"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."
Friday, 6 November 2009
Bisciones and Snakes in the Grass
A snake in the grass is someone you trusted who then let you down or turned on you.
I love quizzes like Eggheads - one learns a lot (and forgets ten times as much). One of the recent questions was "Which car manufacturer has a badge depicting a snake eating a man?" It gave three options - Maserati, Alfa Romeo and a manufacturer of which I had never heard. I thought I could picture the first two so I chose the latter. But, hey presto, it is Alfa Romeo.
The Alfa Romeo badge looks quite classy and heraldic but upon examination it does have a giant snake eating a man? Apparently the owners of Alfa Romeo - the Lombard Automobile Factory - wanted a logo that was associated with their home city of Milan, so they used symbols that Milan had used since the Crusades. The red cross is a typical Christian symbol of medieval heraldry and was used extensively throughout the Crusades. In those days seeing a load of chaps with red crosses painted on them didn’t mean “medic”, it meant: rampaging, sword-weilding nutters of dubious origin - run for your life.
The man in the serpent's mouth is even more controversial. It’s a symbol called a biscione (Italian for a large grass snake) - Yes, I've eventually got around the the word of the day. In a biscione the man in the image is the traditional Crusader's enemy, the Saracen or Moor (in other words a Muslim). So the whole serpent motif is all about the Christians Crusaders’ defeat of the 'infidels'.
Alfa obviously doesn’t like people to call attention to this but I find it fascinating and have to wonder how many rich Arabian Sheiks are innocently parading this symbol around the Middle East. I guess you could say anyone doing so was a snake in the grass.
My daughter Helen commented in November 2008 in her Blog that she was now keeping a notebook of new words that she came across during her reading. "This week I bought a lovely little leather bound book to write new words in as I read them . I've added a few from "1984", but my favourite has to be persiflage (from the French persifler) which means banter." I later discovered that my older daughter, Bryony, also kept a similar notebook.
This inspired me to create a Word blog. This will include both new words, favourite words and the origins of phrases that we commonly use. A definition and some comment, perhaps even a relevant quotation, will acompany the word or phrase.
“I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me.” - Winnie the Pooh
Thanks for stopping by! Would you like a cup of tea or coffee? And please, sit for a spell. If you enjoy my posts, please feel free to follow me or subscribe to my blog. This is a word verification free, family friendly blog, so everything I share here is for all ages. I am a happily married man in my late sixties who lives on the Wirral peninsula, near Liverpool, in the UK.
I'm a blogger - and nowadays that seems to be my main occupation. Rambles from My Chair is my main blog. I’m a retired local government executive - now studying how to survive a neurological disorder that gives me various problems but, hopefully, a whole new outlook on life and an increased sense of humour and perspective. There is a saying in Sweden "man måste vara frisk för att orka vara sjuk" ~ "you have to be well to cope with being ill"....
I enjoy most forms of communication and postcards are a special favourite. I used to blog as Scriptor Senex which is Latin for Old Writer but now Google only lets me post as John Edwards.
“He’s not so old. He’s just the age that he is, that’s all.” (Gerald Hammond)