Posted by Lewis on January 15, 2004
In Reply to: Re: Bite your tongue posted by ESC on January 13, 2004
: : : : : HI, can you please help me find the meaning and orlgin of this phrase.
: : : : Bite your tongue. It means keep quiet. Don't say anything.
: : : Can you tell us how this phrase originated?
: : It sounds very 'Bible or Shakespeare'. Can't find it in the Bible. It does come up in Shakespeare in King Henry IV:
: : So York must sit and fret and bite his tongue,
: : While his own lands are bargain'd for and sold.
: : Shakespeare was very fond of the word tongue; it appears hundreds of times in his plays. Incidentally, he never used the word Bible.
: And the Bible never mentions Shakespeare.
It is no flaming wonder that Old Bill did not mention the bible. around the Elizabethan era and reign of James I (VI of Scotland) - the publication of scripture to the general public was regarded as heresy. the idea was that if people thought for themselves, they might not agree 100% with the local priest and that would undermine the authority of the church. as a result, honest and well-meaning folk were periodically burnt to a crisp at the local stake house for such naughtiness as distributing scripture. whatever Shakespeare had done, he would have risked both his soul and body, should he have been thought espousing heresy, which somebody would have doubtless asserted. King James had opinions on the matter, but although Shakespeare was driven by his patrons' prejudices (see Macbeth), he would not use the proverbial bargepole.
there may be reference to 'holy writ' or some such thing. A bible being The book, may simply have not been an expression in general use - 'scripture' yes, 'holy word' probably 'writ' probable too - but the word Bible, which had deadly consequences may have been too dangerous to use.