Idioms are figurative expressions that are not meant to be taken literally and are still relevant today. They are essential to our everyday language and play an important role in how humans communicate.
Here are four old English idioms, their usage and origins.
A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE IS A DANGEROUS THING
Meaning: It means a limited knowledge or information could mislead individuals into believing falsehoods.
Usage: It is better to learn all you have been taught in class for a little “knowledge is a dangerous thing”
Origins: Although the quote is attributed to Alexandra Pope and his poem “An Essay on Criticism”, its earliest use dates back to a magazine published in 1774.
A RIDDLE WRAPPED IN AN ENIGMA
Meaning: It means that which is dense and secretive is impossible to foretell.
Usage: I can’t make sense of this textbook, it is like a riddle wrapped in an enigma.
Origins: This phrase is attributed to Winston Churchill when he described Russia’s intentions and interest in 1939.
He said, “I can’t forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That is Russian national interest”
AS DIFFERENT AS CHALK AND CHEESE
Meaning: It means two things that totally different from each other or lack similarity when compared with someone or something.
Usage: The twin girls in my class are as different as chalk and cheese.
Origins: This phrase originated in the 13th century in the United Kingdom. It is attributed to a shopkeeper who often adulterated his goods just to make some profit. He is alleged to have swapped cheese for chalk, thus saving some cheese for himself. However, people caught on with time and the phrase originated to highlight the difference between the products i.e. cheese and chalk.
BURN THE CANDLE AT BOTH ENDS
To overwork or exhaust oneself by doing too many things, especially both late at night and early in the morning.
Usage: I have been burning the candle at both ends since last month, I am exhausted!
Origins: It was Coined around the beginning of the seventeenth century and was derived from the French phrase Brusler la chandelle par les deux bouts.