Posted by ESC on September 19, 2002
In Reply to: Of the first water posted by Ed Stansell on September 19, 2002
: : I believe you may be mistaken in your explanation.I believe it relates to
the making of mead. Originally, the honeycombs were washed after the initial recovery
of liquid honey and the resulting honey/water mixture was fermented. The hishest
quality mead came from the first washing, or first water, with subsequent washings
producing an inferior brew.
: : The phrase "of the FIRST water" would seem to have little to do with diamond quality
: My take on this figure of speech
is that it refers to birth as opposed to baptism. Someone born into a position
is of greater rank than one who is ceremonially included. For example; a
: person born to nobility is of higher rank than one married into it. You must bear in mind that when many of these saying began, the Bible was of greater influence in the lives of people than it is today and it was a source of many maxims and sayings.
This reference agrees with the diamond theory.
OF THE FIRST WATER - "Of the highest quality. For centuries diamonds were graded as 'first water,' 'second water,' or 'third water,' the use of 'water ' in this sense arising from the resemblance of the diamond to water in its clarity and translucence. Only the figurative expression survives now. Theodore E. Hook took note of it in 'Sayings and Doings' : 'He was certain her family were by no means of 'the first water.'" From "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).