Tuesday, 24 March 2009

A Parthinian (Parting) Shot: Origin and Meaning

A program on the History or National Geographic channel, I can’t recall which, covered the demise of the Roman Tribune Marcus Crassus at the hands of the Parthinians. The focus of the documentary was the fate of the survivors of the 7 Roman Legions that were soundly thrashed in a battle, after which Crassus lost his head, so to speak. It would appear as though the survivors were spirited off to China somewhere and evidence of Roman architecture is still to be seen there today.
Anyhow, the statement that caught my attention was a reference to the saying a “Parthian shot”, which was given as the origin of the modern saying “a parting shot”.
Firstly the concept of a Parthian shot. The Parthinians were excellent horsemen and really good archers. What they could do well was to shoot arrows while galloping along on horseback. (Reflex bows, invented by the Chinese, that were lethal up to a range of 500 yards, helped a lot)
Crassus made a number of military blunders in the final conflict, and his biggest mistake was to commit his infantry to charge at what appeared to be a retreating Parthian cavalry. This was a ruse, as the Parthinians created the impression that they were on the run, and when the Romans charged to finish the enemy off, they were met with a devastating barrage of arrows fired “backwards” from the mounted cavalry. End of the battle for the Romans. According to the TV program this was not part of the Roman standard operating procedures of fighting battles. When you run away from battle it is a sign of capitulation, not retaliation. Not fair etc etc.
Now we get to the dictionary definition part.
“The Parthinian horsemen were accustomed to discharging their missiles backwards when in real or pretended flight, hence used allusively in a Parthinian shaft, shot or glance”
Now the parting shot part. I thought that Parthian shot morphed into parting shot with the passing of time. Although there are references supporting this, there is another school of thought that maintains a parting shot is a saying in its own right and originated from things naval. (If you scratch around on the Internet you will find more).
The focus of this post is the Parthian part, will look at the parting part a bit later
You wound, like Parthians, while you fly, And kill with a retreating eye. (Samuel Butler 1678)

What does Carte Blanche mean: Origin, meaning and example

The following definition of Carte Blanche :
“A blank paper given to any one to fill up with his own terms, hence full discretionary power (1707)”.
Before going any further one needs to look at the origin, as this is useful for interpreting the modern meaning.
Originally from French as in ‘charte blanche’, meaning white/blank paper.
It appears as though there was a military connotation, specifically related to conditions of surrender. Defeated in battle, ones negotiating powers are limited, to say the least. One is at the mercy of the victor when it gets to terms of surrender. Consensus does not form part of this contract; you are in no position to disagree.( Unless you want be be beaten up again)
So, the victorious write the terms of surrender and they can do as they like, without reference to or approval from the defeated. Therefore they have a blank piece of paper to write down the terms of surrender they desire, and that is the end of the story.
Nowadays, Carte Blanche has a much wider meaning, in that one has the authority to chose a course of action that needs no further authorization or approval by another party, in other words to have a free hand to take decisions with no interference.
Giving a “blank cheque” to get a job done in other words.
Problem is that complete freedom in taking decisions does not necessarily relieve you from the negative effects of bad decisions.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Only a Mother would know, but what a great Dad

A short story of a young lady making tea for her father, with a sting in the tale, so to speak.

One day my mother was out and my dad was in charge of me.

I was maybe 2 1/2 years old and had just recovered from an accident.

Someone had given me a little 'tea set' as a get-well gift and it was one of my favorite toys.

Daddy was in the living room engrossed in the evening news when I brought Daddy a little cup of 'tea', which was just water.
After several cups of tea and lots of praise for such yummy tea, my Mom came home.

My Dad made her wait in the living room to watch me bring him a cup of tea, because it was 'just the cutest thing!' My Mom waited, and sure enough, here I come down the hall with a cup of tea for Daddy and she watches him drink it up.

Then she says, (as only a mother would know... :)

'Did it ever occur to you that the only place she can reach to get water is the toilet?

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