1 of 3
1
blood is thicker than water
Posted: 07 May 2014 08:55 PM   [ Ignore ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3149
Joined  2007-02-26

A couple of times, I’ve received a facebook message passing on the information that the phrase “blood is thicker than water” derives from an older expression “The blood of the convenant is thicker than the water of the womb”, suggesting that the original meaning was basically opposed in sense to the modern meaning.

I can find any number of disreputable references to this idea on the electric intarweb, e.g.:
http://www.cracked.com/article_20251_the-5-most-frequently-misused-proverbs.html

This notion has the certain ring of bullshit, and I can’t find any serious scholarly reference backing it up.

The Font Of All Wisdom mentions:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_is_thicker_than_water

The equivalent proverb in German (originally: Blut ist dicker als Wasser), first appeared in the medieval German beast epic Reinhart Fuchs (c. 1180 ‘Reynard the Fox’) by Heinrich der Glîchezære, whose words in English read, ‘Kin-blood is not spoilt by water.’
---
By 1670, the modern version was included in John Ray’s collected ‘Proverbs,’[1] and later appeared in Sir Walter Scott’s novel ‘Guy Mannering’ (1815) “Weel — Blud’s thicker than water — she’s welcome to the cheeses."[2] and in English reformer Thomas Hughes’s ‘Tom Brown’s School Days’ (1857).

This WP article also mentions that Jewish congregational leader R. Richard Pustelniak and British humorist author Albert Jack have published the idea of the “blood of the convenant is thicker than the water of the womb” origin.

It all adds up to a thumbs down, in my book, but I would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 May 2014 09:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3149
Joined  2007-02-26

I took a look online within Albert Jack’s book Red Herrings and White Elephants.

“The Bitter End is the absolute end. This phrase has its origin at sea and is nothing to do with taste. On the sailing ships of past centuries, the anchor was fixed to the deck by solid bollards made of iron and wood known as ‘bitts’.”

Does that add up?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 07 May 2014 11:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Avatar
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  246
Joined  2007-02-16

Quinion suggests that there may be an origin other than the generally accepted nautical one:

http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-bit1.htm

“[bitts origin] Up to a point. By which I mean that it’s almost universally given as the origin, so to try to deny it may seem wilfully contrarian. But there’s enough evidence to cast some doubt on the matter. And the Oxford English Dictionary notes that its history is uncertain.”

Profile
 
 
Posted: 08 May 2014 02:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1195
Joined  2007-02-14
-

But there’s nothing that’s necessarily unpleasant or difficult in that process. And it’s hard to imagine its giving rise to the second sense — the ultimate and direst end.

Just a comment on how the modern meaning could derive from the nautical meaning.  I could see it as a sort of reverse eggcorn, where the meaning has been influenced by the meaning of the homonym .

Profile
 
 
Posted: 08 May 2014 03:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4810
Joined  2007-01-03

Regarding blood is thicker than water, the religious version appears to be totally bogus, having been invented in the last few years.

The OED traces blood is thicker than water back to origins as a Scottish proverb, dating to at least 1737. How we use it today is unchanged from the original meaning that familial ties are stronger than any other.

While the phrase blood of the covenant is older, dating to at least the 1611 Authorized (King James) Bible, the bit about being thicker than water is very new. I can find no reference to the use of the longer phrase in Google Books, meaning that it doesn’t appear in many (if any) published works. It sounds like the kind of thing that gets passed around by preachers as a sermon illustration. And I would guess that is the origin. Some preacher invented it as an illustration, and others misunderstood it to be the origin of the phrase.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 08 May 2014 06:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3537
Joined  2007-01-29

There would appear to be no fake origin so blatantly bogus that some will not accept it.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 08 May 2014 08:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1297
Joined  2007-03-21

It sounds like the kind of thing that gets passed around by preachers as a sermon illustration.

I resemble that remark. Actually, I’ve been guilty of doing this, having second thoughts, checked the sources and apologized the next Sunday.

