Posted by Smokey Stover on June 05, 2006
In Reply to: true to one's roots posted by Smokey Stover on June 05, 2006
: : true to one's roots
: : &
: : stay true to one's roots
: : be true to one's roots
: : What's the phrase's generic meaning?
: : the Context:
: : "Let her be true to her roots. She was born humble"
: "True to one's roots" is a phrase with a lot of latitude. It may refer to how you were brought up, or where and in what circumstances you were born, or what may have been the culture of your ancestors. It may also refer to persistent interests you may personally have had. In Alex Haley's "Roots," the emphasis seems to be a combination of identifying one's individual ancestors, and then learning what happened to them. Sometimes it is used by people who have learned sophisticated, big-city ways, but wish to either recognize or go back to the possibly simpler or more rural life into which they were born. In my case, for instance, I would say that I had roots in the mostly rural society of western New York a couple of generations ago. Do I still have those roots? Well, I haven't died, and supposedly roots don't die until the plant gives up. Or vice versa. Or you might say, simply, my roots are in Kentucky, though I presently live in the Klondike.
: Roots are necessary to the nourishment of most plants. People tend to think of their childhood home as where they were first nourished, and which therefore had a large hand in shaping what they have become.
: In the case of the sample you've given us, we have one person deciding what are the roots of another. A humble birth means being born into a home without a lot of money and presumably without claim to a noble title. But the speaker of your text apparently thinks that because of this, "she" should be humble in attitude. I can't imagine that the speaker thinks that because "she" was born humble she should give away all her money. Or perhaps that IS what she means.
: I know that my fellow phrase-finders could, if they choose, add a lot more interesting interpretation to roots than I have given. SS
While it's not always easy to define your roots, it's probably harder to know how to be or stay "true to one's roots." If I don't choose to live on a farm, am I untrue to my roots? What do I need to do, milk a cow? Or just act like a rube and talk like a hick? The last two I can do without effort, so prize for being true. Possibly an immigrant family can be "true to their roots" by continuing to honor the culture and customs of their faraway native land. Perhaps the person talking about the humble birth of another is close to what the phrase means. "She" is of humble birth, and grew up without pretenses or pretentiousness. Maybe being true to your roots can mean staying with the values of your original place and time, and in this case, remaining unpretentious. SS