Home Grammar Getting all the way down to the bone

Getting all the way down to the bone

Getting all the way down to the bone


Q: In Joe Biden’s first go to to the Mideast as president, he mentioned the connection between the Israeli and American folks was “bone-deep.” Is that one other Scrantonism?

A: No, “bone-deep” just isn’t a Scrantonism from President Biden’s early childhood in Pennsylvania. Neither is it an American regionalism. Though the time period was first recorded in New England, it has appeared in writing within the US and the UK for the reason that nineteenth century.

Apparently, two comparable expressions are a lot older, “to the bone,” which dates again to Anglo-Saxon days, and “skin-deep,” which confirmed up in England within the early seventeenth century.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “bone-deep” actually as “to a depth that reaches or exposes a bone” and figuratively as “to the core” or “very deeply.”

When the time period first appeared, it was an adverb used figuratively. The earliest OED instance, which we’ve expanded, is from a Jan. 28, 1839, letter by H. W. Inexperienced, a former editor of The Jap Argus in Portland, ME, to Francis O. J. Smith, a congressman from Maine.

In response to a letter from Smith to a different Maine newspaper, The Frankfort Intelligencer, Inexperienced says he’s “branding bone-deep upon your brow, if the information of infamy already written there have left house ample, a phrase which I might by no means use in controversy with a gentleman—the phrase LIAR!”

The dictionary’s subsequent adverbial quotation, one other figurative use, is from “Fashionable Logicians,” an 1861 article by Sir William Hamilton in The British Controversialist and Literary Journal, London:

“The trenchant weapon of the consummate analyst is pointed to the flaw within the mailed armour of his opponents, and he cuts bone-deep into the seemingly safe harness.”

The OED’s first instance for “bone-deep” used adjectivally is figurative too. We’ve expanded the quotation to provide it context:

“We who had been in and of the military might really feel an on the spot and bone-deep change within the males round us when it turned recognized that Area-Marshall Lord Roberts was popping out to take command” (The Instances of India, June 12, 1900).

The OED says “bone-deep” is “ceaselessly figurative and in figurative contexts.” Many of the dictionary’s examples are figurative.

The earliest literal utilization cited is from The Illinois Medical Journal, August 1904: “A bone-deep incision is carried from the femoral vein alongside the pubic ramus to the origin of the pubic backbone.”

As for “to the bone,” the OED defines the expression this manner: “proper by means of the flesh in order to achieve the bone. Incessantly hyperbolical, or in figurative contexts.”

The primary Oxford quotation, which we’ve expanded, is from an Outdated English letter by Abbot Ælfric of Eynsham that features what it describes because the torture of the Apostle John by the Roman Emperor Domitian:

“Domicianus hatte se deoflica casere, þe æfter Nerone þa reðan ehtnyssa besette on þam cristenum, & hello acwealde mid witum. Se het genyman þone halgan apostol & on weallendum ele he het hine baðian, for ðan þe se hata ele gæð in to ðam bane.” (“Domitian, probably the most devilish emperor after Nero, cruelly persecuted the Christians and reigned over them with torments. He commanded this holy Apostle to be taken & bathed with boiling oil, for warm oil pierces to the bone.”) From Ælfric’s Letter to Sigeweard, written within the late tenth or early eleventh century.

The earliest figurative use of the expression within the OED is from The Proverbs of Hendyng, a set of non secular and ethical recommendation written in verse round 1250: “Betere is þe holde loverd þen þe newe, þat þe wole frete and gnawe / To þe naked bone” (“Higher is the outdated lover than the brand new, who will devour and gnaw to the bone”).

Lastly the dictionary defines “skin-deep” as “penetrating no deeper than the pores and skin; on the floor solely; superficial, shallow.” When the time period first appeared within the early seventeenth century, it was an adjective used proverbially to point the bounds of magnificence.

The earliest OED quotation is from “A Spouse,” a poem by Thomas Overbury describing the qualities a younger man ought to search for in a spouse: “All of the carnall Beautie of my spouse, / Is however skinne-deepe.” The poem was printed in 1614, a 12 months after the creator’s loss of life.

The dictionary’s first literal instance describes a schoolchild’s accidents in playground brawls: “His wounds are seldome aboue pores and skin deepe” (from New & Choise Characters With Spouse, a set of sketches by Overbury and others that had been printed in 1615 alongside along with his poem).

We’ll finish with a historic word: Overbury, who was a secretary, shut adviser, and buddy to Robert Carr, a favourite of King  James I, wrote the poem in an try to steer Carr to not marry Frances Howard, the estranged spouse of the Earl of Essex.

She and her household, led by the Duke of Norfolk, are mentioned to have plotted towards Overbury, leading to his imprisonment within the Tower of London, the place he died on Sept. 14, 1613. The Essex marriage was annulled 11 days later, and he or she married Carr, then Earl of Somerset, two months after that.

In 1615, a Yorkshire apothecary’s assistant confessed on his deathbed that Frances Howard had paid him £20 for poison to homicide Overbury in jail. She, her husband, and 4 others had been finally convicted of the homicide. The King pardoned the couple; the 4 others had been executed.

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