Monday, December 30, 2013

Blood and Water

The saying, "Blood is thicker than water" makes no sense in the context of today's English language. As for the "blood" portion, this aphorism refers to the strong bonds of family, which is obvious as families have bloodlines in common and under normal circumstances they have lived together with shared experiences. Thus, bonds that bind.

But where on earth does the "water" piece of the equation fit? Does it mean that we have more in common with our relatives than fish? Or, the consistency of the liquid makes thick preferable over thin? Anyway, blood is only thicker than water under certain circumstances. Clotted blood is thicker than running water, but ice is more solid that flowing blood.

In its original context, the phrase was "the blood of the convent is thicker than the water of the womb," a horrific reference denoting that the blood shed together in battle creates more bonds-in-common than the amniotic fluid in which a growing fetus thrives. 

Clearly, customs evolve. Humans are the arbiters of both culture and language; the former is the left hand and the latter is the right hand. As hostages of time, certain anachronistic phrases linger when they no longer have a function (much like the troublesome appendix). 

As humanity moves into a new age where our toys are powerful enough to destroy an entire planet, perhaps phrases comparing the virtues of blood versus water could be eliminated altogether.

Blood and water both comprise essential elements needed for life. Let us eliminate their historic sibling rivalry and give them equal parts in the stage play of existence, bonding all humanity in a collective caring that shows no favoritism.

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