Monday, July 27, 2009

Things I catch myself saying....

Posted by Terry McNichols

On a lighter note than some of last week's posts -- I find that there are certain expressions that come to me automatically from time to time, unbidden. I'm sure you have some as well. One of my favorite pastimes, with the onset of the internet, is to try to track down the origins of expressions I find myself using. (Another pastime is debunking the email urban myths that so many people forward before verifying.... but that's another story). Just today, when something especially exciting happened, I heard myself say, "Be still, my beating heart!" I use that expression often, and to me it means that something is so wonderful as to take my breath away.

I often amaze my acquaintances with my ability to search and find trivial information on the internet. The truth to that trick, however, is much too simple. By merely typing the phrase or urban myth or lyric or crossword clue into Google search, it is possible to present oneself as extremely witty and profound. So today, in search of the origins of my expression, I did indeed type "be still, my beating heart" into the search engine. Click here if you'd like the full explanation of the beginnings of that expression. I would love to claim that I learned it from William Mountfort's Zelmane, 1705, "Ha! hold my Brain; be still my beating Heart," as that is the true expression. I think it is more likely that I was given the full statement or told of the origin when I took part in a high school production of HMS Pinafore! Here's the clue:

The expression, and the comic manner it is now delivered, was brought to a wide public in Gilbert and Sullivan's opera HMS Pinafore, 1878:

Aye, even though Jove's armoury were launched at the head of the audacious mortal whose lips, unhallowed by relationship, dared to breathe that precious word, yet would I breathe it once, and then perchance be silent vermore. Josephine, in one brief breath I will concentrate the hopes, the doubts, the anxious fears of six weary months. Josephine, I am a British sailor, and I love you!

Sir, this audacity!
(Aside.) Oh, my heart, my beating heart!
(Aloud.) This unwarrantable presumption on the part of a common sailor!

So, do be still, my beating heart, and await news of future possible joy units ahead (joy units being a favorite expression of my late father-in-law!)

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