Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 14
  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    1,335
    Post Thanks / Like

    The writing was on the wall.

    Hi,
    I wonder what this idiom means. My guess is: It was a resounding statement for everybody to hear/see.
    Could anybody help, please?
    TIA

  2. #2
    curmudgeon's Avatar
    curmudgeon is offline Key Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    1,657
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The writing was on the wall.

    It means that something is going to happen, usually bad. It is taken from the Bible:

    During a feast, a prince and his guests witnessed a disembodied hand scribing the words “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Peres” on the palace wall.
    The words were translated by as:

    “God has numbered your kingdom and finished it; you have been judged and found wanting; your kingdom shall be divided between the Persians and the Medes.” And that, I believe is what happened.

    So nowadays you might hear someone say 'he saw the writing on the wall and left before he was fired'

    Or, as you say 'the writing was on the wall' which could mean that something has happened and it was clear it was going to happen beforehand.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    1,553
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The writing was on the wall.

    The Prince was actually Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians. At the time, Israel had been conquered by the Babylonians.

    Among the court of the king was Daniel, a Jewish prophet. When the words were written, the king's own magicians couldn't decipher it, and Daniel was sent for. The words were: Mene, mene, tekel, parsin; and they had the following meanings:

    "Mene" was a unit of money (a mina), and it also meant "numbered".
    "Tekel" was also a unit of money (the shekel, in fact), and it meant "weighed".
    "Parsin" was the plural of "Peres" and meant "divided", "half" or "Persians".

    Actually, the whole thing looked like a mathematical equation: "Two minas, a shekel, plus half a mina", or perhaps "two minas and a shekel, divided by two". But Daniel interpreted it just as Curmudgeon says, and the prophecy became true the next day. The whole story is in Daniel chapter 5.

    If the writing is on the wall, it means that the indications are that something bad, like the end of your career, is just about to happen.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    1,335
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The writing was on the wall.

    Tnank you! Very informative.
    What a surprise, more to it than I expected. So it only meant the US general who seems to have been the first whistleblower ( he called Rumsfeld arrogant) had to retire? Oh no, now it has dawned on me - the general in fact predicted Rumsfeld's resignation, right?

  5. #5
    curmudgeon's Avatar
    curmudgeon is offline Key Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    1,657
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The writing was on the wall.

    I don't know the full story, but that sounds about right. He knew something was going to happen so he got his retaliation in first.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    1,553
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The writing was on the wall.

    The phrase is saying that Rumsfeld's resignation is not all that surprising. Large numbers of the US population have been very critical of the "War on Terror", especially the invasion of Iraq, and the government's showing in the mid-term elections reflects that dissatisfaction. Rumsfeld's unpopularity and the election results were the writing on the wall for him.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    1,335
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The writing was on the wall.

    Thanks.
    You see, the phrase followed a story abt the general as the bottom line.
    I wonder if this biblical allusion is commonly understood.
    Last edited by Humble; 09-Nov-2006 at 20:16.

  8. #8
    curmudgeon's Avatar
    curmudgeon is offline Key Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    1,657
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The writing was on the wall.

    A lot of idioms have historical connotations, sometimes more obvious and sometimes obscure.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    1,335
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The writing was on the wall.

    Would a Mrs Jones understand the meaning?

  10. #10
    curmudgeon's Avatar
    curmudgeon is offline Key Member
    • Member Info
      • Member Type:
      • Retired English Teacher
      • Native Language:
      • English
      • Home Country:
      • UK
      • Current Location:
      • UK
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    1,657
    Post Thanks / Like

    Re: The writing was on the wall.

    Quote Originally Posted by Humble View Post
    Would a Mrs Jones understand the meaning?

    By 'a Mrs Jones', do you mean 'the man in the street', or have I lost the plot?

    If you do, then, no I don't think so. Most native english speakers would understand what it meant, but probably be unable to explain its origins. I confess I had to 'google' it

Page 1 of 2 1 2 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Where to start improving my English writing
    By Callisto in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 12-Feb-2010, 06:32
  2. how can we make writing subject more interesting?
    By Anonymous in forum Ask a Teacher
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 05-Nov-2008, 07:26
  3. editing
    By hashem in forum Editing & Writing Topics
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 15-Jan-2008, 00:52
  4. English for Business: teaching writing online
    By gwynedd_owen in forum Teaching English
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 17-Aug-2005, 14:00
  5. Wall and Table??!
    By Reemani in forum General Language Discussions
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 16-Jan-2005, 05:58

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •