Sunday, April 22, 2012

T - hanging by a Thread, Took the cake, Tip of the iceberg



Today's idioms are brought to you by the letter 'T'.  Ooh, and look, pretty pictures with this one!  I actually studied the painting of Damocles' Sword in college, and icebergs are just so gorgeous.  Google "Iceberg" and hit images.  All these images of icebergs come up - all the beautiful blues and whites are almost hypnotic.  :D

1.  She’s not failing, yet. She’s just barely hanging by a thread.


Meaning: to be in a dangerous or unsafe position.

Origin: This is based on the tale of the sword of Damocles, which dates back to the reign of a Sicilian tyrant at the end of the fifth century, B.C. Dionysius II, the tyrant of Syracuse, had a courtier named Damocles who was more or less a professional flatterer. Damocles would lie around all day at opulent feasts saying nice things to Dionysius. He once commented about how great it must be to be king. So, Dionysius invited him to come sit in his thrown, which Damocles did. Dionysius made sure that he was well supplied with opulent food and great service and cute waiters and beautiful perfumes and scented candles going. Damocles was having a grand time, thinking the king’s life was the best, when he looked up and happened to notice that hanging above his head was a gleaming sword, suspended by a single horsehair. Damocles begged Dionysius to be allowed to leave the throne and to go back to his subservient position as a courtier. He obviously got the point, which is that anybody who gets to enjoy immense wealth, luxury and power also is living under a threat.

2.  I’ve heard a lot of stories in my time, but Steve’s really took the cake.

Meaning: to deserve the highest award or prize.

Origin: A cake has been a popular prize at contests for many centuries. In the time of the ancient Greeks, the winner of the cake was the person who could stay awake the longest at an all-night party. In the late 1800s in the U.S., the cake winners were the couple judged best in a dance contest (called a cake walk). Now, cake walks are a festival or carnival game (often at schools) similar to musical chairs, where you walk in a circle from numbered tile to numbered tile until the music goes off. A number is drawn at random from a bag, and the person standing on that number gets to take the cake being awarded for that round.

3.  When it comes to chemistry, learning the symbols for the elements is just the tip of the iceberg.

Meaning: just a small part of a larger problem or a worse situation.

Origin: An iceberg is a huge body of ice that has broken away from a glacier and is floating in the ocean. The “tip of the iceberg” is a well-known 20th century metaphor that points out that the top is only a tiny part of a mountain of floating ice. An estimated 90 percent of an iceberg is hidden under water.


21 comments:

  1. I never knew "hanging by a thread" had such a colorful origin.

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  2. Iceberg is my fav. Thanks
    # 142 following
    Kate
    http://solidhappiness.blogspot.com/

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  3. Whenever I hear the sword of Damocles, it makes me think of the Rocky Horror Show! I am glad I finally know what it means!

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  4. Beautiful iceberg picture. I loved cakewalks at the field days at my school when I was a girl. I never got to take the cake :(

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  5. The iceberg pic is gorgeous. I'm talking about Titanic at the F.A.I.T.H. blog today. :) Fun!!

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  6. Leave it to a Sicilian, to make his point loud and clear with such a threat! LOL I love finding out about these origins, thanks Jaycee.

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  7. Those Greeks really knew how to party, didn't they. Imagine a saying sticking around for this long.

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  8. I knew about the iceberg but who knew cake used to be a prize? I'm assuming the ingredients were expensive. How cool is that!
    Thanks for sharing with us!
    Heather

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  9. I participated in a cake walk once, but I never knew that's where "took the cake" came from. Interesting!

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  10. I always say tip of the iceberg at work. Great post!

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  11. I only knew cake walk as an event at a fair. Never new about the Greek part. Thanks for the insight.

    ScribblesFromJenn
    Happy A to Z-ing!

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  12. I like that hanging by a thread story. I've used all of these before. And I'd love to take the cake every time.

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  13. I love that last image, even if it is a composite. Just like this one of the terminator, otherwise known as the line between day and night.

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  14. Hi
    I love the story about Damocles and Dionysus. Great metaphor!

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  15. Tip of the iceberg is easy to understand but didn't know about prize cakes.

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  16. If only someone had told the captain of the Titanic that the tip of iceberg means that there is usually much more below.

    I like cake walks. :)

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  17. Oh my gosh, I want to win a cake in every contest I enter.

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  18. We had cake walks in elementary school at our school fairs. I'd use all my tickets on cake walks just to try to win a cake.... I don't even like cake! (Unless it's carrot.) I never won. LOL

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  19. I wondered where those top two expressions came from. Now I know. Thanks for sharing!

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  20. I've always loved that iceberg pic!

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