Friday, May 11, 2012

Truth or Fiction? Take It With a Grain of Salt

Do you wonder where some of the expressions we use everyday come from?  I do.  So when I used the expression "take it with a grain of salt" in a post, I knew I had to explore it further.  In my ongoing quest to find the answers to life's everyday questions, I turned to Google.  Doesn't everyone?  As with most expressions, there are variations on the origin.

First we find that having "salt in your pumpkin" is a good thing.  Now when I think of pumpkins, I naturally think of pie, don't you.  Anyway, in Italy pumpkin is another way of saying head, and "a grain of salt" often refers to intelligence.  All of which is a roundabout way of saying that if you have salt in your pumpkin you are someone with intelligence and good reasoning skills.

Wieliczka Salt Mine by Anna Strummillo
In it's Latin form, "cum grano salis" is often used when the situation at hand requires care and good personal judgment.

The Modern English version of "take it with a grain of salt", is really saying "don't take this seriously".  In other words, don't believe everything you hear.  When I was a kid, Mom would sometimes say that when I would tell her something I'd heard from some of the neighbors who were apt to embellish a bit on the facts.

Going all the way back to 77 A.D. it was written that a grain of salt was an ingredient in an antidote for poisoning, indicating that the effects of the poison may be moderated by taking a grain of salt.  Along these same lines, salt was once believed to have healing properties, and thus eating or drinking anything with a grain of salt was a form of preventative medicine.  Now we are told to limit our salt intake for health reasons, but it is also said that history repeats itself. 

What are some of your favorite expressions?


  1. Hi Linda .. great descriptions - there's a certain truth there.

    Gargling with warm salty water is excellent for sore throats .. and salt stops slugs dead! Probably shouldn't combine those!!

    Cheers have a Happy Mother's Day weekend .. Hilary

  2. Eewww, gargling with warm, salty slugs. Um, excuse me - I have to leave now.

  3. We say a 'pinch' of salt here.

    I often have a warm salt mouthwash (no slugs). It's great for healing gums and mouth sores.

  4. Hilary- It is interesting where all our sayings come from, and I know what you mean about salting slugs. However fresh mint keeps them away with no need for salting. Happy Mother's Day to you as well.

    DH- I agree!

    Babs- That is a remedy worse than the malady to me. I'll just eat an order of salty fries, and yes, no slugs.

  5. Cool. So fun to read the history and different meanings behind this expression. We use it in Swedish too and I hear people say it every now and then. And we also use it in the sense of "don't take it too seriously".

    Now, I can't think of an expression that is my favourite at the moment, but there sure are a lot out there though.

    Thank you for sharing. :-)


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