Posted by Victoria S Dennis on December 21, 2006
: : how knows where the saying "your my rock of gibaltar" comes from.
: For a very long time, people have described as a rock something that gave them a sense of safety, a sure foundation. OED, s.v. rock:
: "1526 TINDALE Matt. xvi. 18, I saye..that thou arte Peter. And apon this roocke I wyll bylde my congregacion. 1535 COVERDALE Deut. xii. 37 Where are their goddes, their rocke wherin they trusted?"
: Although very often the metaphor relates the support and sure foundation of Christ and the Christian religion, it is not always so: "1633 P. FLETCHER Purple Isl. XII. lii, Be thou my rock, though I poore changeling rove."
: The Rock of Giraltar is, as you know, a somewhat spectacular formation in the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. It is often called just The Rock. It was known to the ancient Greeks as one of the two Pillars of Hercules. It is connected to the Spanish mainland by a mile-long low isthmus.
: To say "you're my Rock of Gibraltar" is to use the biggest rock one can think of as a metaphor for the feeling of support and confidence that you give them. (The Prudential Insurance Company has long used a picture of the Rock of Gibraltar to symbolize the sureness of the support they give their customers.)
Note also this couplet from My Fair Lady:
"As sturdy as Gibraltar,
Not a second did you falter."
The significance of the Rock of Gibraltar to the British consists of rather more than its geological and scenic qualities. We took it from the Spaniards in 1704, and since then it has not only provided a secure base for the Royal Navy but allowed Britain to control the entrance to the Mediterranean (and, since the building of the Suez Canal, the sea route to India). It has withstood massive sieges and threats of recapture from the Spaniards, the Nazis and others. Over the years the entire rock has been honeycombed with gun emplacements, water cisterns, munitions stores, etc, and its harbour and naval dockyard can shelter a whole fleet - it is a permanent fortress, and over the centuries its strength has been of immense importance to us. (VSD)