Marker.jpgmaybe coinciding meanings. First off, the phrase has absolutely  nothing to do with the sleepy little town in Pennsylvania’s Amish County; Bird-In-Hand, PA. The first warns us against taking a great risk to try and gain more but end up losing everything; while the other refers to an ancient hunting technique. In medieval times, falconry was extremely popular and therefore the bird (aka your falcon) was a more valuable asset to a hunter and certainly worth more than two potential prey (the other birds) in a bush. The first printed version of this expression is found in John Ray’s 1670 book, A Hand-book of Proverbs in which he says, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Despite the phrase originating hundreds of years ago, the warning still remains true to this day.

Meaning: It’s better to have something than to try for the possibility of something greater and end up with nothing at all.



Old_Black_Kettle

“Pot Calling the Kettle Black” – 

Origin: In the 1620 Thomas Shelton translation of Cervantes Saavedra’s History of Don Quixote; the phrase ‘pot calling the kettle black’ is hinted upon by Cervantes when he says “you are like what is said that the frying=pan said to the kettle. ‘Avant, black-browes’. Years before this translation showed up, Shakespeare used a similar expression in the 1606 tragedy Troilus and Cressida when he said that “(t)he raven chides blackness.” It was William Penn’s (you know the founder of Pennsylvania) 1682 Quaker version of the Poor Richard’s Almanack, Some Fruits of Solitude, that we found its modern usage when he wrote that “a covetous man to inveigh against Prodigality…is for the Pot to call the Kettle black.” It is definitely a truly obscure comparison; but the phrase has found itself staying in the lexicon of different languages across the planet which has continued to spread throughout the centuries.

Meaning: The notion that the criticism someone makes of someone could apply to themselves.



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“Bust your Balls” – 

Origin: Martin Scorsese’s 1990 crime film Goodfellas is a classic tale of mob life showcases a rare glimpsed into the mob subculture and doesn’t provide a glamorization of the deplorable acts of the mob; but what it does provide some amazing movie quotes. One of those quotes came from the veteran actor Frank Vincent’s portrayal of Billy Batts when he tells Tommy DeVito that he is just “breaking your balls”. The crude reference has been popular ever since and derives from an old Italian expression: non rompermi i coglioni which is translated as “don’t break my balls”. So where in the world did they get this imagery from? Well the true meaning of the phrase is in reference to actual ball busting. Yeah, I know. Ball busting occurs in the cattle industry and beef cattle farmers prefer to have ‘castrated’ male bulls; because they are more docile and are not as rough on equipment during the killing process. Whatever the origin and for whatever reason someone starting using the slang phrase, we know that it is definitely offensive language but it definitely gets the point across. So…don’t bust my balls, I’m just writing a blog. 😉

Meaning: To pick on someone to the point that it evokes anger.



Read the story of this trip on www.mylastdestination.eu !

“It’s getting deep” – 

Origin: There is no definite origin to speak of when it comes to someone saying that ‘it’s getting deep’ or that something is ‘deep’. What I can tell you is that this situational phrase is used to describe a time when a person telling a story is telling so big of a far fetched tale that it feels like the room is filling up. I have always heard that it is a reference to someone calling someone on their ‘bullcrap’ and therefore the room is filling up with all of the ‘bullcrap’. It could also be in reference to someone filling up the room with the trash that they are speaking. Either way, we all know that one guy who fills up rooms every time he speaks.

Meaning: Phrase used to describe a situation in which a person telling  story is spewing so may untruths that the room is metaphorically filling up with their lies.



Inupiat_Family_from_Noatak,_Alaska,_1929,_Edward_S._Curtis_(restored).jpg

“Blood is thicker than water” – 

Origin: Family. Family is first thought that comes to mind when you think about blood being thicker than water; and that was exactly what famed Scottish novelist, poet, historian, and biographer had in mind when he used the phrase for the first time in his 1815 work Guy Mannering. In the work a character says, “Weel, blude’s thicker than water; she’s welcome to the cheese and the hams just the same.” Being that Scott is known for coining new phrases; the man known to be the ‘greatest practioner of the historical novel” was more than likely the originator of the phrase. So this phrase truly has nothing to do with the viscosity of blood vs that of water; but that family bonds are closer than that of others.

Meaning: The bonds of family are closer than those of others.



