Archive for January 2014

A fate worse than death   Leave a comment

A fate worse than death

Meaning

Any misfortune that would make life unlivable, especially rape or loss of virginity. The phrase was formally a euphemism for rape.

Origin

This phrase originally attested to the belief that a dishonoured woman was better off dead. It is still used, but ironically of late. The earlier view was expressed in Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, 1781:

“The matrons and virgins of Rome were exposed to injuries more dreadful, in the apprehension of chastity, than death itself.”

The current version of the phrase was used in several works from 1810 onward but was probably brought into public use via Edgar Rice Burroughs’ widely read Tarzan of the Apes, 1914:

“[The ape] threw her roughly across his broad, hairy shoulders, and leaped back into the trees, bearing Jane Porter away toward a fate a thousand times worse than death.”

 

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Posted January 11, 2014 by Teacher Alvin in LEARNING ENGLISH

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A drop in the bucket   Leave a comment

A drop in the bucket

Meaning

A very small proportion of the whole.

Origin

From the Bible, Isaiah 40:15 (King James Version):

“Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.”

‘A drop in the bucket’ is the predecessor of ‘a drop in the ocean’, which means the same thing, and is first found in a piece from The Edinburgh Weekly Journal, July 1802:

“The votes for the appointment of Bonaparte to be Chief Consul for life are like a drop in the ocean compared with the aggregate of the population of France.”

Whether your students need review in reading, math or even math in Spanish, Drops in the Bucket make it easy for you. With 6 levels of reading and 6 levels of math, you’re sure to find exactly what your students need. Select the appropriate levels for your class not by a student’s age or grade, but by the student’s review levels. Whichever level seems right for your students, start one level lower. Firm up the foundation in skills, confidence, & attitude.

 

Posted January 11, 2014 by Teacher Alvin in LEARNING ENGLISH

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A dish fit for the gods   Leave a comment

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A dish fit for the gods

Meaning

An offering of high quality.

Origin

From Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, 1601:

BRUTUS:

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…

In the speech Brutus expresses the view that, although the conspirators are resolved to kill Caesar, they aren’t mere butchers and should leave his body in a suitable state for the gods to view.

BRUTUS

Our action will seem too bloody if we cut off Caesar’s head and then hack at his arms and legs too, Caius Cassius—because Mark Antony is merely one of Caesar’s arms. It’ll look like we killed Caesar out of anger and Mark Antony out of envy. Let’s be sacrificers but not butchers, Caius. We’re all against what Caesar stands for, and there’s no blood in that. Oh, how I wish we could oppose Caesar’s spirit—his overblown ambition—and not hack up Caesar himself! But, unfortunately, Caesar has to bleed if we’re going to stop him. Noble friends, let’s kill him boldly but not with anger. Let’s carve him up like a dish fit for the gods, not chop him up like a carcass fit fordogs. Let’s be angry only long enough to do the deed, and then let’s act like we’re disgusted by what we had to do. This will make our actions seem practical and not vengeful. If we appear calm to the people, they’ll call us surgeons rather than murderers. As for Mark Antony—forget him. He’ll be as useless as Caesar’s arm after Caesar’s head is cut off.

A diamond is forever   Leave a comment

A diamond is forever

Meaning

Advertising slogan for De Beers’ diamonds.

Origin

De Beers have used this as a slogan since 1948, and continue to do so (as of 2012). Here’s the announcement of the campaign, from the New York Times’ Advertising News and Notes column, August 1948:

“De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd., owner of diamond workings in South Africa, plans a fall campaign in leading national magazines which will stress the engagement-ring tradition. Four-color ads will reproduce paintings by well-known artists and carry the slogan ‘a diamond is forever.’ N.W. Ayer & Sons, Inc., Philadelphia is the agency.”

The slogan began appearing in the US press soon after that date, as here, from the Ohio newspaper The Chronicle Telegram, June 1950.

The notion wasn’t a new one. In Anita Loos’ book Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1925, is the line:

“So I really think that American gentlemen are the best after all, because kissing your hand may make you feel very very good but a diamond and Safire bracelet lasts forever.”

 

A diamond in the rough   Leave a comment

A diamond in the rough

Meaning

Someone who is basically good hearted but lacking social graces and respect for the law.

Origin

The phrase is clearly a metaphor for the original unpolished state of diamond gemstones, especially those that have the potential to become high quality jewels. It is more commonly expressed in the form ‘rough diamond’. The first recorded use in print is in John Fletcher’s A Wife for a Month, 1624:

“She is very honest, and will be as hard to cut as a rough diamond.”

The term is often now used to describe people on the edge of the criminal fraternity who, while they may not commit serious crimes themselves, probably know people who do.

The English comic actor, the late Sid James, typified the type both on and off stage and was typecast in such roles; for example, he played Sir Sidney Ruff-Diamond in the Ealing comedy Carry On Up The Khyber. That was quite appropriate for this phrase as it turns out – Sid James worked in a diamond mine in South Africa before becoming an actor.

 

A Daniel come to judgement   Leave a comment

A Daniel come to judgement

 

Meaning

Someone who makes a wise judgement about something that has previously proven difficult to resolve.

Origin

This phrase doubtless alludes to the Biblical character Daniel, who was attributed with having fine powers of judgement. In Daniel 5:14 (King James Version) we have:

I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee.

The first use of the phrase as we now know it is from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, 1596:

SHYLOCK:
A Daniel come to judgment! yea, a Daniel!
O wise young judge, how I do honour thee!

 

 

 

A countenance more in sorrow than in anger   Leave a comment

A countenance more in sorrow than in anger

Meaning

Literal meaning – a person or thing that is viewed more with sadness than with anger.

Origin

From Shakespeare’s Hamlet, 1602. Horatio describes to Hamlet the appearance of his father’s ghost:

Hamlet: What, look’d he frowningly?
Horatio: A countenance more in sorrow than in anger.

 

 

Posted January 11, 2014 by Teacher Alvin in LEARNING ENGLISH