Archives for posts with tag: Solomon

All at sixes and sevens
means in a muddle and a rose from the disagreement described below.

In 1327 the two Livery Companies of Merchant Taylors and Skinners were chartered within a few days of one another, taking places six and seven in the Lord Mayor’s procession. Each reckoned that they were the senior and therefore should have place six and the other should take place seven. The dispute rumbled on until 1484, when they went to the then Mayor, Sir Robert Billesden, and the Aldermen for an adjudication. With positively Solomon-like wisdom he decreed that each company should dine the other annually, and that in that year the Skinners should be at place six, with the Merchant Taylors at place seven: the following year, the Merchant Taylors should take place six and the Skinners place seven. So in even years the Skinners are at six, and in odd years the Merchant Taylors are at six.

(Information provided by Anthony Payne OMT, who also told me that

“Sixes and Sevens” Rugby matches are still played between teams found from the two Merchant Taylors’ Schools (Moor Park and Crosby) and the three Skinners’ schools (The Judd, Tonbridge School and the Skinners’ School)’.  In a recent match the Merchant Taylors’ team won by 22-7.

File:Lord Mayor's Show (Canaletto).JPG
Lord Mayor’s Show by Canaletto
Photo credit Wikimedia Commons‎ (public domain)

It isn’t what you know, but who you know that matters.
Having good contacts is always useful!

There’s safety in numbers.
This is a proverb.  The idea is that it is safer to be in a larger group than one or two people.  In a group of three people, if one is hurt the second can go for help and the third stay with the casualty, for instance.  This may seem an irrelevant example now with mobile (cell) phones, but there are still wild and lonely places where there is no signal.  I’m sure you can think of other situations, where this maxim will continue to be helpful.

The more the merrier
is a reply to the question, “Is it all right if I bring a friend?”

In penny numbers
means a few at a time.  It is an old phrase, pre-decimal, and there were twelve pennies (12d.) in a shilling.  Now there are one hundred (100p) in a pound.

A common factor
is a number which divides exactly into two or more larger numbers.  The term has been borrowed from mathematics to apply to everyday life.

The lowest common denominator
is a similar term from mathematics.   If there is more than one common factor, the lowest common denominators would be the smallest.  For instance, 12=1 x 12=2 x 6=3 x 4  so the lowest common denominators are 1,2,and 3 (4=2 x 2 and 6= 3 x 2)  12=1 x 2 x 2 x 3

Numerical order
may be ascending or descending.

A countdown
is mostly associated with launching rockets and ends with zero.

They would stop at nothing.
This means that there is nothing they wouldn’t do, legal or illegal.

Lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice.
A saying, which is likely to be true if risk analysis is used.  Figuratively, it means that the same misfortune is unlikely to happen to the same person more than once.  In this case, experience shows that this is not always true.

“One little second” is supposed to take a second to say.

One elephant, two elephants…
…is how my parents taught me to count seconds.

A stopwatch
is a more reliable method.  There is even one on my phone!

Counting sheep
is a recommended method for going to sleep.  I don’t think it works.

Thick and fast and thick and furious have similar meanings.  They remind me of a blizzard, but snowflakes are not the only things to arrive thus.

Snowballing could be a snowball fight, but is more often used to describe something which grows in the way a snowball does, when rolled downhill.

To go off the boil is what a pan or kettle does, if the heat applied is insufficient.  Someone, who has an idea and then loses enthusiasm for it, has gone off the boil.

It’s the tip of the iceberg.
The part that is apparent now is only a fraction of the whole.

It’s the thin end of the wedge
which leads to something bigger.

Nature abhors a vacuum
was the explanation I was given for plants growing to fill any available space.  Fluids moving to a place where the pressure is lower is another more literal example.

I can’t be in two places at once
unless the places are contained inside each other.  The typical schoolchild’s address takes this to its limits.  Have you ever heard the expression, “Not being a bird, I can’t be in two places at once”?

In the Bible King Solomon asked God for wisdom.  He wrote many of the proverbs in The Book of Proverbs.  A well-known story about his judgment concerning who was the real mother of a baby (long before DNA matching) can be found in the First Book of Kings chapter 3 verses 16 to 28.

Blue and green not fit to be seen; pink and green fit for a queen.

Before the 1960s and the fashion for so-called psychedelic colours, people had very strict ideas about which colours looked good together.  If you choose the right shades of blue and green, they can look wonderful.  After all, what colours are grassy fields and the sky?

A tie-dye design, created with GIMP Originator Siddharth Patel

As bright as a button
is a simile, which I’d also question for veracity.  I think the buttons in question were on a military uniform and probably needed to be polished.  Bright doesn’t just mean shiny, it can mean intelligent or cheerful.

That’s a bobby-dazzler
was said to me about a sweater knitted from brightly coloured oddments of wool.  Bobby is a slang word for a policeman, deriving from the name of the founder of the British police, Robert Peel.

Age before beauty
is a well-known expression used by someone allowing another person to go through a door or other narrow space first.   Etiquette is involved, but it is hardly polite to draw attention to another person’s age and suggest that she is less attractive than the speaker.

Beauty is only skin-deep.
What a person’s character is like is far more important than their appearance.

Handsome is as handsome does.
It doesn’t matter how attractive someone is if they behave badly.

If the cap fits you have to wear it.
A figurative expression about personal attributes.

I wouldn’t like to be in her shoes.
She must be in a difficult situation.

An off the cuff remark.
A cuff is the end of a sleeve.  Why should off the cuff mean spontaneous?  It is used about speech.

Bless his little cotton socks.
Nowadays the comment might just be “Aw!”

Tied to mother’s apron strings.
Aprons seem to be coming back into fashion.  When it was more difficult to wash clothes, women working in the kitchen always wore an apron tied at the back to protect their clothes.   A child who wouldn’t leave his mother was said to be tied to her apron strings.  The strings in question were narrow pieces of cloth or webbing rather than string.

Treat with kid gloves.
Someone who might be upset easily has to be treated with care.  Kid is a sort of soft leather, presumably made from the skin of a young goat.

Put your shoes on, Lucy.

This is the first line of a song, which my mother used to quote when we were getting ready to go out.  No-one in our family was called “Lucy”.

Talking through one’s hat.
There are a variety of meanings for this expression.  Whichever you choose, the person described is not making much sense.

Comfortable shoes are high on most people’s list of priorities.  Well-heeled has come to mean wealthy.

This is self explanatory.  However in Derbyshire there is a traditional custom, known as well-dressing.  At a particular time of year the local people go out and decorate water wells!

Have you ever gone out in your best smart clothes and discovered that everyone else is dressed casually?

Put on your glad rags.
These are what you would wear to go to a party.

Cut a dash.
A smartly dressed young man might be described as dashing even if he was standing still!  In a particular outfit he might “cut a dash”.  Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable defines this as being looked at and talked about for a showy or striking appearance.

We used to enjoy the following rhyme about someone whose appearance would certainly have set people talking:-

I used to know a man
Who always wore a saucepan
on his head.
I asked him why he did it.
“I don’t know why,” he said.
“It always makes my ears so sore,
I am a foolish man,
I should have left it off before
and worn a frying pan.”

Sunday best.
It used to be traditional for people to put on their best clothes to go to church on Sunday.

There are plenty of references in the Bible to clothing and appearances.  Perhaps the best known is Matthew Chapter 6 verses 28 to 30 (KJV) And why take ye thought for raiment?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.