Whence They Came: Words & Phrases With Origins In Poetry

My old man had a penchant for hyperbole.  Most of his anecdotes came to a raucous conclusion — eyes wide and voice at maximum volume, hands waving in the air, he would inevitably claim, “And then all hell broke loose!”  Hell ran amok throughout my childhood. Little did I know my exaggerating father was utilizing words of the great John Milton.

Wherefore with thee / Came not all hell broke loose?
-from Paradise Lost (1667)

RicoChey’s second prompt for August puts forth the phrase ignorance is bliss — a phrase that I have heard used thousands of times over the years, and one whose meaning seems clearer than most “old sayings”.  Although, as the referenced episode of House M.D.suggests, ignorance can sometimes be a willful act rather than true lack of knowledge.

Ever wonder where that phrase (willful or otherwise) originated?

To each his sufferings: all are men,
Condemned alike to groan;
The tender for another’s pain,
The unfeeling for his own.
Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.

-from “Ode On A Distant Prospect Of Eton College”, by Thomas Gray (1747)

My grandmother was fond of warning me, “Only fools rush in”. When I first heard that song I thought to myself, “Dang, they’re quoting Grandma.” As it turns out, everyone was quoting a couplet in Alexander Pope’s rant against his critics.

Nay, fly to Altars; there they’ll talk you dead; / For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.

-from “An Essay on Criticism” (1709)

What are some of  your favorite words and phrases that have survived centuries of literary history and now exist in everyday usage? What are some that don’t, but you wish to bring back into fashion?


Two writers have shared their interpretation of the Week Two prompt, and those stories are now available for your reading pleasure, HERE. Remember, if you’re having trouble commenting on the writer’s site, please feel free to leave a message in comments below the voting poll.

Just For Fun entries are welcome for “Kissed by Fire”, the Week Three prompt. #gowrite y’all!

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One Response to Whence They Came: Words & Phrases With Origins In Poetry

  1. Pingback: Sharing is Caring | Brigit's Flame Writing Community

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