A Turn of Phrase: Idiotic Idioms Master List
Updated: Feb 6
Here we've compiled all the best sayings, idioms, and slang the Middle Ages has to offer.
"Swearing by the straw:" (Ep 1) This saying became an idiom when Christians, Muslims, and Jews worked and lived together and needed to swear an oath. Not wanting to swear on anyone but their own God, they would hold onto a piece of straw and swear "by whomever created this straw," thereby relieving the hassle of having a theological debate when there was business to attend to.
"You speak of cold roast!" (Ep 1) Want to dismiss someone in the most provincial, medieval way possible? This'll do it.
"Cold is the counsel of women:" (Ep 1) A saying grumbled by many an annoyed husband in the Norse sagas. Despite it's derogatory nature, the counsel given by women in the Norse sagas is disregarded to the men's ill fortune. More broadly, this phrase illustrates the common motif in medieval literature that women's words are often disregarded, for better or worse.
"What are you? (Ep 3) This is a great question to ask to any entity that suddenly appears to you or speaks to you, whether it's a priest fallen into your feast or a talking deer. Make sure you know what sort of creature you're dealing with.
"Mark ye!" (Ep 3) Need to make someone listen to you? Just want to yell at your coworker Mark? This phrase will let you do both!
"Most grows old that passes by:" (Ep. 5) Meaning "things grow old in time," this phrase is particularly good to say to a friend who has been whinging about something for just too long.
"Seldom does the Devil lie dead by the road:" (Ep. 9) Meaning that the Devil's not idle and you shouldn't trust a person with past bad habits, this is a great phrase to use when the kids are too quiet in the house.
"Flax on my distaff:" (Ep. 9) This one will help you get out of a morning conversation since it means that you have other things to do!
"Go walk in the waning moon:" (Ep. 9) Though half the nights of the year are waning moons, waning moons used to be a sign of bad luck. This phrase is a short and effective curse.
"Toss someone in canvas:" (Ep. 9) To toss someone in a canvas was a form of common justice and punishment. The canvas in question separated wheat from chaff, and was big enough to bruise some one about inside.
"You drink what you brew:" (Ep. 9) A lovely variation on "you reap what you sow."
"Wet your whistle:" (Ep. 9) This phrase is also used in Chaucer, giving it a solid heritage in Middle and Modern English.
"Tiny little mop" and "daystar:" (Ep. 9) Two affectionate phrases used to refer to children.
"Baptized you with that name" (Ep 11: Mac Da Tho's Pig) A insult delivered by Cet, denoting how one of the warriors earned his name as the 'the one-legged' - given that Cet was the one who severed the man's leg to begin with.
"Possess yourself of distant fortresses" (Ep 12: Gesta Romanorum, Pt. 2) Want to order your knights to go a-pillaging? This might be the order to use! This phrase refers to taking over another's land and property.
We do our best to accurately research, source, and cite the works we use, and make them available to you, too! Each episode has a corresponding blog post which includes further breakdowns of the big ideas in each text as well as cites our sources and references. We also have the Maniculum Library, which actively collects resources and recommendations for writers, scholars, and geeks alike! We update our collection of Master Lists after each new episode, so be sure subscribe and stay updated!
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