Allusive Idioms from Greek Myths and English Learning

Topics: Greek mythology, Oedipus, Oedipus the King Pages: 7 (2602 words) Published: March 22, 2007
In my opinion, it is no exaggeration to say that Greek myths have exerted no small influence upon western culture. Especially those whose mother tongue is English familiar with the contents and stories of Greek mythology have been imperceptibly influenced by what they constantly read, see and hear about since they are very young. Hence allusive idioms from Greek myths have exerted great impact on the English language and literature. It is fairly important to make a full understanding of Greek myths for a foreign student in order to learn the language of English well. To prove this, I may as well, first of all, introduce some information about Greek myths in the next part.

2.Clearing the ground
2. 1 Defination of the term ¡°myth¡±
First of all, I¡¯d like to define the meaning of the word ¡°myth¡±. The word itself comes from the Greek myths which originally meant speech or discourse but which later came to mean fable or legend. In this article the word ¡°myth¡± will be defined as a story of forgotten or vague origin, basically religious or supernatural in nature, which seeks to explain or rationalize one or more aspects of the world or a society. Furthermore, all myths are, at some stage, actually believed to be true by the peoples of the societies that used or originated the myth. 2. 2 Origin of Greek myths

Greek myths can be dated back to BC times. They originated in Europe near or around the Mediterranean Sea. They were especially concentrated in Greece and Italy. Myths are simply stories that are made up to explain something. A long time ago in Athens, Greece, people made up stories to explain the tribulations of life. These stories consisted of gods, heroes, and warriors. Years later the Greeks were conquered by the Romans. The new rulers were pleased with these stories so the Romans adopted them. They took the myths back to Italy, where the myths were well liked, except for one thing. The names were all Greek sounding. The Romans changed all the names in the myth to better fit there lifestyle. Nowadays people often use the term Greek and Roman myths to relate these stories which are the same in nature. For convenience, Greek myths are only mentioned in this article. From ancient times on, numerous writers and artists began to be interested in quoting Greek myths to their works. A great many literary works entailed allusions of Greek myths and not a few of them are centered on the stories of Greek myths. In the Renaissance period, British writers highed on learning classical Greek and Roman works, especially the myths. Later by later, many Greek words, idioms and even proverbs, which were mostly loaned from these Greek myths, appeared in the language of English and at last they became an inseparable part of the language of English. In order to learn English well, it is necessary to acquaint ourselves with the allusions of Greek myths, a few of which will be presented in the next part.

3. Allusions of Greek myths
As we know, there is a mysterious and fantastic story in each Greek myth. Here, I just list a few allusions of Greek myths to show how important and interesting to know something about them. Achilles¡¯ heel : it means a point of weakness in a seemingly invulnerable person, position, argument, or organization. Based on post Homeric legends about Achilles, it is told that his mother Thetis submerged him as a baby in the magical waters of the River Styx to make him invulnerable. But as a result of holding him by his heel, she inadvertently left that part of his body suspceptible to wounds. Later on, the legend continues, Paris, the Trojan who took Helen from King Agamemnon and thereby triggered a great war between Greece and Troy, killed Achilles in battle by shooting him in the heel with a poisoned arrow. Pandora¡¯s box : it means source of unanticipated evils, or unleashing the dire consequences of a seemingly good action. (On her wedding day, Pandora opened the box containing her...

References: [1]Hunt, Cecil.Word Origins, the Romance of Language. New York: Philosophical Library, 1962.
[2]Cliff¡¯s Notes, Mythology U.S.A.:1978.
[3]Zlmmerman, J.E.Dictionary of Classical Mythology. NewYork: Harper & Row Publishers In., 1964.
[4]Gwinn, R.P, Charles E. Swanson & Philip W. Goetz. Micropaedia, Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 1968.
[5]Fon, Mincio. Common English Expression & the Stories Behind Them. HK: Wanli
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