Don’t forget to check out parts 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 of this series to continue in your educational journey. 



Images: 
Candela Fotografata by and attributed to Luca Casartelli – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18794750
Iranian bowl featuring image of horseback rider hunting with a falcon at Royal Ontario Museum image by Daderot – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34022346
Featured Image: Keystone Marker for Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania image by and accredited to Doug Kerr – Flickr: Bird-In-Hand, Pennsylvania, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17171452
An Old Red Kettle, blacked with soot image by and accredited to Susan Dussaman – https://flic.kr/p/9MScDZ, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48282660
French Charolais Bull image by and accredited to Forum concoursvaches.fr – http://www.concoursvaches.fr, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10644454
Flooded Room in Linz image by and accredited to Guillaume Speurt from Vilnius, Lithuania – Flooded room in Linz, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25615112
Inupiat Eskimo family portrait by and accredited to Edward S. Curtis – This file was derived from Inupiat Family from Noatak, Alaska, 1929, Edward S. Curtis.jpg:, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24953870

Just in the Nick of Time: A History of Interesting Idioms and Colloquial Phrases – Part 7

Sometimes the idioms or colloquial phrases that we use in our every day language sound completely ludicrous, but much to our surprise they have very real and amazingly explainable origins. Today we will look into origins and meanings of some of the silliest sounding idioms and colloquial phrases that have pretty unbelievable origins. Today we will look at: Cry crocodile tears, Grandfathered in, What in tarnation, Blowing smoke up your a**, Brand spanking new, and Throwing a hissy fit. 



Tears_of_a_crocodile.jpg

Cry crocodile tears” – 

Origin: There is an ancient myth that alludes to crocodiles crying while they devour their prey. This allusion is partially due to the fact that the crocodile has a lachrymal gland which produces ‘tears’ that lubricates their eyes just like humans do. The animal does not however show remorse while it is devouring a deer or even a human…so they do not cry as a result of an emotion. There have been stories about this crying myth for many centuries but the first printed references to this myth is found in French reports as far back as 1230. In The Voyage and Travail of Sir John Maundeville, (circa 1400) the writer says that “…there are many crocodiles – these serpents slay men, and then, weeping, eat them…). This is a direct reference to the myth but in the 16th century; Edmund Grindal, the Archbishop of York and Canterbury, used the phrase as it commonly used by saying that: “I begin to fear, lest his humility…be a counterfit humility, and his tears crocodile tears.” So it would appear that the scientific realization that the tears of a crocodile are insincere and thus the phrase made its way across the ocean and has continued on throughout the years.

Meaning: Putting on an insincere show of sorrow.



Grandfathered in” – 

Origin: In the Southern states of the United States, the term ‘grandfathered in’ is used frequently, but if they were to have used it in the late 1800s…it would have had a completely different meaning. The dictionary states that a grandfather clause is ‘a portion of a statute that provides that the law is not applicable in certain circumstances due to preexisting facts’ and the specific grandfather clauses which popularized this phrase were the use of clauses that were originally intended to prevent Blacks from voting. These provisions were adopted by the constitutions of some states and were sought to interfere with an individual’s right to vote by setting forth difficult requirements. The common requirements were ownership of a large amount of land or the ability to read and write portions of the state and/or federal constitutions. The name grandfather clause arose from the exception that was made for veterans of the Civil War. If the veterans were qualified to vote prior to 1866, their descendants were also qualified. This literally, in effect, mean that if a person’s grandfather could vote…then so could they. This of course was created to benefit white Americans and to keep black Americans from voting. Thankfully this was found to be unconstitutional later and Despite the extremely negative past, the phrase has continues to be heard (specifically when your cell phone company wants to tell you about some program that you were grandfathered into).

Meaning: a clause exempting certain classes of people or things from the requirements of a piece of legislation affecting their previous rights, privileges, or practices.


What in tarnation?” – 

Origin: “What in tarnation” was one of those colloquial sayings that was even too country for my family. The euphemistic expression gained popularity in the 18th and 19th century throughout America as a replacement certain four letter explanations which would offend the Puritan ears of that time period. The phrase is similar to the “what in Sam Hill” which strangely enough was NOT named after a guy named Sam Hill. While we do not really know who in the Sam Hill that Sam Hill was or why that saying gained popularity; we do know that ‘tarnation’ is a euphemism that is a modification of the word ‘darn’ation which is a cleaned up version of the word ‘damnation’. The root of the word ‘tarnation’ is a derivative of the word ‘tarnal’ which means ‘eternal’. So…how would the religious invocation of ‘eternity’ be used as a curse? At some point, someone in a moment of high emotion took the word tarnal and joined it together with damnation to say ‘you eternal enemy’. Maybe? Sounds logical to me.

