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Eat his own words

Posted by Smokey Stover on February 14, 2008 at 09:58:

In Reply to: Eat his own words posted by Victoria S Dennis on February 14, 2008 at 09:56:

: : : : : Is the origin of "Eat his own words" likely to have any relation to the following story?

: : : : : The Buddha was invited by a Brahman to have a meal in his house. But when he arrived, the Brahman greeted him strangely, with a torrent of abuse. Politely Buddha asked, "Do you have visitors come to your home, good Brahman? "Yes," replied the Brahman. "What preparations do you make for them?" asked the Buddha. "We get ready a great feast," said the Brahman. "What happens if they don't arrive?" asked the Buddha. "Then we gladly eat it ourselves," said the Brahman. "Well, Brahman, you've invited me for a meal and you have entertained me with hard words. I want nothing from your preparation. So please take it back and eat it yourselves," said the Buddha.

: : : : The connection is probably only that the idea of eating one's words made intuitive sense when the story was written, as it does now. The last item (chronologically, the first one) on the main Discussion Forum page explains "eating one's words." ~rb

: : : There is no possible connection. "Eat one's own words" was already a standard figure of speech in Shakespeare's time, before anyone in England had ever heard of the Buddha. (As in Much Ado About Nothing: "Will you not eat your word?" - "With no sauce that can be devised to it.") With all due respect to RB, I don't think the Buddha story even necessarily contains the same metaphor. As I understand your story, the Buddha is saying "If you had offered me a fine meal and I had rejected it, at least you would have had that fine meal for yourselves. Instead you have offered me abuse, and I have rejected it so you can have that for yourselves." That's not really the same as the image in the English idiom, of putting back into your mouth what earlier came out of it. (VSD)

: : Well, the Brahman's abuse did come out of his mouth, and Buddha suggests that it go back in, or be eaten. ~rb

: True; but the story doesn't rely on that metaphor. If they had offered him written abuse, say, or an insulting caricature, his riposte would have been just as appropriate. (VSD)

You've all heard of Paul Bunyan, right? Giant woodsman of the North Woods, with his pet, Babe, the Blue Ox? To him were attributed numerous tall tales of life out there in the cold, each harder to believe than the last. There are a few concerning words that never got heard, owing to their having been frozen solid as soon as uttered. One such has Bunyan and his fellow axmen deciding that anyone swearing had to pay a fine. But that one winter no one had to pay the fine, their words having been frozen solid. That is, until the spring thaw, when everyone went broke. Actually, another version had the offending words thawed out on the giant griddle used for flapjacks in Bunyan's camp. Another had everyone paying a fine except Bunyan, who had cleverly eaten his words.

And that's the cold truth.