Thursday, September 02, 2010

September 2: The Great Fire of London Day

Today is the anniversary of the start of the Great Fire of London in the year 1666. The fire broke out in the king's bakery in Pudding Lane on the morning of September 2nd and quickly spread throughout the city, raging for four days and nights (1).

In the 17th century there were no fire brigades in London, a city that had one year previously been devastated by the Great Plague. The best hope for containing the fire was to pull down houses in the fire's path to create firebreaks. Despite the lord mayor's orders to do so, many property owners refused to sacrifice their homes. By the time the fire finally died out, it had claimed 13,000 houses and 87 churches including St. Paul's Cathedral. There were only five documented deaths; however, nearly 200,000 people were left homeless (1).

Today's Challenge: Idioms on Fire
Many English idioms (expressions of two or more words that mean something different from the literal meaning of the individual words) feature fire. Given the number of words in the expression and the literal translation of the idiom from The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, see if you can identify the expression.

1. 2 words: To start to talk or ask questions.

2. 5 words: To worsen an already bad situation, as by increasing anger, hostility, or passion.

3. 2 words To become inflamed with enthusiasm.

4. 4 words: To combat evil or negative circumstances by reacting in kind.

5 3 words: A severe ordeal or test, especially an initial one.

6. 6 words: To pressure someone to consent to or undertake something.

7. 3 words: To take part in a dangerous undertaking.

8. 4 word: To function very well (2).

Word of the Day: Curfew
While today this word refers to laws which require people to be off the streets and in their homes by a designated time, the word’s definition once included the nightly ringing of a bell as a signal to inhabitants to cover their fires before going to sleep. Curfew originates from the Anglo-French coeverfu (1285) meaning “Cover fire” (3).

Quote of the Day: If the Almighty were to rebuild the world and asked me for advice, I would have English Channels round every country. And the atmosphere would be such that anything which attempted to fly would be set on fire. --Winston Churchill

Write: Write about a personal experience with fire.

Answers: 1. fire away 2. add fuel to the fire 3. catch fire 4. fight fire with fire 5. baptism of fire 6. hold someone's feet to the fire 7. play with fire 8. fire on all cylinders

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2 - Ammer, Christine. The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997.

3 – Online Etymology Dictionary

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