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Of Sackcloth and Ashes: How idioms originate

Chinese mourners wear sackcloth

This week I discovered a ‘delightful’ idiom in the novel Sophie’s Bakery for the Broken Hearted by New York Times Best Selling Author, Lolly Winston – sackcloth and ashes. I’ve read too far ahead to give you the context, but I made a mental note to make it the subject of my blog.

All the research indicates that wearing sackcloth and ashes is a sign of mourning, contrition or remorse – repentance for something you feel badly about.

Sackcloth and ashes defined by:

The Free Dictionary:  a display of extreme remorse or repentance or grief

Collins: – a public display of extreme grief, remorse, or repentance

Merriam Webster: to publicly express or show sorrow or regret for having done something wrong

And its origins? According to pharases.org.uk, “It was an ancient Hebrew custom to wear sackcloth dusted with or accompanied by ashes as a sign of humbleness in religious ceremonies.” From “The Dictionary of Cliches” by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

Gotquestions.com explains: “Sackcloth and ashes were used in Old Testament times as a symbol of debasement, mourning, and/or repentance. Someone wanting to show his repentant heart would often wear sackcloth, sit in ashes, and put ashes on top of his head. Sackcloth was a coarse material usually made of black goat’s hair, making it quite uncomfortable to wear. The ashes signified desolation and ruin.

“When someone died, the act of putting on sackcloth showed heartfelt sorrow for the loss of that person. We see an example of this when David mourned the death of Abner, the commander of Saul’s army (2 Samuel 3:31). Jacob also demonstrated his grief by wearing sackcloth when he thought his son Joseph had been killed (Genesis 37:34). These instances of mourning for the dead mention sackcloth but not ashes.

Daily Bible Study provides the quotes:

“Then Jacob rent his garments, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.” (Genesis 37:34 RSV) (see Coat Of Many Colors)

“Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Rend your clothes, and gird on sackcloth, and mourn before Abner.” And King David followed the bier.” (2 Samuel 3:31 RSV)

In modern usage, the phrase is used more loosely. For example, Richard has been seen in nothing but sackcloth and ashes since his wife left him, which describes his emotional state.

For me, the meaning is literal. Sackcloth and ashes are all I’ll be able to afford if I continue to work for free and underquote my services!

A pig in a poke

Pig out
Picture credit: Suzanne Tucker

Should you be interested in investments to the point that you  start reading books about them, don’t be surprised to find the term ‘a pig in a poke’.

When you see this idiom, you could think that the author is referring to something that occurred that was not quite to his liking or something that did not quite measure up to his expectations.

Know your whopping from your whooping: word usage

ghandaid unsplash.jpg
Picture by Ishant Mishra

In my days as a sub-editor, on seeing the word ‘whopping’ I would strike it out immediately. This was for two reasons: it was usually placed before an amount; adjectives at the best of times, in press writing are not required, particularly when the noun is a tell-all. For example, $500 billion, does not need to be further qualified by the descriptor ‘whopping’.

No such thing as a free webinar

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Money up front for webinar 

Last night I tuned into a webinar and it might just be my last.

I have done many, maintaining my naivety and unfailing hope to find the magic, the million, the answer to life’s deepest questions, and the fastest way to  make a fortune, always ending with the same promise.

Seasonal snag for armpit advertising

armpit pic

I was intrigued and a little disgusted to read that Japan is using women’s armpits as an advertising medium.

Content is king

 

vehicle-3224068_1280Where cash was once king, no-one wants to transact with hard currency, banks charge a fortune for handling the dirty lucre and it’s certainly not safe to be walking around with a stash in your back pocket.

Have no fear – CONTENT is the new king. Content is the king of the ‘interverse’. Everybody wants it, everybody has it and everybody dumps it anywhere and anyhow.

Know how to use rain, rein and reign

woman wearing black long sleeved blazer on white horse
Photo by Laila Klinsmann on Pexels.com

It’s spring in South Africa and in the season’s first flush, we had a smattering of rain.

That’s the stuff of celebration.

What’s not to celebrate is the state of our country’s newspapers.

A quick lesson in how to use capital letters

michael-jackson-1513358_1280There’s nothing worse than being tripped up by capital letters. This means having to wade through a long piece of text crippled by incorrectly used capital letters, and not knowing the rules for how to use capital letters.

Nothing new about disruption innovation

 

 

 

 

start something new

Last night, I attended a local investment ‘Shark Tank’ event where keen start-up entrepreneurs pitched their ideas to a panel of judges.

There was no holding back among the business enthusiasts and the group witnessed a range of ideas from township food carts to smart-phone-assisted diagnostic tools, online car shopping, to programmes for temporary gym instructors.

The event was hosted by the The Founder Institute,  a US-based pre-seed start-up accelerator, now active in South Africa. (https://fi.co/about)

Panellists scored individuals out of 5 with feedback as to the problems or potential for the business case.

Among the ideas were many concerning social innovations such as life skills for school kids, workplace skills for teens, and dream incentives for young adults.

But those who scored highest among both business and social concepts were the disruptors.

The concept of business disruption has been around since 1995, first coined by American scholar Clayton Christensen https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_innovation and has been thrust around business ever since.

Disruption is to innovation what digital is to photography. The need is to innovate, and disruption is the how to.

There is nothing new about innovation and years ago, when I worked in the advertising industry the buzz word was deconstruct – you might find this term still relevant in cooking, such as a deconstructed salad (practically a contradiction in terms) – which meant finding a way to deliver the unexpected; to throw concepts at clients that would edge them out of their comfort zones.

And that is exactly what disruption means now. Some will list Uber and Airbnb as the greatest business disruptors of the modern era, while others might argue that Uber does not fit the strict definition because a taxi market already existed.

Some say that disruption serves to displace the market system, so it’s not just about utilising an existing market more effectively, it’s actually about finding new markets either by adding innovation or addressing gaps that arise from changes in social structures. https://www.tonyrobbins.com/career-business/what-disruption-really-means/

 

Whether your business disrupts according to the strict definition, or whether it differentiates by doing the same as others, but just so much better, innovation is the only platform that can move your business forward.

 

 

 

5 tips to get your brand going

 

photographer-407068_640

 

There is no shortage of literature on ‘personal brand’  and it was one of the topics at the recent National Small Business Convention (NSBC) www.nsbc.org.za

So while there’s a lot said, like money and free time, you can never have too much of it.