One of Anne Johnson's recent blog posts got me thinking: we have certain phrases that don't make sense.
In the particular post I'm thinking of, she uses the phrase "shooting star." But, truthfully, a shooting star is really a meteor, and hardly a star at all. (If it were a real star and got into our atmosphere, things wouldn't be pretty for us.) At first I was rolling my eyes over this phrase, but then I realized that we do things like this all the time.
Why do we say "the sun is rising"? Really, the sun is definitely not rising. The earth is rotating, and spinning around the sun, and when the sun appears on the horizon it's because of this movement -- not because the sun is rising over the earth (which would be sort of difficult anyways since the earth is round, not flat!). The same thing goes for the sun setting.
But, how cool would it be to say "due to the movement of our planet, the sun has appeared on the horizon." Not only does that not sound as nice, it's a bit of a mouthful.
There's also the "evening star," Venus. Venus is a planet, not a star.
Then again, maybe it's partially just a matter of definition. Did the Greeks have a definition for "star" that would have fit Venus? Then the phrases just stuck, in spite of changing definitions. Maybe, maybe not. I don't know a thing about Greek.
Or maybe it's a relative matter. After all, the sun certainly looks like it's rising above us at sunrise.
Well, these weird phrases certainly are more poetic than the things they might be replaced by. Being a poet, I guess that's a good enough argument for using them, even if they don't make much sense! :P