Expressions of Today and Their Historic Roots

by Gianni Truvianni - Date: 2008-06-16 - Word Count: 1000 Share This!



History is a strange and vast subject going back literally to the beginning not only of man's time on earth but his earth as well. It is with the intension of mentioning some of lesser known facts of history though perhaps more interesting ones that I opted to write this article.


There is a sign of anger that is given by many to others through out the world which is that of showing the back of one's hand while lifting the middle finger while keeping the other down; this action is commonly referred to as "giving the finger". Most are aware of what the significance of this sign is but how many are aware of where the origins of this gesture lie and why it is the middle finger which was chosen for such a display and not another.


The answer to this lies in the fact that the middle finger is the strongest finger the hand has to offer; there for it is the one which is used by archers when shooting arrows. Till riffles and other such firing weapons were developed; archers played an important part of the military and it was because of this that it was a common practice of the middle age when ever an archer was captured to cut of his middle finger so he could no longer practice his trade. However it did happen on one historical occasion that an archer was captured but managed to escape before having his middle finger severed and after having done so; he from a safe distance showed those who had been his captors his middle finger in a symbol of defiance to show that he still had it. Of course today this sign is still given but however today it has taken on a new meaning but for those wishing to know its origins they may look back to that archer who had the boldness to show that he still had his middle finger.


O.K. is a very common expression used by many people all over the world even in none English speaking countries though where did it come from? The answer to this query lies in President Andrew Johnson who by virtue of being Lincoln's vice-president took on the post of President of the United States when a bullet fired by J.W. Booth claimed Lincoln's life at Ford's Theater. Upon becoming President it turned out that Johnson was not exactly a man of letter as he when ever asked to approve of a document would say that it was "all correct". With time his knowledge of how words were spelt or in his case lack of which lead him to believe that "all" was spelt with an "o" and correct with a "k" there for he had a stamp made out for himself with the initials "O.K." which he thought stood for "all correct".    


Many times it happens that people repeat a gesture or an expression not really knowing why or from where it comes from; for instance to many people the term "middle ages" is one used to classify the time between the fall of the Roman empire and the renaissance. This being why it is called the middle ages but however this expression originally was not used as a name for that time in history which is also sometimes referred to as the "Dark Ages" but the time we are living in now.


Why now some may ask and the answer would be such. In the bible it is written that Jesus Christ will come back in what would be "the second coming" and since Jesus has already come but has yet to return, this is why the Vatican came up with the expression the "Middle Ages". This meaning the time that we are living now according to this logic; as we find ourselves between the first coming of Christ and the second coming which of course no one really knows precisely when it will be. So we can say if this be the reasoning that guides us that we are still in the "Middle Ages" though hopefully not in the "dark ages".


When most people hear the term "a comedy" to describe a film or book they think of a piece that is funny or humorous but originally the word comedy was not made in reference to something that had to be funny but to describe any piece mostly theatrical in the time of ancient Greece that did not end tragically. This being because in ancient Greece most of the early plays were tragedies so it come to be called that anything that was not tragic regardless of weather it was humorous or not was labeled as a comedy. Of course with time this word came to be used exclusively in reference to what can be considered funny or even hilarious.


As a final example of these words which through time took on a whole new meaning I will give the word "humanities" which most people use to describe subjects one may study connected to develop what some would call the left side of the brain such as the arts, languages, literature and so on but this again was not the original intension of those who thought up this word. The expression "humanistic" was one originally used in the renaissance to describe any subject which one studied that was not connected to God or religion, as their was a time when the only thing one could study in European Universities was theology or religion. With this being the case any subject that dealt with humans and not God such as science or even mathematics which today we would never think of as being associated with the humanities was referred to as such.


In conclusion I would like to state that sometimes it can be interesting and even useful to know where those expressions we use so often; almost on a daily bases come from as it may be just fun to know and educational as well.



Related Tags: history, middle ages, giving the finger

My name is Gianni Truvianni, I am an author who writes with the simple aim of sharing his ideas, thoughts and so much more of what I am with those who are interested in perhaps reading something new. As for the details regarding my life I would say that there is nothing that lifts them above the ordinary. I was born in New York City in 1967 on May 21st and am presently living in Warsaw, Poland where I wrote my first book "New York's Opera Society" now Available on Amazon.

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