Hello fellow Word Nerds. Sorry about missing a few Word Nerd posts, but things have been going off script around here, first with extended illness making its rounds in the family (mostly flu), and now with my husband’s back putting him completely out of commission. God is sustaining us through it all, but blogging hasn’t exactly been my top priority of late!
I haven’t forgotten that I still need to reveal the definition of flummadiddle—that will be at the end of this post—but with CFRR (Christian Fiction Reader’s Retreat) starting in Cincinnati on 12th August, and me stuck way over here in Australia, I thought it might be an appropriate time to ponder the origins of the phrase ‘green with envy’. 😉
The vast majority of explanations I found credit Shakespeare and quote Iago’s lines from Act 3 of Shakespeare’s Othello: “O! Beware my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-ey’d monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on.” However, I happen to know that in Much Ado About Nothing, Beatrice describes Claudio as being “civil as an orange, and something of that jealous complexion.” Why green in one, but orange in the other? And why did green stick? I had enough questions to dig a little deeper.
As it happens, there is a distinction between envy and jealousy that explains why Shakespeare associated them with two different colours, but I’ll save that for another post sometime. However, I did come across this explanation by Christian speaker and teacher Mary Kassian on her website Girls Gone Wise:
Why do we turn ‘green’ with envy? In antiquity, the Hebrew word for envy, qinah, referred to the burning color in the face produced by a deep emotion. The Greeks believed that jealousy was accompanied by an overproduction of bile, lending a yellowish-green pallor to the victim’s complexion. In the seventh century B.C., the poetess Sappho used the word ‘green’ to describe the face of a stricken lover. After that, the word was used freely by other poets to denote jealousy or envy.
Green was actually the colour the Greeks associated with illness in general (I’m sure there’s a sermon in that somewhere!) and we still say that someone looks ‘green’ when they’re ill, but it was Shakespeare who popularized the association between ‘green’ and envy—and not just in Othello. In Antony and Cleopatra he refers to it as ‘the green sickness’, and in The Merchant of Venice he describes ‘green-eyed jealousy.
With all that said, I do wish all my friends who are heading to Cincinnati a wonderful CFRR. I know you will have an absolutely AMAZING time and I look forward to seeing lots of photos!
And for those of you who have been waiting patiently during this whole post to find out the definition of flummadiddle, the answer was A) – Something foolish or worthless. Personally, I will be getting a lot of use out of this word in sentences such as: “Will you two stop fighting over such flummadiddles!” 🙂
Congratulations to those who guessed the correct definition. And happy word-nerding!