Pascal Trégueretymology, French/English, religionanimals, Christianity, dictionaries, Germanic, Latin, phrases, vegetal, Virgil


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The phrase a snake in the grass denotes a treacherous human being or harmful thing that is surprise or look at harmless.

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It may at some point be after the complying with from Eclogues, through the roman poet Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro – 70-19 BC):

Qui legitis flores et humi nascentia fraga, frigidus, O pueri, fugite hinc, latet anguis in herba. (translation: A. S. Kline – 2001) You boys that choose flowers, and strawberries, close to the ground, run away from here, a cold line hides in the grass.

The English phrase first appeared together the title of a book, released in London in 1696, by Charles Leslie (1650-1722), a nonjuring Church the Ireland cleric (i.e. A cleric that refused to take it the oath of allegiance to wilhelm III and also Mary II in 1689):

The line in the grass: or, Satan transform’d right into an angel of light. Learning the deep and unsuspected subtilty i m sorry is couched under the pretended simplicity of plenty of of the major leaders the those world call’d Quakers

Thomas blacksmith (1638-1710), a nonjuring cleric and expelled other of Magdalen College, Oxford, used the phrase in a letter dated fifth March 1709:

(from Remarks and Collections of cutting board Hearne – Oxford, 1886) they are now striking in ~ the structures of the Colleges the both Universityes, under the pretense of having the law repealed, wᶜʰ oblige the Fellowes to take it H. Orders: however it is visible, that there is a snake in the grasse, and also the designe is mischievous, upon the Supposition of your being created in the time of ignorance and also Superstition: wᶜʰ will equally host to lessen the number of Dignityes in Cathedrals, and by degrees draw on the sacrilegious intrusion of their revenues, to maintaine this divine warre against Popery, and also introduce Presbyterian same & poverty amongst our Clergy.

The very same idea was expressed through the useless phrase a pad in the straw, whereby pad, of german origin, method toad. That is an initial recorded in the textbook Lesclarcissement de la langue francoyse (1530), by the teacher and scholar that languages john Palsgrave (died 1554):

(1852 edition) There is a padde in the strawe. Il y a de loignon. Despite they make never ever so fayre a face, yet there is a padde in the strawe: tant tiennent ilz bonne myne, or tant facent ilz bonne mine, si il y a de loignon.

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The obsolete French phrase il y a de l’oignon, accurate there is some onion, way there are obscure motives, suspicious events, which offer an inkling that challenges are afoot. Randle Cotgrave interpreted it, under the headword oignon, in A Dictionarie that the French and also English Tongues (1611):

Il y a de l’oignon. Over there is a pad in the straw, there’s rather amisse amongst them.

The beginning of this French expression is obscure; possibly the picture is the such engine or events, choose an onion, offer one reasons to cry…