Meaning: Euphemism for the word ‘damnation’.


Tobacco_smoke_enema_device

 “Blowing smoke up your a**” – 

Origin: You’re probably hoping that this figure of speech is not based on anything but I hate to break it to you; its based on a real thing. The figure of speech, which now a days mostly means that you are a insincerely complimenting someone in order to ‘inflate’ the ego of the person being flattered; but back in the 1700s, doctors would quite literally blow smoke up your butt. Believe it or not, it was a regular medical procedure that was used, among many things, to resuscitate people who were otherwise presumed to be dead. It was in fact such a commonly used procedure for drowning victims that ‘smoke blowing equipment’ hung along the River Thames. This equipment was donated so kindly by the Royal Humane Society. Yeah let that sink in. SO….people would keep the ‘smoke blowing equipment’ near swimming holes, much like we keep defibrillators at gyms, hospitals, etc. So….how did it work? Well I’m glad you asked. Smoke was blown up the person’s butt by inserting a tube that was connected to a fumigator which bellowed the smoke into the rectum when compressed. They thought that the nicotine in the tobacco stimulated the heartbeat and that the rectum was a quicker way into the body…than lets say…the nose or mouth. The use of tobacco didn’t just start in the 1700s (early Greeks and Native Americans were using smoke enemas to treat people and animals); but thankfully, over the decades to come, scientists realized that nicotine was toxic to the cardiac system and ‘blowing smoke up someone’s butt’ became a thing of the past.

Meaning: A mostly insincere compliment to boost the ego of the recipient.


Brand Spanking New” – 

Origin: Mostly every single human being on this planet has experienced the origin of this idiom. It happens right after the birth of a baby usually calls for a slight slap on the hind end of the baby to get it to cry…thusly causing the baby to take its first breaths and to stimulate the baby. The practice is not necessarily used anymore but it is a wildly known practice. The other part of this idiom is the use of the word ‘brand’. Most of us think of ‘brand’ as a brand of jeans or our favorite brand of soda but since at least 950 AD, to brand something meant to ‘make an indelible mark of ownership. This practice was usually the name (you get it now) of the person that owned the livestock that received the ‘mark’. So if something if ‘brand new’ then that something has a fresh branding while if something is ‘brand spanking new’…well that means that it is so new that it is baby spanking new.

Meaning: Something that is entirely new.


Throwing a hissy fit” –

Origin: The origin of the idiom or colloquial phrase ‘throwing a hissy fit’ quite literally has two direct links. The term originated during the mid 20th century in the United States and is an expression alluding to someone hissing and spluttering their words during a temper tantrum…or it is just a contraction of the word hysterical. And hysterical is definitely what you are when you are ‘throwing a hissy fit’.

Meaning: A temperamental outburst or tantrum.


 

Images:
Tears of a Crocodile by and accredited to Sankalp Ranjan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49511935
A 1776 drawing of a tobacco smoke enema device by Unknown – Medical textbook published in Berne, Switzerland, 1776. Reproduced in André Holenstein (Ed.): Berns goldene Zeit, p.76 [ISBN 978-3-7272-1281-9], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5290890

Just in the Nick of Time: A History of Interesting Idioms and Colloquial Phrases – Part 5

We have reached the halfway point in our ten part series where we investigate the history behind some of the most interesting idioms and those clever colloquial phrases that we all use but never take the time to find out what they really mean. Some of my favorites from the series so far have been “Mad as a Hatter” (from Part 1), “Down in the Dumps” (from Part 2), “Cat got your Tongue” (from Part 3), and “Quitting Cold Turkey” (from Part 4). Today’s six idioms/phrases will have a central theme. Today we will discuss: “Go the whole nine yards“, “Raining cats and dogs“, “Face the Music“, “Madder than a wet sitting hen“, “Now you’re cooking with Peanut Oil“, and “What in tarnation“.



