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Salad days. June 30, 2011

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben was helping Silence Dogood get salad ingredients to make fatoosh, a Lebanese salad with lots of parsley and pita chips (as well as Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, mint, garlic, and a lemon-sumac dressing) for a gathering tonight. Suddenly, the phrase “salad days” popped into my head. I asked Silence if she knew the origin of the phrase, and she didn’t. She wondered how many Americans were even aware the phrase existed.

Our friend Ben can’t answer that, but I figured that, with some help from my good friend Google, I could at least find out how it came to be. Up popped Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words website (www.worldwidewords.org) with a definitive answer:

“It [first] appears in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra of 1606, in the speech at the end of Act One in which Cleopatra is regretting her youthful dalliances with Julius Caesar: ‘My salad days, When I was green in judgment’.”

Mr. Quinion adds an interesting aside about salad itself, noting that in Shakespeare’s time, salads were made of chopped, seasoned vegetables. (So they more closely resembled today’s trendy chopped salads rather than a tossed salad.) He also points out that the word “salad” itself derives from the Latin for “salt.” (Which, we discovered elsewhere, is salis, presumably because salt featured prominently in their seasoning. Of course Silence and I approve.)

Thank you, Mr. Quinion, for relieving our ignorance. And thank you, Mr. Shakespeare, for your many contributions to the English language. We wish we had read you a bit more attentively in our salad days!

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