Thursday, 5 July 2018
Idioms. Deep English
If you’re a lover of chocolate, you’ve heard of Godiva chocolates. These luxury chocolates are named after Lady Godiva of 11th century England. Lady Godiva was a very rich woman, but according to legend, she was also a defender of the poor. Godiva was married to the powerful Lord Leofric, who heavily taxed the poor. Godiva protested the unfair taxes to Leofric, but her protests fell upon deaf ears. Leofric joked that he would lower the taxes when Godiva rode through the streets naked. Leofric never expected her to take the joke seriously, but that’s exactly what she did. She agreed to ride a horse with nothing but her long hair to cover her. Before doing so, she told the townspeople to stay inside their homes and close their windows. Everyone obeyed except for a tailor named Tom, who peeped out his window as she rode by naked on a horse. And that is where we get the English expression ‘peeping Tom’ which describes someone who spies on people while they are naked. Historians say that Lady Godiva and Leofric were, in fact, real people. Godiva probably never rode through the streets naked, but the expression Peeping Tom is still in use today.
Many English idioms come from centuries ago. ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater’ means to be careful not to throw away good things when you are throwing away bad things. In the middle ages, people lived without the luxury of running water. Back in those days, everyone shared the same bath water. The father of the house bathed first and the mother bathed next. The children would bathe last. By this time, the water was so dirty that you couldn’t see through it, and might accidentally throw the baby out with the bathwater. This expression was borrowed from German in the 1800s.
Another common idiom that comes from the 1800s is to ‘turn a blind eye.’ The British Admiral Nelson was once signaled by his superior to run from a fight. At that time, the military communicated across distances using signal flags. The one eyed Nelson put his telescope up to his blind eye, and said, ‘I really do not see the signal.’ He continued his attack and won the day. Today, the expression turn a blind eye, means to choose to ignore some part of reality.