“All the world’s a stage”
is a theatrical expression. The stage-manager looks after all the items needed on the stage. Anyone who stage-manages something is organising it, possibly behind the scenes, where all sorts of things go on out of sight. The latter expression has been transferred from its original context to anywhere people are working unseen.
I took my harp to the party and nobody asked me to play.
If this was an orchestral harp, transporting it would have been very difficult indeed! Even the ones used in folk music are pretty big. Figuratively, it could mean that someone went to a lot of effort, which was not appreciated or that they made a lot of preparations which proved futile. Life is very tough for budding musicians, although I think our culture is changing, so that people promote themselves more.
A medieval harp (left) and a single-action pedal harp (right) Photo credit Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Harp.png
If someone is harping on about something they are speaking about a single topic.
Music has rhythm, which is counted in beats. If he didn’t miss a beat, he must have made a prompt response.
She led me a merry dance.
Here someone has caused the speaker a lot of difficulty.
She’s having a ball.
This implies that ballroom-dancing is fun. I learned too late and was embarrassed to be in a class of younger children, while my friends were in the advanced class! However, I had enjoyed all the Saturday mornings I had previously spent at the ice-rink.
Tripping the light fantastic.
Tripping is an old word for stepping, as in dance. The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase, Saying and Quotation led me to its derivation – from John Milton’s ‘L’Allegro’
“Come, and trip it as you go
On the light fantastic toe,”
Playing second fiddle
in an orchestra has an obvious meaning, as there are first violins and second violins, violas, ’cellos and double basses in the string section. Usually someone plays second fiddle to someone else by being less important than them.
Violin Viola Violoncello Double bass
Photo credit Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bratsche.jpg
As fit as a fiddle
means very well (healthy). Why a fiddle should be fit, I don’t know. There is something people find attractive about alliteration, though.
Brass is a metal, being an alloy of copper and zinc. Brass instruments are very loud. The brass section in an orchestra includes trumpets, trombones and tubas. So someone who is as bold as brass is not likely to go unnoticed.
Don’t blow your own trumpet.
At first sight this is a puzzling expression. Whose trumpet should a trumpeter blow? Trumpeting also means making something known. If you are trumpeting about yourself, you are boasting, which is not considered good manners.
St Paul in his Letter to the Galatians Chapter 6 Verse 14 (NIV) wrote May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world.
All photo credits Wikipedia