Excerpted from Tinyonline
Ears are burning, one’s – one is being talked about
A tingling or burning sensation in the ears supposedly means that a person is being discussed by others. The origin of this belief goes back to Roman times when augurs (see Under the auspices of) paid particular attention to such signs. Pliny wrote: ‘It is acknowledged that the absent feel a presentiment of remarks about themselves by the ringing of their ears’ (Naturalis Historia, AD 77). The ancient belief that the left signifies evil and the right good applies here also. Both Plautus and Pliny held that if a person’s right ear burns then he is being praised, but a burning left ear indicates that he is the subject of evil intent. English literature, from Chaucer to Dickens, abounds with references to burning ears.
…According to ancient belief, other unexpected bodily twitches and sensations also warn of events to come, among them the eye and the thumb. A flickering right eye, for instance, indicates that a friend will visit or that something longed for will soon be seen, and a pricking in one’s left thumb warns of an evil event.
|Wages of sin
Now used of the consequences of wrongdoing or even jocularly of the results of over-indulgence, but the original is stronger: ‘The wages of sin is death’ (Romans, 6: 23).
|Walked over one’s grave, someone has just – said after an involuntary shiver
A sudden shivering sensation is often accompanied by the person declaring that someone has just walked over their grave. An old wive’s tale holds that the shivering is felt when the spot where one will eventually be buried is being trampled on – a reminder of mortality.
|Walls have ears, the
This is a warning to watch what you say, or what secrets you divulge, wherever you are, because someone might be listening. In the time of Catherine de Medici (1519-89), certain rooms in the Louvre Palace, Paris, were said to be constructed to conceal a network of listening tubes called auriculaires, so that what was said in one room could be clearly heard in another. This was how the suspicious queen discovered state secrets and plots. The legend of Dionysus’s ear may also have been the inspiration for this audiovisual play on words. Dionysus was a tyrant of Syracuse (see Sword of Damocles) in 431-367 BC, and his so-called ‘ear’ was a large ear-shaped underground cave cut in a rock that was connected to another chamber in such a way that he could overhear the conversation of his prisoners.
|Walter Mitty – person who lives in their own dream-world
‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’ is a story by the American humorist James Thurber (1894-1961) which first appeared in the New Yorker in 1932. It tells of a docile husband who has vivid escapist fantasies in which he imagines himself in various guises, roles and exploits far removed from his humdrum existence. A successful film based on the story helped to propel the name of the central character into more general use.
|Warm the cockles of one’s heart – be very gratifying
The cockles of the heart are simply the heart itself and, metaphorically, one’s deepest feelings. The word cockles is used either as a comparison of the shape of the heart with that of a cockleshell, or because the zoological name for cockle is ‘cardium’ – related to the Greek for heart, as in ‘cardiac’ – or because the Latin name for the ventricles of the heart is ‘cochleae cordis’ (the first word of which means snail-shells) because of their appearance. This last explanation sounds the most likely.