Sunday, April 1, 2012

A - An Axe To Grind & An Albatross Around My Neck







In case you didn't read it before or are new to my blog (Welcome!) I'm researching the origins of idioms for my A-Z challenge - usually I'll choose one or two words that stick out because I'm not 100% on what they mean, or I'm wondering where the heck they came up with that saying. 

My idioms for the letter A are...

He has an ax to grind.  

Meaning:  something to gain for yourself for a selfish reason; flattery used to get a favor from another person.

Origin:  In the early 1800s a newspaper story was written by a man who said that when he was a boy, a man used flattery to trick him into sharpening the man's ax.  The boy turned the heavy grindstone while the man held his ax against it, because the man said the boy was a great ax grinder, smart and strong.  The man didn't pay the boy or even thank him.  Instead, he scolded him for wasting time and being late for school.  After that, people started using the expression "have an ax to grind" when referring to anyone who was seeking a particular goal solely for himself by flattering or tricking another person.  Sometimes people say that they don't have an ax to grind to show that they are honest and aren't trying to trick you into doing anything for them.

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She's an albatross around my neck.  

Meaning:  a very difficult burden that you can't get rid of or a reminder of something you did wrong.

Origin:  In 1798 Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote his most famous poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner."  In the poem a young sailor shoots a large seabird called an albatross.  In those days that was considered very unlucky.  Sure enough, many misfortunes happen to the ship, and the crew blames the young sailor, hanging the dead bird around his neck. 

Source:  Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms by Marvin Terban.

57 comments:

  1. I am really going to enjoy your entries, this is a great start! I actually knew about the albatross saying, but I didn't know the meaning behind "Ax to grind." :D

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    1. Cool! I honestly thought an 'ax to grind' had something to do with revenge - which I still think it does, but I had no clue about the flattery thing.

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    2. Love this idea for a series. I'm fascinated by language and idioms as well. In fact, I've been doing a series (on Yahoo! Voices) called "Idioms Unpacked" for some time. Gotta get back to that! ;-)

      Google the title (in quotes), and you'll find the articles, if you want.

      Stopping in as an A to Z Blogging Challenge participant. Please feel free to visit and comment on any of my blogs as well, leaving a link to your own post, so my readers can find you too!

      All on Blogspot.com and all in the A to Z Challenge

      Meme Express: Blog Prompts & Topics for Writers
      Nickers and Ink: Poetry & Humor
      Heart of a Ready Writer: Bible and Devotional
      Practically at Home: Home & How-To’s
      The Mane Point: A Haven for Horse Lovers
      Working in Words: Tips for Writers

      You can click my name/icon for links to all these blogs!

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    3. Thank you! I'll be sure to check them out!

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  2. I love idioms and finding out their origins. I think your entries are going to be especially interesting to read. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you for reading, Clare! It should be fun to find out where some of these came from!

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  3. I was familiar with the Albatross one, but not the "axe to grind". Interesting!

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    1. It's fun to learn new things, isn't it? LOL! Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. Fun idea. I thought the same as you with ax to grind. I suppose so many of these things change meaning over time.

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    1. That's what I'm thinking. In fact, I looked it up and found that it can mean revenge, but that the original meaning of the word was about flattery.

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  5. I've passed along the Liebster Blog Award to you :)
    http://akfotinoshoyer.blogspot.de/2012/04/weekend-progress-report.html

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    1. Thank you! I'll post it later today! :D

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  6. Fascinating theme. I look forward to reading the next set.

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    1. Thanks! I have some good ones picked out!

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  7. This is such a cool idea for A-Z. I love learning random bits of trivia like this.

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  8. Lol, that was adorable, and awesome. I took a couple of linguistic courses in college, and some Old English classes, and one of the things we used to do was look up the origin of words and phrases. Always a lot of fun. Looking forward to more, ^_^

    K.S. @ Adjective, Not a Noun

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    1. Thank you! I'm having fun learning about these!

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  9. I knew the second one, but I'm not sure I ever gave the first any real thought, to be honest. I'm not sure that's what I thought it meant, but again, never really gave it much brainpower. Excellent topic. Can't wait for the rest. I love stuff like this.

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    1. I didn't really give any of these much thought, but it's great that I'm discovering all this new information! Thanks for checking out my A-Z!

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  10. This is fascinating. I knew the albatross one, but I never even thought of what 'an ax to grind' might mean.

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    1. Learn something new every day! LOL!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  11. Very interesting. I'll be visiting often for the challenge! Thanks for stopping by my blog.

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  12. Ooh I love idioms! Great topic for A-Z! :)
    Thanks for stopping by!
    ~AJ

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    1. Thank you and thanks for checking out my A-Z!

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  13. Indeed a great topic - will definitely stop in more during the challenge - thanks for visiting me earlier. I love this!

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  14. Yes, indeed, what a cool theme! I had to read the Ancient Mariner in high school, and the Albatross line has stayed with me ever since. What about the origen of monkey on my back?

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    1. I've been planning to do that one. This is so much fun!

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  15. Hi Jaycee! Nice connecting with you today. Always nice to meet fellow desert dwellers too. :)

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    1. Hello! What part of AZ do you hail from?

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  16. How awesome is the idiom theme?! Thanks for this! I've never heard of the albatross one. See you for B! :D

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  17. I knew about the second one, but had no clue where the first one came from. I'm definitely going to enjoy this series :-)

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  18. I just don't use those idioms enough. Thanks for reminding me of them!

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    1. I'm trying to go for some of the more obscure and less obvious ones. :)

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  19. awesome theme! i love idioms! never heard the albatross one, cool!

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  20. I love idioms and am looking forward to learning a lot more about their origins. Nice work , Jaycee! Team Tina is off to a great start!
    Tina @ Life is Good
    Co-Host of the April A to Z Challenge
    Twitter: @AprilA2Z #atozchallenge

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  21. I've always wondered about these two sayings - what a great idea for the A-Z challenge. The albatross is kind of gruesome, but after watching Master and Commander, I can believe it - sailors were a very superstitious lot.

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    1. Yeah, I thought it was a little gruesome, too. I have a lot more on the way! Thanks for stopping by!

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  22. Love your idea! Not only can I have fun, I can build my "dinner party" vocabulary.

    ScribblesFromJenn
    Happy A to A-ing!

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    1. Thank you! This stuff makes great dinner party conversation! :)

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  23. Very fascinating! I love your theme. I'll definitely be back to learn the meaning of more idioms.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by! Hope to see you around more, for sure!

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  24. What a brilliant theme idea! I love figurative language. I am looking forward to learning lots of new idioms and the history behind them.

    Mandy @ The Chockboard

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    1. Thank you! I have a lot of good ones coming!

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  25. I've looked up the albatross one before because it was cross referenced to having a monkey on one's back.

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    1. See, I didn't even know they were similar. I'm learning all kinds of stuff!

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  26. Wonderful idea for A to Z! I should have thought of s theme!...I fly by the seat of my pants apparently!
    Kristy

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