 

“Go the whole nine yards” – 

Origin: What should have been one of the easiest ones to answer, the colloquial American phrase “go the whole nine yards” has been described by Yale’s librarian Fred Shapiro as “the most prominent etymological riddle of our time”. The most commonly offered explanation for the phrase was that the gun belts used on aircraft machine guns were nine yards long; thusly why someone would say ‘give them the whole nine yards’. Sadly the phrase predates World War II and the standard belt for guns used in World War I was ‘seven yards’. Another explanation is that it is a unit of fabric measurement because skeins of fabric were routinely sold in lengths of nine (or some other multiple of three yards). In an article in the New Albany Daily Ledger in Indiana, an article called “The Judge’s Big Shirt” uses the phrase to describe a woman making three shirts; instead of three “she has put the whole nine yards into one shirt!” This phrase was used for the next 7 years in that same newspaper. Whether this or the measurement of the unfurled square-rigged sails of full-rigged sailing ships…no one knows.

Meaning: Everything, the whole lot; or when used as an adjective, “all the way”.



“Raining Cats and Dogs” – 

Origin: There is no definitive origin for the phrase “it’s raining cats and dogs” but just because the precise origin is not known….doesn’t mean that we can’t speculate. The phrase’s origin can definitely be traced to the 17th century, and we definitely know that there has never been any reports of cats and dogs falling from the sky during a storm (despite the occasional frog or fish that has been swept up into a cyclone and thusly brought back down to earth during the storm). More than likely the source of the saying is in dead animals and other debris being washed up into the streets after a heavy rain. Another proposed story could be cats being seen falling past a window after slipping off of a roof during a heavy rain storm. Either of these scenarios could be a grand possibility but there is no definitive way of knowing. Either way its a fun phrase in which we can also have fun speculating the origin.

Meaning: Heavy falling rainstorm.



“Face the Music” – 

Origin: With imagery so concise, you would think that there would be a definitive answer as to what the origin of the phrase “Face the Music” would be, but alas there is not. There are three equally interesting, plausible possibilities that could definitely be within the realm of possibility. The first possibility is that the phrase is based on a tradition of disgraced officers being ‘drummed out’ of their regiment. This would be a ceremony where the drummers would play while the officer was stripped of his title and then he would have to ‘face the music’ as he walked away. The second theory is that it was a theatrical term that meant that actors who were asked to ‘face the music’, were asked to quite literally face the orchestra pit while on stage. The third and slightly more interesting theory is that while during a performance

Meaning: Face the consequences of your action’s.



“Madder than a wet sitting hen”

Origin: If you or your grandma is from the Southeastern part of the United States then you’ve probably heard her or someone else say “I’m madder than a wet sitting hen”. Though there is no exact origin or written proof, the complex metaphor that describes someone who is raging mad is said to have originated in the Appalachian mountains. This phrase derived from the fact that hen’s become quite agitated if and when they get wet. I’m not sure how long it took someone to come to that conclusion but I would hate to be on the receiving end of that upset chicken.

Meaning: Phrase used to express the intensity of someone’s anger.



“Now you’re cooking with peanut oil” – 

Origin: An idiom that has since been made popular by the Duck Dynasty Robertson family patriarch; but the phrase has been around in one form or another, for many years. In the American South, the phrase has taken many forms: “Now we’re cooking with gas”, “now we’re cooking with Crisco”, and many others but the phrase’s definite origin is not necessary a definitely one. The only thing that we know is that the phrase works due to the high smoke point of peanut oil and is used in higher temperature cooking.

Meaning: A colloquial way of showing approval.



“What in Tarnation?” – 

Origin: This idiom, like the central theme of all of these idioms from this post, do not have definite origins. As for United States ‘Southerners’ this specific saying has been around for as long as they can remember. The term ‘tarnation’ originated in the late 1700s as a euphemism for the less offensive ‘damnation’. In the 1700s, the phrase “what in tarnation” would have been something similar to a slightly offensive phrase used currently: ‘what the hell?’. So whether its to replace ‘damnation’ or ‘plainly asking ‘what in the place where you are damned’….either way, I’d rather not visit Tarnation.

Meaning: An idiom used as a rhetorical question that literally means ‘what in damnation?’.



 

Featured Image: Textile Market in Karachi, Pakistan image by and accredited to Steve Evans from Bangalore, India – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=394539