Monday, May 7, 2007

Please don't "gild the lily"!

I often wonder who first started saying "gild the lily;" and why, like sheep, all the world followed the originator?

I'm not going to go through Shakespeare's King John to get the exact words, because I did that once before, but in essence, these two courtiers - the Earl of Somewhere-or-Other and the Earl-of-Somewhere Else - are decrying the idea of the King having another, bigger wedding to his Queen (apparently the first one didn't take or wasn't good enough).

To make a long story short, the first Earl says, "Would you PAINT the lily, GILD refinded gold, or throw a PERFUME on the violet?" These are all examples of foolish excess (like bringing coals to Newcastle!).

As my father said when he told me about this 75 years ago, why would you gild a lily anyway?

When I was a child, we used to make pretty winter bouquets out of milkweed stems and pods, which we gilded and combined with alder stems with the berries on them. But we never gilded a lily!


RUTH said...

Never gilded one myself either. It's a bit like dipping chocolates in chocolate fondue (now there's a It's always interesting to find the origins of things that we say and find out the real meaning (often words become changed). i.e.The saying "Spoiling the ship for a halfpenny worth of tar" actually relates to sheep.

Liz said...

Just called over from Mauigirl and the first thing I noticed is that your average bowling score is 118! That is amazing. I don't bowl often - that's my excuse - and I rarely get more than 60.

Anyway, I'll read your blog now.

Liz said...

I don't know what a milkweed stem is but a gilded pod would look pretty and festive.

I just looked up the phrase in my secondhand brand-new copy of Shaggy Dogs and Black Sheep. It's not there but it does mention 'giving someone the willies'. I'll have to look that!

Okay, the source is unclear but possibly it comes from the willow tree that was sometimes called a willy. Because it is associated with weeping and thus grief, this possibly explains why 'giving someone the willies' means you've made them uneasy. Hmm.

Mauigirl said...

Hi Liz, if you think my mom's average is good you should see my aunt. She's "only" 86 and she had a bowling score of 176 the other day, I believe it was! And I think her average is about 140! (Mom, did I get that right?) My aunt weights about 85 lbs. soaking wet...don't know how she does it!

Liz said...

Oh my, I want to see a photo in bowling gear! Two incredible ladies. Marge, you don't go to funeral parlours for viewings, do you?

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