Cliche Sunday

Alrighty, tonight we are moving on to “M”s!

may you live in interesting times: while this sounds friendly, it is more of a curse. “interesting times” are really only those of turmoil, and most people would rather live in peace and prosperity. This also sounds as if it is an ancient curse, but it is actually fairly recent. Although it was mentioned by Frederic R Coudert at the Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science (1939) in his opening speech where he says that Sir Austen Chamberlain told him that he heard the phrase from a Chinese diplomat. Chamberlain had never been to China, however, so this provence of the cliché may not be accurate. It was definitely used by Robert Kenndey, however, in 1966:

There is a Chinese curse which says ‘May he live in interesting times.’ Like it or not we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history.

mare’s nest: an exciting discovery is later shown to be false. This could be because a mare’s nest would be unusual and impossible to find, or that such situations that mare’s nest would be called would also convoluted and a mess. The first meaning  is quite old, and usually refered to a humourous situation:

                  Why dost thou laugh? What Mares nest hast thou found?
                                     John Fletcher’s  Bonduca, circa 1613

It was in the 1920s that the second meaning was used, and probably came out of “a rat’s nest.”

method to the madness: the reason behind apparent disorder or incomprehension. Another of Shakespeare’s inventions, this one from Hamlet:

Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t. Will you walk out of the air, my lord?

milk of human kindness: care and compassion for others. And yet another from Shakespeare:

                Yet doe I feare thy Nature, It is too full o’ th’ Milke of humane kindnesse.
MacBeth 1605


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