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Cliche Sunday

Here we are again. Sunday already, after a very long weekend. Am I hedging, to let you know this might be a short post?

Yup, I am! I ran about yesterday doing errands, getting the horses’ manicures, walking the dog and practically steamcleaning the house. Today my husband decided it was time to get out and start the logging for the year. I didn’t complain, since we were cutting down the trees that shade my vegetable garden in the late afternoon.

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, outdoor and natureThis is before. And yes, I am standing in roughly the same place. Also, look at that 6 foot ladder leaning against the tree we cut down–tree makes it look like a toy, doesn’t it?? Sadly, that tree did not go¬†to plan, but we all walked away–well, except for the tree, that is ūüėČ

Image may contain: tree, outdoor and nature

Anyhoo, on to the reason we are all here-cliches!! And since we are on “Q,” the alphabet is helping me keep this short. Not a lot of “Q’s” out there anyway.

quick and the dead: all souls, living or dead. Many of us are familiar with the phrase from recent movies, particularly westerns. Quick in this application is not referring to speed, but rather the “quick” of life. The first time a baby moves in the womb is called the quickening, while¬†quicksand means that the sand it has life, moving.But the phrase far predates any movies, being first found in the Bible. In the Bible it notes that only the Almighty can judge the quick and the dead–meaning all souls, whether they still live or have passed.

quid pro quo: to do something with the expectation of a favor in return. This clich√© is an original Latin version that has become popular, literally meaning “something for something.” ¬†But there are many versions in English as well;

One good turn deserves another.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†H. L’Estrange’s The Reign of King Charles, 1654

Or there is always “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” or even ¬†the basic “I do for you, you do for me.” In recent years, the English versions have been used in many crime movies, giving them a rather Mob flavor. The Latin quid pro quo,however, ¬†being used in law and legal contracts, sounds classier and has become more popular.

quality time: spending time with a neglected child/spouse/friend to make up for the neglect. This is an American phrase with roots in the ’70s. ¬†The family was expanding in the ¬†1970s, with women entering the workforce. The idea of quality time was to ensure that she felt she really could do it all:

How To Be Liberated–

The major goal of each of these role changes is to give a woman time to herself, Ms. Burton explained.”A woman’s right and responsibility is to be self fulfilling,” she said. She gives “quality time” rather than “quantity time” to each task, whether it be writing, cleaning the house or tending the children.
                                           Maryland newspaper The Capital, January 1973


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Cliche Sunday

hmmm, so where are we? Ah, yes, ‘L.’ So we are halfway through the alphabet now. Whatever shall we do when we get to ‘Z?’ Ooh, I wonder what clich√©s start with ‘Z’–Zebras? Well, we will get there soon enough. On to the ‘L’s–

ladies room: a nice way of saying one has to get the toilet. There are many, many ways of saying this-rest rooms, little girls rooms, facilities, etc, etc. Ladies rooms did originally refer to the toilet. A lady’s room was a cloak room with an area to check one’s appearance, and was first used the eighteenth century. ¬†A popular way to describe the bathroom in public areas was to call it the lavatory at that time. Even lavatory is an euphemism, as the word is latin for a place to wash clothes.

‘L’s for the animal lovers–

let the cat out of the bag: to let out a secret. ¬†This most likely came from the dubious practice of selling a cat in a bag whilst calling it a pig for supper. If one opened the bag and let the cat out, so was the secret. This practice is referenced in many countries, including America, England, Germany and a Dutch version. ¬†Another theory is that it is a reference to a cat-o-nine-tails. Often used on shipping vessels as punishment, the tails left marks on sailor’s backs like a cat, and were supposedly kept in bags when not in use. This idea, however, does not seem as logical as the first theory.

let sleeping dogs lie:don’t mess with a situation that is already under control. A dog, woken up suddenly, can often act unpredictably. The general populace seems to have decided it is better to let them wake up naturally, to the point of coining a phrase. The first written example of this was in 1380 by Chaucer:

                      It is nought good a slepyng hound to wake.
                                            Troilus and Criseyde

The phrase has lasted eight centuries, which seems to indicate that one should, indeed, leave a sleeping dog alone.

a little bird told me: a secret source divulged a secret. While happily used by Shakespeare and other authors, the idea of a feathered messenger most likely came from the King James version of the Bible:

Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.
              Ecclesiastes 10-20


last but not least: that the last item is just as important as the first. I have used this phrase many a time myself, and never realized that this came from theatrical tradition. When introducing actors at a play,  the phrase was often used to ensure the last actor did not feel slighted. This may have been inspired by the Bible (Matthew 19:32) but the first time the phrase was found in print was 1580:

I have heard oftentimes that in love there are three things for to be used: if time serve, violence, if wealth be great, gold, if necessity compel, sorcery. But of these three but one can stand me in stead – the last, but not the least
    Euphues and His England, John Lyly



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Cliche Sunday

Animals! I love anything with four legs and a tail….whether it purrs, barks or grunts. I gotta admit that I do like fur (so soft!), but I won’t discriminate against any animal if it happens to be missing. Yes, even for Bearded Dragons. They change color when they are happy with you, you know. I thought that animal clich√©s, from the most overused to the obscure would be a great subject today.

a little bird told me: a source you don’t want to reveal. This most likely did come from the Bible, although the exact wording wouldn’t be seen until 1833.

Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.
                              Ecclesiastes 10-20

act the giddy goat: to act foolishly. Ok, I have never used this one. But I do like the sound of it. Giddiness has not always been associated with goats, once people were abjured to not be giddy heifers or oxen. Goats came into it later:

–Don’t be actin’ the goat–
¬† ¬†Stray Leaves from a Military Man’s Note Book, 1879

Latin for goat is actually capra, from the word capricious. Between that and the alliteration, ‘giddy goat’ was a phrase born to stick around.

as busy as a bee: always busy with something. I had to include this one, as my horse’s name came from it. Her full name is Charlotte, and she was nicknamed “Char” by her last owner, but I thought that sounded harsh. My mom came up with “Charby,” because she was always into something! The original phrase is original indeed, as it comes from The Squire’s Tale:

Ey! Goddes mercy!‚ÄĚ sayd our Hoste tho,
Now such a wyf I pray God keep me fro.
Lo, suche sleightes and subtilitees
In wommen be; for ay as busy as bees
Be thay us seely men for to desceyve,
And from a soth ever a lie thay weyve.
And by this Marchaundes tale it proveth wel.
              Chaucer, 1386-1400

¬†fly on the wall: to be in a hidden spot to overhear an anticipated confrontation. This phrase is an Americanism from the 1920s. It has definitely been over used, particularly in the age of “reality tv.” How can it be real with all those people in the house watching them? Certainly, that would affect my behavior. The idea being that the cameras were just a fly on the wall–“participents often said:
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†We just got used to the camera crew and after a while we just ignored them”*


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Cliche Sunday

Here we are again! Hope your week went just as fast as mine. My schedule at work was varied this week, so I rarely knew what day it was. That made it go by quicker ūüôā ¬†For no particular reason, I think we will explore phrases spawned from the Bible this time around. Most are from the King James version, which is still the most common version of the Bible. ¬†I will admit to picking those that I did not realize came from the Bible, and those the tickled my fancy.

a fly in the ointment:  a small flaw that spoils the whole. Originally, creams and ointments were most likely for beauty or anointing for ceremonial purpose . A fly could indeed spoil an entire batch. The first reference to it is from Ecclesiastes 10:1:
        Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and           honour.
Later, as the became popular in our everyday lexicon, John Norris directly references that phrase:
¬† ¬†¬†‘Tis that dead fly in the ointment of the Apothecary–1707

a house divided against itself cannot stand: no beating around the bush here, this phrase means literally what it says. And I admit, it is most familiar to me from being said by Lincoln in the second “Night at the Museum” movie. So it is interesting to learn that it is actually from the bible; Matthew 12:25, to be precise.
          And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided           against itself shall not stand

a leopard cannot change its spots: a person cannot change who they are. ¬†I feel that people can change, however, I don’t see a leopard rearranging its spots!
Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.
Jeremiah 13:23

as white as snow: pure, as a layer of fresh, white snow yet to be trod upon is pure. This one was stolen by Shakespeare; his phrasing was “pure as the driven snow” in Macbeth. Chaucer and several others have used this expression as well to indicate purity in their characters. ¬†Before they stole it, however, Michael Drayton used it in 1593:
   Her skin as soft as Lemster wooll, As white as snow on peakish hill, Or Swanne that swims in Trent
And the original:
¬† ¬† ¬† I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure ¬† ¬† wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire–Daniel, 7:9¬†

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Cliche Sunday

I spent some time with my horses this weekend, so I am thinking ¬†that maybe animals would be a great subject for clich√©s this week. I always spend time with my puppies, and I pretty much love anything with fur and four legs. Which means there won’t be any “swing a dead cat” or “beating a dead horse” clich√©s either! Definitely phrases I never use.

