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Melancholy Baby

Posted by Woodchuck on December 10, 2002

In Reply to: Hippocrates posted by Woodchuck on December 10, 2002

: : : Does anyone know the origin of this phrase? I've heard used to mean something similar to "He has a lot of nerve."

: : : Thanks!

: : I may be totally wrong, but I think originates way back to the Greek concept of man being governed by four liquids or "humours" - closely related to the four elements of fire, earth, air and water - which needed to be kept in balance. This idea was first put forward by Hippocrates, and was very prevalent throughout mediaeval medicine/physiology.

: : These four humours were namely (and in the same fire/earth/air/water order) yellow bile (an excess of which made you choleric), black bile (melancholic), blood (sanguine) and phlegm (phlegmatic). Although we've moved on a tad in medical knowledge, we retain the four emotional adjectives to this day.

: : The word gall stems from the proto-root ghel-, meaning yellow, just like gold and gilt, and also cholera do. Gall is therefore yellow bile, a bitter liquid secreted within the liver's gall bladder, an excess of which was thought liable to make you choleric - bitter and angry. Figuratively, gall is most often used to mean something almost too bitter to tolerate.

: : The word has evolved though, and you're right in your assumption that someone who has a lot of gall is seen as having outrageous effrontery.

: It is so GALLING when someone distracts me from typing my reply and when I reload the page, I find the TheFallen has beaten me to the punch! :)

Oh, disparage me not for that typo, as I am already in despair.