May 11, 2006

Cliches and You

Sometimes when I'm watching TV or listening to someone talk, a phrase will catch my attention. The phrases that seem to hold my attention these days are the ones that everyone says, but I doubt as to whether or not they know where they come from or what they actually mean (myself included). So I look them up. Here are three recent discoveries:

"The proof is in the pudding" - The entire phrase is "the proof of the pudding is in the eating," meaning that the true value or quality of a thing can only be judged when it is put to use. ("Proof" in this context means "the act of testing," rather than our more common "conclusive evidence" sense.) "The proof of the pudding is in the eating" dates back to around 1600, and is more often heard in the United Kingdom than the U.S., probably because puddings of various kinds occupy a more prominent place on the dinner table there.

"State of the Art" - The earliest known usage of the term "state of the art" dates back to 1910 from an engineering manual by H.H. Suplee titled Gas Turbine. It reads, "In the present state of the art this is all that can be done." Michael Quinion, a distinguished British linguist is running a site called World Wide Words. According to him the phrase state-of-the-art was originally status of the art and it described the current level which some technical art had reached. Later the phrase changed from status of the art to state of the art and as Sidle Jinks pointed out it refers to the latest technology or best techniques in some product or activity.

"No holds barred" - The phrase actually comes from the sport of wrestling (the sport, not the TV stuff)."Real" wrestling has very strict rules, and certain "holds" are indeed "barred," or not permitted. There are also similar rules in boxing. Thus, a wrestling or boxing match where there were no rules of conduct imposed would be a "no holds barred" brawl."No holds barred" in a figurative sense meaning "no restrictions" first appeared around 1942, and is often used today to describe any event, such as a debate or talk-show, where the participants are free to express themselves in any manner they choose.

Sources were various results from Google.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting. I knew what the phrases meant in the manner that they are currently used, but not necessarily what they really meant.

A very exciting package has just arrived at my door. Stay tuned!

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