A dog is a man’s best friend: an animal that proves to provide useful service to humans, often with a specific reference to dogs. ¬†Although dogs are an extremely popular pet these days, they did not start out that way. It was in 1684 that lap dogs became popular with rich ladies. Before that, phrases referring dogs often contained the words “diseased” or “bite.” ¬†A popular phrase in the 1700s was “to give a dog a bad name.” ¬†But the dog became more popular and used as a pet in the 1800s, giving rise to this poem:

The New-York Literary Journal, Volume 4, 1821:

The faithful dog – why should I strive
To speak his merits, while they live
In every breast, and man’s best friend
Does often at his heels attend.*

A little bird told me: being secrets told by a private source. ¬†This became a popular literary idiom, using birds to carry messages. And while this exact phrase isn’t found in the Bible, its origins are most likely from¬†Ecclesiastes 10-20:

Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.

A nest of vipers: a group of dangerous, likely evil, ¬†people. Being called a “snake” has always been an ¬†insult, and goes back deep into history, certainly from the Bible but also was used ¬†in other literary stories. Vipers became popular as the “most evil” of snakes as they were poisonous in the sixteenth century.¬†‘Groups of people, usually those of villainous intent, were called ‘nests’ from around the same period. The first documented occurrence of the two terms combined to form ‘a nest of vipers’ was in 1644, when a pamphlet that criticised a group of plotters who were planning treason against the English Parliament was titled A Nest of Perfidious Vipers’*

Mad as a March Hare: completely mad. Of course we all know this one from my favorite, Alice in Wonderland. Apparently they are not actually mad in march, just ruled  by their hormones as March is their mating season.  While Lewis Carroll may have used this idea most famously, he is certainly not the only one.

Thanne [th]ey begyn to swere and to stare, And be as braynles as a Marshe hare.
–W. C. Hazlitt in Remains Early Popular Poetry of England, 1864

A lack of brains in the March hare continued into another well-known phrase: hare-brained. I guess it could be a two for one!


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Cliche Sunday

Whew, these 40 hour weeks are kicking my butt. ¬†Then I ran around doing errands yesterday (we didn’t eat dinner until 8:30 pm), and today we extended the two foot “peak” over our front door out another four feet. Looks great, but adding on to a 18-year old house and trying to make it square definitely caused some gnashing of teeth.¬†I think the point of this–besides trying to get some sympathy, of course–is that this may be yet another short clich√© list.

I don’t have a theme in mind, but do you ever get a phrase stuck in your head? I have been using the phrase “the worm has turned” quite a bit recently. Why? I don’t know. Just seems to be in my head. So let’s start there.

the worm has turned: when a person (or group) who is docile has been mistreated for a long time and finally stands up for itself. Whom do we have to thank for this colorful term? Why, Shakespeare, of course. Lord Clifford, the killer of Rutledge utters:

“To whom do lions cast their gentle looks? Not to the beast that would usurp their den. The smallest worm will turn being trodden on, And doves will peck in safeguard of their brood” ¬†—King Henry VI, part three

gnashing of teeth: to be frustrated. Also known as “weeping and gnashing of teeth.” ¬†Literally, gnashing one’s teeth means to have one’s “teeth set on edge, or¬†to bite down in pain, anguish, or anger.”* ¬†¬†This one is from another popular source, the Bible. It can be found in several places, including Mathew and Luke.

a dish fit for the gods: an offering of highest quality. Another Shakespearean phrase, this time spoke by Brutus in Julius Caesar:

Our course will seem too bloody, Caius Cassius,
To cut the head off and then hack the limbs,
Like wrath in death and envy afterwards;
For Antony is but a limb of Caesar:
Let us be sacrificers, but not butchers, Caius.
We all stand up against the spirit of Caesar;
And in the spirit of men there is no blood:
O, that we then could come by Caesar’s spirit,
And not dismember Caesar! But, alas,
Caesar must bleed for it! And, gentle friends,
Let’s kill him boldly, but not wrathfully;
Let’s carve him as a dish fit for the gods... –1601

for every thing there is a season: there is an appropriate time for everything, in only we wait for it. So we all know this from Pete Seeger’s song, “Turn, Turn, Turn.” But he stole it from the Bible,¬†Ecclesiastes III,¬†to be exact. And he used almost the exact same words…wonder if he gave the Bible credit?

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep ¬†–The Byrds, 1952






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Sunday Cliches

Another scattered Sunday; and as I sit here I wonder, what the heck should the theme be this week? ¬†My brain has not caught up to my fingers yet. ¬†I think we shall do more bible phrases. That is a deep subject to mine, I could probably do a half-dozen posts on that alone. Then a few more on Shakespeare. I guess I really don’t have to worry about not have enough clich√©s to continue this series ūüôā

And this time, a little background on the King James Version of the Bible. Who was King James? Why was he so important in defining the bible? How did his version reach the top of the pile? Well, the King in question was James I of England and James VI of Scotland. He authorized the translation by 47 biblical scholars who worked in six committees. The first printing of the King James Version to come out of this collaboration was in 1611. It was not the earliest printing of the Bible in English, which is attributed to John Wyclif’s translation in 1382, followed by William Tyndale’s translation in 1528. Tyndale’s was, in large part, the basis of the KJV. It is likely that the KJV lasted so long simply because it was in such a primary language: English.

man does not live by bread alone: Not only do we need physical nourishment, we, as humans, need spiritual nourishment as well.  This was a popular phrase in the Bible (does that tell us something?), appearing three times in three separate books.

