Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pedantry for pleasure and profit

Man came on the radio to tell us about Zimbabwe. It was Adam Mynott, of the BBC. This of itself is unexceptional, but at one point he used the phrase "the wheels of industry are grinding slowly forward." This seems a peculiar metaphor. The sort of wheels that grind are those found in mills, for the making such things as flour or coffee; these wheels do not move forward. The sort of wheels that move forward are usually the sort that propel vehicles; but these do not usually grind, unless they are moving on roads made of grain or coffee beans.

Mr Mynott, of course, is using a confused adaptation of the metaphor "the wheels of justice grind exceeding small." This, in turn, is an adaptation of the phrase "though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small," which is a translation by Longfellow of a verse by Friedrich von Logau.

I thought you should know. Carry on with whatever you were doing.

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