Famous Quotes & Happiness
Fit as a fiddle
The cliché “fit as a fiddle” is used to describe someone who is in a superb state of health. The “fiddle” referred to in this very old English expression is a stringed musical instrument, usually the violin. As these need to be kept in excellent condition to keep them sounding good, it’s thought that people began to compare their own good health with that of their instrument. The use of this phrase is attested as early as 1616, when Haughton William wrote in a book called English-men for my Money, “This is excellent ynfayth [in faith], as fit as a fiddle.” It’s fascinating to think that we’re still using the same phrase, four hundred years later; this sense of history has to be one of the most interesting aspects of learning English.
Every cloud has a silver lining
Testament to the persistent optimism of many British people is the cliché “every cloud has a silver lining”, and we felt it would be an uplifting note on which to end this article. It’s used to provide reassurance to those going through a tough time, to tell them that something good will come of even the worst situation – even if you can’t see it at the time. A cloud (sadness or difficulty) may block out the sun (happiness), but its hidden silver lining will see some good come of it. The “silver lining” bit came from a poem by John Milton written in 1634; in “Comus: A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle”, Milton wrote, “there does a sable cloud / Turn forth her silver lining on the night”. It wasn’t until the Victorian period that its modern usage came about, when it took a slightly different form: “There’s a silver lining to every cloud”. Whichever way round you say it, though, you could see it as applying to your English studies: the language may throw many challenging complexities at you that seem impossible to overcome at the moment, but the silver lining is that eventually, you’ll master a beautiful and extraordinarily rich language and give yourself access to some of the world’s best literature.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this introduction to English clichés, past and present. If you’re feeling bewildered by the sheer number of weird and wonderful expressions in this colourful language, don’t despair. Take the bull by the horns, and you’ll soon get the hang of them and start avoiding clichés like the plague along with all the best English speakers!