By Bill Bentley, Professor Know-It-All
Why is the “olive branch” a symbol of peace? queries Adrian Seeburg.
In ancient Greece, the olive tree was sacred to the goddess Palas, in allusion to the story that at the naming of Athens, she presented the city with an olive branch. Subsequently, it became the symbol of peace and fruitfulness. Brides carried olive garlands. A crown of olive was also the greatest distinction a Greek citizen could attain, and was the highest prize in the Olympic Games. In the Old Testament, God’s forgiveness —the stopping of the great rain and flood—was demonstrated to Noah by the return of a dove bearing an olive leaf in her beak.
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If someone has a “face to stop a clock,” they’re ugly. Why? wonders David Arnott.
Expressions like this abound in our language. I’ve even heard of someone who was so ugly “they’d make a train go down a dirt road” or someone who was so tall “they could hunt ducks with a rake.” The key word in the clock analogy is “face.” Rarely do we find a word with such wide and varied uses.
Of course, it’s the front of our head; but we also make a face, we put our best face forward, and wipe people off the face of the earth. Printing type has a face; so does a clock, coal and rock.
We fly in the face of the enemy, we lose face, and judge people on the face of evidence. We make a long face, face our pasts, face the music, and get in someone’s face. Buildings face a certain way, and we can even face a wall with stucco. There are face cards, face lifts, face-offs, face plates, face values and face flies. We can face up to something or face out, we can even be facetious if we want; although I promise that is not my intention here.
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How did the term “crack” come about, not the drug, but as in “crack” commando? wonders Charles Johansen.
I could go on for a very long time about the many usages and meaning of this multi-purpose word, but in the interest of time and space, I’ll demur. “Crack” commando or regiment or shot are all derived from “crack” of the whip. From ancient times, the whip or lash was the surefire instrument of motivation to get the most out of soldiers and sailors. Once they became good enough that they didn’t need the crack of the whip to insure peak performance, they were given the name as a reward.
Professor Know-It-All is the nom de plume of Bill Bentley, who invites readers to try and stump him. Send your questions to email@example.com.