   Deuteronomy 8: 2-3 King James Version (of course):

And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live.

red sky at night, shepherd’s delight: weather lore that has been twisted a bit through the centuries. ¬†Most people who live on a coast have heard “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red morning, sailors take warning.” ¬†I know my sailor husband lives by that when we think about taking the boat out. Obviously, both shepherds and sailors have a keen interest in what the weather will bring.
¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†“When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†the sky is red and louring.”–authorised King James version

pearls before swine: an over-used literary phrase indeed. ¬†Meaning, of course, to self-importantly throw cultural tidbits to an audience that can’t hope to understand them.¬†The biblical text is generally interpreted to be a warning by Jesus to his followers that they should not offer biblical doctrine to those who were unable to value and appreciate it–which doesn’t seem to be very Christian to me! And, it truly puts missionary work in jeopardy. I believe the self-important arrogance associated with the phrase has arisen mostly through the 20th century literature.

land of Nod: sleep. I have always wondered about this one. ¬†So: ‘We now usually think of ‘The Land of Nod’ as a mythical place, where we go to when we sleep. Nod was indeed a mythical location, but it was originally a place of anguished exile rather than of peaceful sleep. The very first few pages of the Bible refer to Nod, and locate it ‘East of Eden’ and it is where Cain dwelt after being cast out by God after Cain’s murder of his brother Abel. ‘East of Eden’, being clearly not in Eden (Paradise) has also been taken up into the English language as a place/state of considerable discomforture.’*

 Genesis 4:16:

4:11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand;
4:12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
4:13 And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.
4:14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.
4:15 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
4:16 And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.


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Cliche Sunday

Looking for inspiration…hmmm, inspiration. I like that. Today’s clich√©s will come from the Bible. ¬†I enjoyed this subject, because with all the obvious proverbs, there are definitely a lot of clich√©s that I had no idea came from the Bible. I suppose this is a good time to admit that my religious education is sadly lacking.

When I was quite young,  I remember my father telling my brother and I that we could believe anything we wanted. However, after growing in up in two rather intensely religious households, both my mother and father chose to leave that world behind. So the little I learned came from my grandparents during vacations and was swiftly forgotten after I went home.

So the clichés I chose are ones I would not have thought came from the Bible. Clearly, there are many more. Maybe a part two will be forthcoming?

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush:  a definite, although lesser, advantage is better than throwing it away for a unsure, although greater, advantage. The first original phrase was from Ecclesiastes IX РA living dog is better than a dead lion. However, as sporting birds became more popular, the phrase mutated through the centuries. By the late 1600s, it was a known fact that one falcon was well worth two possible prey birds in a bush.

A house divided against itself cannot stand: solidarity is need for a group to succeed. Now, most recently you may have heard a gigantic Lincoln tell this nugget to Ben Stiller’s character in A Night at a the Museum. But it actually is quite a bit older than Mr Lincoln (and certainly older than the movie).

           Matthew 12:25:

“And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand”.*

To cast the first stone: to be the first to attack a “sinner”. I put that in quotations as what determines a sinner is many and varied. And mostly incorrect. In reading the Bible, Jesus teaches to not attack a “sinner” unless you yourself are clearly without sin. And while the attacker may be innocent of the sin of the “sinner,” it is quite unlikely that they have no sin themselves. In other words, give the benefit of the doubt so that you may also receive the benefit of the doubt. The phrase itself comes from John 8:7, and the earliest finding of it is:

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†Miles Coverdale’s Bible, 1535:

Now whyle they contynued axynge him, he lift him self vp, and sayde vnto them: He that is amonge you without synne, let him cast the first stone at her. *

Give up the ghost: to die, or cease working–in the case of inanimate objects. Found in Acts 12:23, the phrase was originally intended for someone who did not honor God, and therefore was “smote,” and eaten by worms, and gave up his ghost. The phrase became a popular saying in literature. It has mostly been used for inanimate objects in recent years, clearly meant to be droll since there are no ghosts to be given up from machines.

In the twinkling of an eye: Quickly, in an instant. Another phrase that came from the Bible– 1 Corinthians 15:52–¬†that later was used in other literary circles. Most famously (although certainly not the last) by Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice:

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†“I’ll take my leave of the Jew in the twinkling of an eye.”

 As a note, all of these meanings are based on the King James version.



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