Monday, 6 July 2009
Ring the changes
If you are tempted to use the phrase 'Ring the changes' it is, quite simply, safer not to do so.
It's original meaning and the meaning many people now ascribe to it are different so your reader or listener is not necessarily going to know what you mean.
Nowadays many people take it to be an alternative way of saying 'making changes'. But it has its origins in bell-ringing where each order of striking the bells is called a change. To 'ring the changes' involves ringing all the possible variations of striking order and then starting again. Ringing the changes was therefore a repetitive act with different variations rather than the complete change meant by its modern interpretation.