Cliche Sunday

Some of you might have noticed I skipped last week. I  rather thought since it was a holiday, and I was wiped from eating too much ham with family, that it might be a good day to relax. But here we are again, with more clichés to do!

I am feeling rather literary (don’t ask why), so I thought we might delve into Shakespeare’s coined clichés again. I do have The Third Witch next on my reading list, perhaps that is why. For those who have never heard of this one, it is by  Rebecca Reisert, entering the world of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in which a young woman’s search for vengeance plunges her into a legendary tale of deceit, murder, and retribution….*  Thus, inspired by Macbeth:

eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog: the ultimate cliché of enchantments, used whenever one must think of a generic curse or recipe for a spell.  It is definitely over used now and most people are too jaded to fall for the spooky lines, but in 1605–when Macbeth was written–the reaction would have been quite different. The audience would have been much more likely to believe in the witches themselves, and certainly the idea of a magic potion.

All:
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch:
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
–The Three Witches**

come what come may: to accept whatever events may befall one. This one was not created by Shakespeare, but gained popularity after being used in his play Macbeth. The phrase, originally known in France as far back as 1375, is  translated in modern french as “let it avail what it may, come what may”. The Spanish version,  que sera sera (which we still use today as well), also predates Shakespeare’s play.

“Thai wuld defend, avalze que valze.”
                     The  Bruce, John Barbour**

at one fell swoopto happen all at once, in one moment. The most interesting thing about this phrase is the “fell.” While there are many ideas about how this English cliché came into being, as if one dissects the words, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Until you understand the “fell.” It doesn’t mean a moorland, or the past tense of “fall,” or that one has chopped down a tree. The original meaning of it, as defined by “the Oxford English Dictionary is ‘fell’ as meaning ‘fierce, savage; cruel, ruthless; dreadful, terrible’, which is pretty unambiguous.“** That does make the cliché much more understandable, as most things that happen “at one fell swoop” are not usually fortuitous events.

lily livered: cowardly. A favorite in old Westerns, so who would have thought it came from Shakespeare?  However, in his time the liver was thought to control the emotions, which would include fear. A poorly functioning liver was thought to make one weak, especially emotionally.  Shakespeare immortalized this when “he described the servant as ‘a white-faced loon’ and gave Macbeth the line:

                                                               Go pricke thy face, and over-red thy feare, Thou Lilly-liver’d Boy.”**

 

*Barnes & Noble

**phrase origins

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