Posted by ESC on December 26, 2003
In Reply to: "On a roll" and "the worm hath turned"...can anyone help with these two? posted by Jan on December 26, 2003
: My family members have been enjoying making up crazy meanings and origins for these phrases because none of us know the correct ones. We'd like your input.
THE WORM TURNS - "Someone previously downtrodden gets his revenge; an unfavorable situation is reversed. The saying represents an evolution of the old proverb, 'Tread on a worm and it will turn.' The meaning was that even the most humble creature tries to counteract rough treatment. Shakespeare picked up the thought in Henry VI, Part 3, where Lord Clifford urges the king against 'lenity and harmful pity, saying:
To whom do lions cast their gentle looks?
Not to the beast that would usurp their den.
The smallest worm will turn being trodden on,
And doves will peck in safeguard of their brood.'"
"The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).