Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Everybody knows that when your ears burn, it means that someone' talking about you behind your back. Or your head's on fire. Or that mid-life crisis piercing you got is infected and you should probably get that looked at. But how do we know that burning ears means gossip? Because the ancient Romans told us so. Pliny and Plautus to be specific. They explained it down to the individual ear - since the left is evil and the right good, a burning left ear means people are saying bad things, and a burning right ear means good.
If your palm itches, you're coming into money. Or that's what they say... I call shenanigans. If it were true, I'd be loaded, on account of I've had eczema all my life. This goes back to at least Shakespeare (Julius Caesar), but it's clear from the context that the belief was already well-established. 
A sudden, unexplained chill is said to be the result of a goose walking over your grave. Meaning that wherever your final resting place is, there's a goose on it. Swift (Jonathan, not Taylor) said "there's somebody walking over my grave" in the 1700s. This doesn't seem to be related to goosebumps, which got their name from the fact that they make your skin resemble a plucked goose. 

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