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The Worm Turns… June 16, 2007

Posted by mataenglish in Just pondering.

Okay, here’s an interesting thought: In New Zealand [and in other places in the world] there’s an expression about a ‘turning worm’ or ‘the way the worm turns’. What’s that about? My understanding is that it refers to a twist of some kind that is unexpected, typical of things that sometimes happen in life. Isn’t it interesting how people use expressions every day with little understanding of where they come from, and in many cases what they actually mean?

So, anyone know where this particular worm comes from?

THE WORM TURNS – “Someone previously downtrodden gets his revenge; an unfavorable situation is reversed. The saying represents an evolution of the old proverb, ‘Tread on a worm and it will turn.’ The meaning was that even the most humble creature tries to counteract rough treatment. Shakespeare picked up the thought in Henry VI, Part 3, where Lord Clifford urges the king against ‘lenity and harmful pity, saying:
To whom do lions cast their gentle looks?
Not to the beast that would usurp their den.
The smallest worm will turn being trodden on,
And doves will peck in safeguard of their brood.'”
“The Dictionary of Cliches” by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

Cited on: http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/22/messages/97.html


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