#IOTW: Idioms from the middle ages

1. Apple of someone’s eye. Meaning: a figure for a much loved person or thing.

This phrase reminds me of a 2011 Taiwanese film. It’s a very relate-able movie. Please bear with me, because the explanation on how this idiom was coined is a little bit intricate.

So in the Middle Ages, our pupils (the thing in our eyes, not students) are thought to be apple-shaped. Since it’s essential for our sight, it has to be cherished, loved, and protected.

And then, et voila! You are the apple of my eye means you are my much loved person. Congratulations!

2. To play devil’s advocate. Meaning: to pretend to be against an idea or plan which a lot of people support in order to make people discuss it in more detail.

Devil’s advocate is someone or a group of people who takes a position against the current conformed argument. Devil’s advocate’s job is to propose or bring up all evidences or opinions against current ideas to see the weak points of said ideas.

It was translated directly from Latin ‘advocatus diaboli’.

3. To sink or swim. Meaning: to succeed or fail by own efforts.

This phrase refers to a water ordeal, a medieval practice of judging whether a person is guilty or innocent.

The belief was based on the water wouldn’t accept a guilty person. So if the person is sinking, then he is innocent. Of course the meaning of this phrase has been adjusted since the water ordeal isn’t practiced anymore.

4. To throw down the gauntlet. Meaning: to challenge someone to an argument or figurative combat.

A gauntlet is a knight’s piece of armor that protects his forearm and hand. It was common in the medieval times to challenge someone by throwing down a gauntlet, hence the idiom.


Compiled and written by @bintilvice for @EnglishTips4U on Friday, April 22, 2016


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