Cliche Sunday

My  “vacation” is over, so write I must 🙂 Once more I have no idea for a theme, so we shall browse through the clichés and see what pops out at us. Hmmm, what do we have here? Oh, clichés that start with ‘R’……..

rack and ruin: falling into complete destruction.  This phrase is from the sixteenth century, and has undergone several transmutations. In 1548 it was used as ‘wrecke,’ an earlier version of rack. By 1577 it was “Whiles all things seeme to fall to wracke and ruine.” By 1599 it was settled into our familiar ‘racke and ruine‘ (albeit with a bit of a spelling change) by  Oxford historian Thomas Fowler.

red-letter day: a special day. While this is not a biblical phrase, it does have a religious history.  As far back as the fifteenth century, Church events–such as Festival or Saint’s day– were written on the calendars in red.  Once the Book of Common Prayer became commonly printed, a calendar was included with holy days in red ink.  As during this time these were the few days people could celebrate, any Church day was a “red-letter day,” and this was carried into our slang to mean any special day.

a riddle wrapped in an enigma: a difficult problem to solve. While this phrase is undoubtably overused, I have always loved it. I actually like the whole phrase, brought to us in 1939 by Winston Churchill:

“I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest.”

rinky-dink: cheap, insubstantial. This phrase is thought to have also spawned ‘cheap and tacky.‘ It is an Americanism and is first found in print around the turn of the twentieth century. The actual origin is not certain. Which is a shame because I am quite curious.

revenge is a dish best served cold: vengeance is most satisfying when exacted in cold blood.  I do believe this is an extremely over-used phrase! Every cheap melodramatic villain has used this in both print and film. And yet it is not as old as might be believed. The first actual reference to it in print is not, as one might think, Shakespearean, but of a much newer vintage:

And then revenge is very good eaten cold, as the vulgar say –Memoirs of Matilda, 1846, by French author Eugene Sue

ah, of course it was French!


1 Comment

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One response to “Cliche Sunday

  1. Nice set of ‘R’s there. I like rack and ruin particularly, though it makes me think of medieval torture. Hmm


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