Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “salt”

Why We Say: #34–flowers, teeth, salt, and wolves

Having just attempted to read Perks of a Wallflower (didn’t finish–that’s a different post), it was timely when I popped open my Why We Say book to the “W” section. The first entry?


In Europe, and maybe in America, bright yellow and red flowers grace stone walls, adding quiet color to break up the monotony. And so it is with people who might quietly stand against the wall at a function and not participate, at least not visibly. Just because they aren’t gregarious doesn’t mean they don’t have an opinion about what’s going on. Subtle observation does have its perks.
Wisdom Teeth

Around senior year my students start missing school for a variety of reasons. One of the oddly frequent absences involves wisdom teeth removal. This is usually a two day to one week ordeal depending on the success of the procedure. My wisdom teeth were pulled during my freshman year of college. The removal went well. The recovery process did not. Apparently codeine is not on friendly terms with my system.

The Romans believed since wisdom teeth come in so late they indicate the increase of knowledge. So removing them indicates we lose some of our wisdom? There might be a plausible correlation to this thought actually.

Take It With a Grain of Salt
Another Roman story concerns itself with salt. Pompey, general and colleague of Julius Caesar, had a solution to the possibility of poisoning: “take a grain of salt to complete the relief.” Maybe that’s why we say “take it with a grain of salt” when we receive something distasteful.
Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Around 2500 years ago Aesop wrote a fable about a wolf who wore a sheep’s fleece in order to cozy in with the flock and snag a couple of lamb burgers. Today if someone is described as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, it’s best to watch out–this person is decidedly trying to be friendly with ulterior motives.


One more post and we are done with Why We Say. However, no need for dismay–I found another word origin book on my shelf, and we continue our etymology explorations.

Why We Say: #13

Today we learn about earning our salt, eating humble pie, and listening in on conversations.

“He’s worth his salt.”
“Oh, she earned her salt today, that’s for sure.”

Hear of these expressions? If so, then you know it’s in reference to someone who is worth the amount of money they are being paid. In fact, the word “salary” is derived from the Latin word “salarium” which refers to the old Roman practice of providing soldiers their daily salt allowance. A soldier earning his salt ration was earning his keep.

This soldier is looking forward to his salting his paycheck away for a rainy day.image: morguefile




Have you ever had to eat humble pie? You know what I’m talking about–that moment when you’ve been humiliated or had to admit you were wrong. Not a great feeling, but it beats having to eat real humble pie, which is actually the “umbles” or the liver and organs of deer. Yummy–right? Yup, back in the day when English noblemen trotted around bagging deer while hunting, they saved the best for themselves and left the less desirable umbles for the servants. The servants wanting to make their leftovers a bit more tasty would pack the dear bits of deer into a pie. I suppose it would be rather humbling to eat this culinary fare.

“I wonder if Radio would be saying ‘Where my pie?'” on this flavor of the day?” image:morguefile


Eavesdropping has taken on a more sophisticated form of listening these days due to the Internet and its penchant for hacking in on conversations. Yet, in the way old days, going back to England, a law existed where houses had to have enough room for the eaves to drip on the owner’s property. It was quite easy to stand in these spaces under the eaves to listen in on inside conversations. People got the inside scoop by being outsiders. Not much has changed, has it?

Not everyone is interested in the wayward tidbit that comes floating by. image: morguefile


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