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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Peggy McCracken

Squarely Pegged

By Peggy McCracken

'Woe is me' could
replace 'you know'
as idiom of choice

Listening to people talk is my profession, and I notice the idioms and little asides that are common in today’s speech. “You know,” the plague that struck about 10 years ago, has subsided, but I still hear it more than I would like. And I’m sure I say it, too, unconsciously, as most people do.

I am a little perplexed when the “You know?” with a question mark seems to beg an answer. Am I required to say, “Yes, I know?”

Another version of that phrase is “You know it,” which also sometimes seems to require an answer. Then there is “You see,” “On it,” and “Real quick,” all expressions I hear from time to time and wonder where they originated.

I checked to see where some of the familiar idioms originated, and was surprised to learn that, second to Shakespeare, the King James Version of the Bible is responsible for lots of them. I would not have looked to the Bible for “drop in the bucket,” but here it is.

"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." Isaiah 40:15

I did know that “As old as Methuselah” originated with the Bible: “And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died. Genesis 5:27

But I didn’t know that “As old as the hills” was a Biblical phrase. Here it is from Job 15:7:

Art thou the first man that was born? or wast thou made before the hills? “The fat of the land” is found in Genesis 45:18:

“And take your father and your households, and come unto me: and I will give you the good of the land of Egypt, and ye shall eat the fat of the land.” Others I had read, but might not have attributed them to the Bible, as: “Physician, heal thyself.”

“And he said unto them, Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country.” Luke 4:23

Spare the rod and spoil the child is often quoted, but not followed enough in our permissive society. It is one of my favorites:

“He that spareth his rod hateth his son.” Proverbs 13-24

The blind leading the blind is a familiar saying. Did you know Jesus himself said it in Matthew 15:14?

“Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

Even a fly in the ointment is quoted 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."

With Tuesday’s elections on everyone’s mind, we should remember what Paul said in Romans 13:1:

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: The powers that be are ordained of God.”

And after the election, we may say with the psalmist, “Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, (America) that I dwell in the tents of Kedar (Pecos)!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is Enterprise columnist and feature writer. Contact her at HYPERLINK ""

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