Sunday, August 28, 2011

Apples of Gold on a Sunday

[Sunday Afternoon by Thomas Webster]

     As today is a Sunday and my last research-blog idea is still bouncing around in the recesses of my mind, my entry shall revolve around an anecdote and a bit of scripture. As a side note, I sort of regret that I grew up long after the days when Sundays were still so strictly dedicated to God that afternoons were spent in silent contemplation of Him. There's certainly something to be said for meditation on the Psalms and the worshipful attitude it tends to produce.

     That said, the thought of the day was produced by a week of successive discouraging encounters at my workplace. I came home nightly feeling as if I could do nothing right, and wondering why on earth God had placed me in a setting where I couldn't even be a proper witness to those around me by working well. The Monday following, one of my co-workers addressed me in passing and said, "You received two compliments last week. Hazel and I were remarking how we thought you wouldn't work out when you first came here, because you're so quiet and the rest of us aren't. But you have a good sense of humor."

     Well, that brightened my day considerably, knowing that at least someone thought I belonged there. It led me to thinking about encouraging others and about all the verses in Proverbs that compare a wicked tongue and a bad attitude with the conduct of the godly man.

Proverbs 17:22  A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
Proverbs 15:23  A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!
Proverbs 25:11  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.

Psalm 15:1-3  A Psalm of David. LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

Webster's 1828 Dictionary explains encouragment as...
The act of giving courage, or confidence of success; incitement to action or to practice; incentive. We ought never to neglect the encouragement of youth in generous deeds. The praise of good men serves as an encouragement of virtue and heroism.

      The verse that especially gets me as a young woman is Proverbs 31:26, talking about how the virtuous woman has the law of kindness in her tongue. The idea is almost that of a natural law, like gravity. Her automatic setting is that she blesses people with her speech. That same chapter makes note of how her husband feels safe sharing his heart with her.

     Goodness knows that in this world there are enough of the sort whose desire it is to tear down. I am so thankful for a Holy Spirit who checks my words that might do so much harm otherwise, who stills my heart and humbles me. Human encouragement falls so short, putting band-aids where people need their wounds fully dressed...

     But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, Keep  yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of  some have compassion, making a difference: (Jude 1:20-22 )

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Blogging with Bated Breath

     Children collect rocks and bottle caps and bits of glass and other treasures. For lack of space in my small bedroom, I collect instead words and phrases and trivia knowledge. Naturally, I misplace most of them at one time or another and usually when they are wanted. My thought in keeping this log is that I might pose some of the ridiculous questions that come to me and answer them in a place I will be able to recall the information as quickly as my internet connection allows. (Does anyone else find it ironic that although the human brain processes information many millions of times faster than supercomputers, I still forget what year I'm in at college? Yeah. Me too.)

Question of the day: Where did the phrase "bated breath" originate?
An example in context: Madame, I await my next homework assignment with bated breath.
Not to be confused with: "baited breath" (J. K. Rowling FAIL)
                                          "bait breath" (co-worker FAIL)

     After minimal digging, I was able to discover bated is actually short for abated. Simply defined, abate means to cease or stop. Thus, saying that you're waiting with bated breath infers that you are so overcome with emotion in regard to what you are waiting for, you stopped breathing. I might wait for news of a loved one with bated breath. Interestingly enough, I might also wait for a garbage truck to pass with bated breath for less dramatic reasons.

     This also led me to wonder, do we tell people "not to hold their breath" waiting for something as a result of the older aforementioned phrase? Hmm...

     According to Harry Oliver's Flying by the Seat of Your Pants: Surprising Origins of Everyday Expressions, one of the first known literary uses of the well-known idiom is found in one of my Shakespearean favourites, Merchant of Venice. An excellent verse delivered by the antagonist of the story, Shylock, as he is being asked a boon by one of his enemies reads as follows:

      What should I say to you? Should I not say
      'Hath a dog money? is it possible
      A cur can lend three thousand ducats?' Or
      Shall I bend low and in a bondman's key,
      With bated breath and whispering humbleness, Say this;
      'Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last;
      You spurn'd me such a day; another time
      You call'd me dog; and for these courtesies
      I'll lend you thus much moneys'? 

            (Act 1, Scene 3)

    I shall leave you, however, with a much more amusing verse I found in my studies that may be worth memorizing for the sake of humor. (Please note, this is a play on words and the poet Geoffrey Taylor used an intentional misspelling to his witty advantage.)

Cruel, Clever Cat
     Sally, having swallowed cheese
      Directs down holes the scented breeze
     Enticing thus with baited breath
     Nice mice to an untimely death.


      Heacock, Paul. Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms. Cambridge University Press, 2003.

      Oliver, Harry. Flying by the Seat of Your Pants: Surprising Origins of Everyday Expressions. Penguin Publishers, 2011.

     Kirkpatrick, Elizabeth M. Clich├ęs: Over 1500 Phrases Explored and Explained. MacMillan, 1999.