Fun Facts About Language #2

In case you didn’t know, I love language. So bare with me as we (I) explore the meaning behind words and phrases …

I’m so glad you asked. Read on …

Ax to grind – The creation of this phrase is attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who used it in an article entitled “Too Much for Your Whistle.” It means a private or selfish motive behind a request or action – something which is not obvious at first glance. The story is that of a man who had an ax which needed to be sharpened. He pretended to young Franklin that he didn’t know how a grindstone worked and asked Franklin to show him. Many turns of the handle later Franklin was weary, the ax was beautifully sharp and the man, having gained his objective, only jeered at Franklin for having been hoodwinked.

As the crow flies – means the shortest distance between two points. The crow flies straight to its destination.

All Greek to me – goes back to Shakespeare. The line was first spoken by Casca, one of the conspirators against Caesar in the first act of Julius Caesar. He was speaking of the comments made by Cicero after Caesar three times refused the crown of emperor. Cicero actually did speak Greek, using that language as a device to make sure that casual passers-by did not understand his remarks. Today the expression, “It’s all Greek to me” simply means that what has been said is beyond the speaker’s understanding.