Bet you’re wondering where I’m going with this…aren’t you?
First, let me apologize for this being late but to be honest from the title, you can probably tell where I was at. The weekend before this one was beautiful here in New Mexico. We were getting temperatures up to 80 degrees and were spending more time outside. Unfortunately for me, being outside means I have to deal with allergies. Since I’ve done that for twenty years, not problem. Except this time, it wouldn’t go away.
Matter of fact, I found myself feeling worse and worse every day. This is bad since my husband is on chemo and supposed to stay away from people like me. So, by mid-week, I was feeling horrid and started sleeping in the guest room and downing cold remedies night and day. The weather had also took a turn and on Thursday this past week, we had four inches of snow.
I know that was part of why I got ill as I always do with drastic weather changes. Whenever, I’d go from the desert to Austria, I’d get a slight cold. Anytime I was in a place with more humidity, I’d come back to the desert and get a cold. It was just part of me being me.
However, this time, I told my husband I was going to feed my cold because I didn’t have a fever. Or at least, I thought not. Still, it got me wondering about some of the clichés we use when talking about specific things. Here are just a few that I seem to use a lot.
- Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever – This can be traced to John Withals in 1574, who noted that ‘fasting was a great remedy of fever.’ The original thought was that when you had a cold, if you ate you generated warmth thus avoiding your body overheating. Recent science however, refutes the fact and says that you should actually feed both.
- Hell in a handbasket – This basically means heading for a course of disaster. It’s really unknown where this comes from but it is thought that it refers to the handbaskets used under a guillotine where the head drops. It was first noted in Samuel Sewall’s Diary in 1714. Another euphemism was ‘Going to heaven in a wheelbarrow’ which actually meant ‘going to hell’ in the 17th The handbasket version came about in 19th century American
- Eggs in one basket – This is something many parents tell their kids, financial advisors tell there clients and so on. It’s a piece of advice meant to dissuade us from concentrating all our efforts and resources in one area. But did you know that the phrase actually came from the novel Don Quixote? Here’s the quote, written by Miguel Cervantes in 1605 “It is the part of a wise man to keep himself today for tomorrow, and not venture all his eggs in one basket.”
- A piece of cake – This is often used to describe an easy situation. The idea originated in 1870s America when cakes were given out as prizes for winning a competition. There was a tradition in slave states where the slaves would circle around a cake in the middle and the pair who danced in the most graceful manner would be awarded the cake. From that period, the terms ‘cake walk’ and ‘piece of cake’ originated.
- Let sleeping dogs lie – This idiom is derived from a long-standing observations that dogs are often unpredictable when suddenly disturbed. Chaucer was one of the first to put the notion in print in Troilus and Criseyde, circa 1380, though the belief is said to be much older: “It is nought good a slepyng hound to wake.” However, the phrase became more associated with 18th century British politician Sir Robert Walpole and was his motto. It also should be noted, that this may have started in the Bible itself with this quote from Proverbs 26:17: He that passes by, and meddles with strife belonging not to him, is like one that takes a dog by the ears.
- Take it with a grain of salt – This comes from the fact that food is more easily swallowed if a small amount of salt is added to the mixture. In 77 A.D., Pliny the Elder translated an ancient antidote for poison that had the words ‘be taken fasting, plus a grain of salt’ thus giving the suggestion that an injurious effect can be moderated with just a grain of salt. It has been in the English speaking world since 1647 when John Trapp wrote the Commentary on the Old and New Testaments where he stated: This is to be taken with a grain of salt. More recently, the phrase has become ‘pinch of salt’ and was noted in Cicero & the Roman Republic, written in 1948 by F.R. Cowell.
I can go on all day with idioms and finding their meanings. They are one things they tell us writers not to use but in all honesty, it says a lot about where a character comes from and their state of mind.
Hopefully, you enjoyed this little foray into the idiom world. See you all next month!