Unlike the proverbial park rangers, I do at least have a community to go back to :-\

Profile
 
 
Posted: 08 May 2014 03:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3149
Joined  2007-02-26

I don’t quite get the park ranger reference.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 08 May 2014 07:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  3149
Joined  2007-02-26

I’m not very impressed with Albert Jack’s offerings on the topic of language history.

The bio on his site, and in his books, says that he is a historian, but I can’t find anything in JSTOR under his assumed name or his real name, Graham Willmott. His bio also doesn’t mention where he studied or what his qualifications are.

Perhaps he is a historian in the same sense that Lynne Truss is a linguist, ie not at all.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 09 May 2014 04:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  845
Joined  2007-03-01

I’m not very impressed with Albert Jack’s offerings on the topic of language history.

That’s a remarkably temperate way of putting it. At least the derivation of bitter end is doubtful. But when I’m Ruler of the Universe, anyone who can blithely state that to keep [something] at bay refers to the Greeks’and Romans’ belief that bay leaves would protect them from lightning, will be hung upside down by their ankles in a cylindrical dungeon, on the whitewashed wall of which will be written upside down in three-foot-high letters:

LOOK IT UP

And anyone who claims that pull your finger out refers to gunners sticking a finger down the touch-hole of a muzzle-loading cannon in battle will be invited to insert their finger down the touch-hole of a cannon that has just been fired a few times in rapid succession; then left to find their own way to the first-aid tent.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 09 May 2014 09:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2032
Joined  2007-02-19

“Hell hath no fury like Syntinen Laulu misinformed”

;-)

Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2014 03:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2344
Joined  2007-01-30

You need to stay away from HMS Victory in Portsmouth, Syntinen. The heads of the tour guide sailors there are loaded with so much etymological misinformation that the ship would have struggled to stay afloat at sea under such a weight.  They’re clearly taught this stuff on the course they take before performing these duties and that course is using as its source some popular and wildly inaccurate word origin book as its text. (And we all know how many of those are out there.) Given the millions upon millions of visitors to the Victory each year and the steady diet of naval word origin yarns they’re fed (I’ve been on the tour three times over the years since first taking my kids in the 70s and each time there were two or three utterly bogus etymologies used, eg body as in wine originating in Nelson’s body being stored in alcohol on the voyage home after his death) the total number of people they have misled must be enormous, people likely to carry this misinformation to their grave and spread it to family and friends in the hundreds before they get there. It really shows what Dave and other responsible writers on etymology are up against in trying to give people the real stories behind words, which are usually more interesting and entertaining far than the phoney stories.

By the way each time I heard this stuff I’d correct the guide only to be met with polite disbelief by the rating and irritated looks from the visitors who clearly thought the Royal Navy far more reliable than some unsavoury longhair. On two occasions I even went in the office and told the subaltern there that they were spreading misinformation. The officers concerned were all politeness and concern both times, took notes and promised that checks would be made on the accuracy of all such stories. I’ll leave you to guess if I noticed any difference when I took my daughter along a few years back. I was older and wiser then and left them to bask in their own ignorance. (A decision heavily reinforced by the fact that my daughter Phyllie (12 or 13 at the time) would have been hideously embarrassed if I’d spoken up. She, like her mother, hates ‘scenes’, as she calls them).

So I left Nelson’s corpse bobbing gently in the brandy and retired from the field.

[ Edited: 10 May 2014 03:57 AM by aldiboronti ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2014 06:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  150
Joined  2007-02-13

Aldi: didn’t you (or someone here) coin the acronym CANOE (campaign to assign nautical origins to everything)?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2014 06:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2344
Joined  2007-01-30

I believe it was Dr Techie who introduced the term here, he’s certainly the first one I remember using it on this board. Can’t remember whether it’s original to Doc though.

[ Edited: 10 May 2014 06:59 AM by aldiboronti ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2014 07:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1195
Joined  2007-02-14

For what it’s worth CANOE is in Acronymfinder with that meaning.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 10 May 2014 09:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2860
Joined  2007-01-31

Yes, I was the one who named the Conspiracy to Attribute Nautical Origins to Everything.  I can’t, of course, prove that nobody invented it before me, but it seems improbable.

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 3
1
 
‹‹ boko      Coign of vantage ››