or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Grinding Away

Here's a paragraph from "The press buries Gerald R. Ford in meaningless platitudes", a Slate.com article about, well, what the title's about:

The press has probably gone soft on Ford because he gave them very little material to work with. But he was more zero than cipher, somebody who made no enemies in politics because he rarely took meaningful political stands. Neither moderate nor conservative, he appears to have reached his political and personal zenith in the late 1960s and early 1970s when he happily led the humiliated minority in the House of Representatives. He excelled at bowing—to Democrats, to the press, to foreign dictators, as my Slate colleague Christopher Hitchens documents in his serving of strong meat.

I quoted the whole paragraph to give some context in case you don't feel like reading the entire article. Aren't I good to you?

What interested me was the last bit, "strong meat". Isn't that a genuinely strange expression when you look at it? "Strong" has a lot of meanings, hardly any of which you'd think could apply to meat, so this clearly is a metaphor of some sort. The wording seems archaic, so that almost certainly means one thing: it's from either the Bible or Shakespeare.

The Bible, as it turns out. That wasn't so hard to discover. What was unexpectedly hard was finding out just what the phrase means. I could have guessed, because, in context, it makes a sort of sense (as much as anything in the Bible makes sense, I mean), but isn't it better to know?

I don't own a concordance, or even a Bible, so I Googled the damned thing until the word "strong" lost all meaning and became a mere collision of letters, and finally came upon this page, which contains a section from the Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, which clearly I need to get a copy of tout de suite. Here's the relevant paragraph:

milk for babies something easy and pleasant to learn; especially in allusion to 1 Corinthians 3:2 and Hebrews 5:12, contrasted with 'strong meat' (see > STRONG).

Well, that's that sorted, then! "Strong", in this context, clearly means "tough to chew", which in fact is one of the standard meanings, more or less: it's related to such commonplaces as "good strong teeth": something which is resistant to wear or damage. Strong meat, by this metaphor, is something difficult to learn, something which requires you to (another metaphor) chew on it for a while.


Blogger Bright Beak said...

As for either/both Bible and Concordance, I could be obliging and part with one of each, seeing as I have more than I can use at any one time. Heck, I could even give you a choice of version and binding!
And no, I am NOT kidding. Though I do not own a concordance for all the versions of the Bible I own.


Saturday, January 06, 2007 5:50:00 PM  

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