A rolling stone...

Posted by ESC on December 10, 2000

In Reply to: Meaning-rolling stone posted by joel on December 10, 2000

: : OK- does anyone out there have a meaning for the saying "A rolling stone gathers no moss"

: I guess I'm just a country boy. Sayings like this make immediate sense to me, but for people who've grown up in cities and suburbs, apparently they do not.

: Mosses need a stable, moist environment to grow (shady edges of your lawn, edges of old roofs, immobile old stones set in the ground. If a stone is rolling, it does not provide this environment. Such a stone remains free, "clean," unadorned. So, by metaphor, a "rolling stone" is an unattached, itinerant person. The blues singer Muddy Waters wrote and sang a song in which he said "I'm a rollin' stone" and that's where the rock group the Rolling Stones got their name, also where the pop-culture newspaper got its name.

And remember the scene in movie version "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"? As a test of his mental state, Randall Patrick McMurphy was asked the meaning of the phrase.

A ROLLING STONE GATHERS NO MOSS - "A person who never stays long in one place will never be encumbered by responsibilities. Conversely, the person who is on the move all the time will never accomplish much either. The proverb is based on the Latin: Saxum volutum non obducitur musco. It has been traced back to around the first century B.C. (Publilius Syrus). In 1546, it was included in John Heywood's book of proverbs. First cited in the United States in 1721 in 'A Word of Comfort to a Melancholy Country' by John Wise (1652-1725). The proverb is sometimes shorten to a 'rolling stone.'." From Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).