Big List:  Ignorance is bliss
Posted: 08 January 2013 05:46 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Svinyard’s comments on the exception proves the rule brought to my mind the misuse of the phrase “ignorance is bliss”.  This is often used to mean that it is good to be ignorant, whereas the original phrase is “Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.” This might be worth inclusion in the Big List.

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Posted: 08 January 2013 07:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The “original” quote is interesting, but the version in use today stands on it’s own and means what it means.

There are a lot of “misquoted quotes” but they’re all just phrases that have been steamrolled by the masses into new forms. It’s what we, the masses, do.

My personal favorite is “money is the root of all evil.” The original quote places the evil in our hearts, which is quite a different thing, but the “misquoted” version stands on it’s own and that’s that.

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Posted: 08 January 2013 09:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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happydog - 08 January 2013 07:40 AM

The “original” quote is interesting, but the version in use today stands on it’s own and means what it means.

Right, but by that very reason (interesting) it ought to be in the Big List entry, it seems to me.

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Posted: 08 January 2013 11:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I agree that the quote is interesting, and agree with happydog that the idiomatic expression has an existence independent of the original quote.  Somewhat similar examples that strike me include “head over heels” (it was “heels over head” in the original quote, or “hele ouer hed” if you want to be a real stickler, and it appears to be about the prophet Jonah tumbling about in the belly of the Leviathan, not a person being overwhelmed by love) and “beauty is only skin deep” (from Overbury’s poem, “A Wife”, the line was, “And all the carnall beauty of my wife is but skin-deep, but to two senses known;"). The “two senses” appear to be sight and imagination, as all flesh feels the same at night.  Overbury was later poisoned, but, surprisingly, it was apparently not by his wife. 

At the risk of making a broad generalization, it strikes me that original quotes are often considerably more striking turns of phrase than the idiomatic expressions that they spawn, but the original quote is often too focused in its references for it to be useful as an idiomatic expression of general applicability (or it is otherwise ill-suited to that purpose), so it is not surprising that the form of the quote often shifts as the phrase becomes a popular expression, and that its meaning either broadens or changes in the process.

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Posted: 11 January 2013 04:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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raven alb must be in a constant state of ecstasy.

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