Why do We Say Steal Someone’s Thunder?

Like soap opera, this phrase is one of those little bits of language which seems quite bizarre when you really look at it. But like soap opera, most of us don’t really look at it like that, because we’re so used to it.

And also, I think, like soap opera, it just feels right. For me I think that was because it seems somewhat classical, ancient. Maybe it’s because it makes me unconsciously think of aspects of Ancient Greek myths, like the story of Prometheus stealing fire from the gods, and Zeus’ thunderbolts.

Despite its classical feel though, the phrase is actually relatively modern, and its origin can be traced to a very specific point.

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In One Fell Swoop

In a news article today about the new US tax bill, the writer said:

In one fell swoop, the Republicans have introduced some of the largest changes…

In one fell swoop is a pretty common phrase, perhaps almost to the point of cliché. But where does it come from, and what exactly does it mean?

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Wherefore Must Thou Misquote Me?

I could write a number of different posts about William Shakespeare, and I probably will end up doing so. Genius is a word that can be thrown around too easily, but I think we can safely apply it to Shakespeare. The number of words he coined, the beauty of his language, and the thematic richness of his works are incomparable to much else. But I won’t write too much about him now. What I’m interested in for the moment is when people get Shakespeare wrong. There are many of his quotations everyone is familiar with, regardless of how much they know about his work. But quite often, we misquote or misinterpret them. For example: Continue reading