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Culture & Religion

The Bible Still Shapes Language

Familiar idioms like ‘a thorn in your side’ and ‘the writing on the wall’ come from the King James Bible. An English linguist has recorded 257 such idioms from the text.

In the past week or so, anyone following the news might have read that Jon Stewart is “a thorn in the side of politicians”; that Senator Harry Reid of Nevada won reelection “by the skin of his teeth”; and that people in the newspaper industry “see the writing on the wall.” That well-informed reader wouldn’t have been especially surprised to hear that these phrases all come from the same source, the Bible. The King James Version, wrote linguist David Crystal in 2004, “has contributed far more to English in the way of idiomatic or quasi-proverbial expressions than any other literary source.”


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