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Re: Ring true - coins, not bells

Posted by Woodchuck on March 27, 2003

In Reply to: Re: Ring true posted by kitty on March 27, 2003

: : : : What is the meaning of "ring true"? Thanks.

: : : I'm pretty sure this relates to church bells. A well cast bell will sound the correct note - it will 'ring true'. If there's a defect in the bell, then the intended note will be false. By ananolgy those things which 'ring true' are considered correct.

: : "Ring true" is in fact the motto of a college that I know. What does it mean in this context then? How would you define/explain the word "ring" here? Thanks.

: I would assume this was calling upon the students/alumni to strive for excellence and not exhibit any faults - figuratively speaking, to be like that perfect bell which "rings true," leaving a good, inspiring impression on their "audience"... ?

"Due to poor equipment and the scarcity of precious metals, metal workers of the Middle Ages were not able to produce coins that were uniform in appearance and weight. This situation gave criminals an opportunity they couldn't resist. Thus, when in doubt over a coin's validity, a tradesman would drop it on a stone slab to "sound it." If phony, it'd make a shrill or dull, flat tone in contrast to the clear ring of a true coin. By extension, a story tested and found acceptable is said to ring true, and its opposite, to ring false or hollow."

-Nancy M. Kendall, "True and false", "Christian Science Monitor" 3/19/2003

Ms. Kendall cites 'The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins,' by Robert Hendrickson; 'The Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins,' by W. and M. Morris; 'The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology,' by R. Barnhart in her sources.