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Today's Word



Jun 22, 2020
This week’s theme
Words coined after metals

This week’s words
golden calf
silver spoon
brass tacks

golden calf
The Adoration of the Golden Calf, 1633-1634

Previous week’s theme
Words made with combining forms
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with Anu Garg

In Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Portia’s suitors get to pick one of three caskets: gold, silver, and lead. Each casket has a scroll that informs the suitor if he has won her hand. A prince picks a gold casket and when he opens it, a scroll inside it says:

All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold (Many have sold their lives/souls)
But my outside to behold. (To see my shiny surface)
Gilded tombs do worms enfold. (But gilded tombs actually hold worms)

All that glitters is not gold. Shakespeare said it 500 years ago, but many still haven’t learned it. Take elections, for example, when voters sometimes go for a gilded casket, instead of a solid, not-so-flashy candidate.

Of course, writers before and after Shakespeare have been warning us of fool’s gold and even gold:

“Although gold dust is precious, when it gets in your eyes, it obstructs your vision.”

“How can you sing if your mouth be filled with food? How shall your hand be raised in blessing if it is filled with gold?”
-Kahlil Gibran

“Art is like baby shoes. When you coat them with gold, they can no longer be worn.”
-John Updike

Also see Midas touch, goldbrick, and more.

This week we’ll see five words derived from gold and other metals. Last week we told you how to start a rock band and this week we might even introduce you to heavy metal.

golden calf

(GOL-den KAHF)

noun: Someone or something unworthy that is excessively esteemed.

In the biblical story Moses came down from Mount Sinai carrying stone tablets with the Ten Commandments only to find Israelites worshiping a calf made of gold. Earliest documented use: 1575.

“[Conservatives] are about to elect a golden calf as their next leader and, by default, their prime minister.”
George Pitcher; It’s Time for Christians to Speak Out Against Boris Johnson; The Guardian (London, UK); Jun 18, 2019.

See more usage examples of golden calf in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

This book (All Quiet on the Western Front) is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war. -Erich Maria Remarque, novelist (22 Jun 1898-1970)

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