Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rambles about phrases

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.

Hmm...

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

8 comments:

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I suspect these phrases are very old, some even very ancient, and reflect time periods when people did not have modern scientific knowledge to explain things. But they're still wonderfully poetic phrases, as you said!

Dalesings said...

When our predecessors saw special "stars" in the skies--the ones that seemed to wander here and there, moving sometimes fast, sometimes more slowly, even, at times, turning backwards in their paths (as seen against the background of the steady stars)--they named them planets, from the Greek word for "wanderers." I especially like the poetry of that word, based, as it is, on real experience, careful obervation. Like the poetry of Mary Oliver.

Sarita said...

:)

Jupiter Greenmoone said...

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Sarita said...

Wow. Thanks. What award?

Jupiter Greenmoone said...

Yeah, it's all yours :) Just follow the rules on my blog and select your own nominees.

Magaly Guerrero said...

You need to stop thinking so hard or you'll end up like me--wondering about crazy things lol. But you are so right about phrases, some of them are just strange. They get even worse when you try to translate them from one language to another. The same happens with curses too, for instance in Spanish it is very rude to call some "Son of your mother!" Okay, I know that made you grin, but I swear some people would fight if you call them that. Weird, isn't it? You'd think they will come back with a "Yeah, you're such a genius!"

Sarita said...

lol Oh yeah. I've come across the joys of translation in my English classes before. "Now, this is what it says in the book, and that is what is meant, but this other thing is what was literally said. You have to know that in order to catch on to this play on words that's cute..." Or else "Yeah, it literally says that, but this is what was meant..."