Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Do you see the light?

How many times have you heard that someone “couldn’t hold a candle” to someone else? Maybe you think your co-worker “can’t hold a candle” to you? This expression has a very literal meaning.

Before power tools and electricity, a craftsman working at night would need a helper to hold a candle up to whatever they were working on. A person of much less skill wasn’t just considered not as good as the craftsman, but in some cases he wasn’t even considered good enough to hold a candle for the craftsman. (Wow, how bad do you have to be if you can’t even hold the light???)

This expression’s meaning is still literally relevant. But expressions can change over time and even though we know what they mean, their literal definitions make no sense, as in the following:

When we hear that someone is “head over heels” (in love, for example) we picture someone doing summersaults or standing on his head. But think about that expression…When you’re standing or sitting normally, your head is always over your heels. So how has a normal position become equated with excitement? Some believe the original expression may have been “heels over head”, and over time people just started saying it differently.

We see that same thing in the expression “Pennsylvania Dutch”. Pennsylvania Dutch are actually Germans. Dutch was originally “Deustch” (doytch), which means German. The mispronunciation of the word was common and eventually was accepted.

And my thought for today is one of my favorite quotations of Teddy Roosevelt:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

"Citizenship in a Republic,"Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

Time to go...my brain is hurting!!!

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