Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why You Say It Book Tour

If you like trivia, I have the book for you.  Webb Garrison wrote a book entitled Why You Say It subtitled "The Fascinating Stories Behind Over 600 Everyday Words and Phrases."  For trivia buffs like me, this book is wonderful.  The information on the back of the book describes it best:

"Are you more likely to take the bull by the horns or beat around the bush?  Don't let anyone call you on the carpet for failing to put your best foot forward.  That would be a bitter pill to swallow.  In the long run, it's easier to just bite the bullet and get your ducks in a row.  After all, nobody likes the taste of humble pie.

"You've likely uttered at least one of the adages within the last week, but have you ever stopped to consider where such conversational staples originated?  Why You Say It reveals the backstory of more than six hundred words and phrases that pepper our everyday dialogue.  This catalog of our language's most colorful expressions delivers an illuminating read for anyone curious about the evolution of words."

It's easy to see where some of the words and phrases in the book originated and how they came into play, such as Handwriting on the Wall.  As you may remember from Scripture, the book of Daniel tells how the hand of God wrote four strange words on the wall while King Belshazzar of Ancient Babylon misused holy vessels taken from the Jewish Temple.  Daniel was able to interpret the mysterious message and told the king disaster would come upon him and the nation.  Events soon unfolded just as Daniel had said. 

The backstory on others are not as well-known.  Melba Toast was named after Dame Nellie Melba, a famous opera singer in the late 1800s.  She demanded thin slices of bread oven-baked until very crispy, which came to be known as Melba Toast.

There are also phrases where you think you know how it came about but, after reading Mr. Garrison's description, find out you were wrong.  For instance, "Grin Like a Chesire Cat" did not originate with Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland."  Instead, it came from Cheshire County, England.  Cheshire County "was an independent political unit for centuries.  Justices of the peace named by the king had no jurisdiction," so Delamere Forest became famous as a haven for highwaymen.  During King Richard III's reign, Mr. Caterling was named as the new forest warden.  He put an end to poaching and captured the criminals, many of which were hanged.  Caterling had a wide grin on his face while watching the executions.  This unpleasant expression was described as "grinning like the Cheshire Caterling."  Over the centuries, it becamed shortened to the phrase we are all familiar with now.

This is a very interesting book, a fun and easy read.  I think anyone who reads it will find it very enjoyable and enlightening as well.

Webb Garrison, formerly Associate Dean of Emory University and President of McKendree College, wrote more than 55 books, including Civil War Curiosities and Civil War Trivia and Fact Book.  Before his death in 2000, Garrison lived in Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.

This book was provided free of charge by Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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