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Word for the Wise December 13, 2006 Broadcast Topic: Rue the day

Although herbalist fabulists may rue today’s program, word lovers committed to truthtelling will, we hope, be glad we’re weeding out tall tales today. (来源:老牌的英语学习网站 http://www.EnglishCN.com)

The way the story in question goes, the expression rue the day has its origin in the onetime practice of a person throwing a handful of the herb rue into someone’s face (or, more generally, throwing the rue at an enemy, perhaps while cursing him or her).

We regret having to nip this story in the bud (well, not really, but we would regret passing up a pun), but the perennial sometimes called the herb of grace and which has all sorts of associations with fighting witchcraft and aiding eyesight did not give our lexicon the expression rue the day.

Rue the day is, in fact, rooted in the rue whose ancient Germanic and Norse linguistic kin meant "grieve; regret; sorrowful." The noun rue is as old as English itself; the verb dates back to before the 12th century.

While the herb rue was mentioned in the Bible and blessed by the Prophet Mohammed, its name didn’t appear in English until the 13th century. The medicinal rue took a different path into our language than the repentant rue; we can thank the Greeks and the Romans for their use of (and their names for) that bitter herb.

 
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