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Weighty Matters

I'm wondering when and where the phrase "the weight of time" developed. Conceptually, it would make sense if it came from water clocks or hourglasses, but I have no proof of it. Bartlett's doesn't list it. Neither does Brewer's or the OED. A casual online search only reveals uses of it. It is particularly used in phrases such as "crumbling under the weight of time", which implies that the phrase has its origins in analogy, not technology.

On the bright side, searching through JSTOR for the phrase yielded the delightful article title, "The Couch as a Unit of Measurement." (Classical Philology, Vol. 29, No. 1, pp. 30-35, by Eugene S. McCartney. Discusses the perfectly serious topic of the classification of the sizes of Greek banqueting halls in antiquity.)

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
naomichana
Sep. 4th, 2004 09:58 pm (UTC)
Hmmmm. Neat. Does it appear any earlier than Shakespeare's King Lear? Are there cognate phrases in other languages? (I'm not thinking of anything in Latin except that occasionally magnus is used for both weight and time.)

Couch measurement. Hee. ;)
owlfish
Sep. 8th, 2004 08:50 pm (UTC)
I don't know on either count, but I would certainly be interested if you happened across any other earlier or other-lingual variations on it. I'll post myself if I find more on this. It ought to relate to what I'm studying somehow or other, and therefore I should know!

I do wonder if the phrase might not come from "weighty" as in "important, significant". The accumulated importance of time. On other other hand, there're relate phrases such as "Time hangs heavy on his shoulders."
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