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Seven of the metallic elements were known in antiquity (can you name them?), and it takes seven words to make up one of our themes. Seems like a match, doesn’t it? This week we’ll present these seven metals, used metaphorically.

Beginning with one that pertains to last week’s Oratory theme.

silver tongued – having the power of fluent and persuasive speech; eloquent
    The rabbi was so famous for his silver tongued biblical exegesis that he preached at four different synagogues on the Jewish Sabbath, and many Christians, including friars, priests, and noblemen, entered the Geto [sic] just to hear him. … Vistorini was sure that no few of the priests who came to listen did so in order to steal the rabbi’s words.
    – Geraldine Brooks (Pulitzer Prize-winning authoress), People of the Book
 
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Seven of the metallic elements were known in antiquity (can you name them?)

Au, Ag, Sn, Cu, Hg, Fe, Pb
 
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Then there was St. John Chrysostom (347-407 AD), the "golden mouthed," a reference to his eloquence.


RJA
 
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Hg

Out of curiosity, although of course I know that mercury was known to the ancients, did they know that it is a metal?


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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The ancients didn't have today's classification of metal versus non-metal, and certainly were mightily confused about what an element was. But given that Hg is an abbreviation of hydrargyrum, or liquid (watery) silver, I'd say that at least the Latins, and probably the Greeks, knew it as a metal.

Though I'm not 100% sure that the Greeks called it hydrargyos. I'll poke around.

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Au, Ag, Sn, Cu, Hg, Fe, Pb


I think a decent case can also be made for Zinc (Zn) and Antimony (Sb).
 
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I think a better argument can be made for antimony than for zinc. It's not clear that zinc was isolated as a metal in antiquity, although its ore was mined and used to manufacture brass.
 
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tin god – a self-important and overbearing person (esp. a minor official)
    He lacks the human touch. I’ve never seen such colossal conceit. The man has set himself up as a little tin god..
    – B. F. Skinner, Walden Two

    An egomaniacal, dictator type of man (whose woman … allows him to act like a tin god without the slightest resistance) …
    – Pat Allen and Sandra Harmon, Getting to 'I Do'
 
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iron curtain – a barrier that prevents free communications of ideas and information
    The need to obtain patent protection, in turn, drives firms to throw up iron curtains around their research the moment they get close to a viable drug candidate.
    – Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything
 
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I have an ironclad alibi.
 
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I'd always heard that this was one of Winston Churchill's.


Richard English
 
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I have an ironclad alibi.

I believe this has a different origin, being a nautical term for a battleship.


Richard English
 
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It still could be Winston's. As a knight, he should be iron-clad.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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It still could be Winston's. As a knight, he should be iron-clad.

It's older than Winston.


Richard English
 
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As long as you folks are talking about ironclad

copper-bottomedBrit.: thoroughly reliable
[from copper sheathing applied to the bottom of wooden ships, as protection]
    In mid-2004, Mr Brown's allies believed he had a copper-bottomed promise from Mr Blair that he would resign that year.
    – The Independent, Sept. 26, 2006

    New technology has transformed the capacity of institutions to compile data on citizens. But those records can be traded, stolen and misused. Time and again, ministers give sincere assurances. Yet these promises can never be copper-bottomed and public anxieties can never be properly assuaged.
    – The Guardian, Nov. 22, 2007 (ellipses omitted)
 
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I might have reserved the "-bottomed" construction for "lead," especially as regards government bureaucrats.


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Regarding "Iron Curtain," Wiki claims:

"Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels was the first to refer to an 'Iron Curtain' coming down across Europe after World War II, in a manifesto he published in the German newspaper Das Reich in February 1945.[2][3] The term was not widely used until March 5, 1946, when Winston Churchill popularized it in his address Sinews of Peace."


RJA
 
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Is antimony what you pay to your ex-wife's mother's sister?
 
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copper-bottomed – Brit.: thoroughly reliable

Say after me, three times, "Are you copper-bottoming them, my man, or aluminiuming them?"


Richard English
 
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..... my parents are in the Iron & Steal business..... my mother irons and my father steals ........
 
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It still could be Winston's. As a knight, he should be iron-clad.

Missing smiley-face for example of American humor (humour).


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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Who do you believe?

From Wisegeek.com: The term “Iron Curtain” was coined by German politician Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk, and made popular by Winston Churchill, who first used it in a public speech in March of 1946. The term was first used to refer to the actual metal barrier that cut the continent in two, but it soon became a reference to the ideological barrier also. When Churchill first referred to the barrier he wasn’t trying to emulate the words of von Krosigk. In a telegram directed to US President Harry S. Truman, Churchill spoke about the European situation and said “An iron curtain is drawn down upon their front. We do not know what is going on behind.” This became the first official mention of the term Iron Curtain.

From Answers.com
Political Dictionary: iron curtain
The first recorded use of the term iron curtain was derived from the safety curtain used in theatres and first applied to the border of communist Russia as “an impenetrable barrier” in 1920 by Ethel Snowden, in her book Through Bolshevik Russia. [3] It was used during World War II by German Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels and later Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk in the last days of the war; however, its use was popularized by the former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who used it in his “Sinews of Peace” address March 5, 1946, at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri:

Earlier uses of the term
There are various earlier usages of the term “iron curtain” pre-dating Churchill. Some suggest the term may have first been coined by Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians after World War I to describe the political situation between Belgium and Germany, in 1914.[6] An iron curtain, or eisener Vorhang, was an obligatory precaution in all German theaters to prevent the possibility of fire from spreading from the stage to the rest of the theater. Such fires were rather common because the decor often was very flammable. In case of fire, a metal wall would separate the stage from the theater, secluding the flames to be extinguished by firefighters. Douglas Reed used this metaphor in his book Disgrace Abounding (Jonathan Cape, 1939, page 129): “The bitter strife [in Yugoslavia between Serb unionists and Croat federalists] had only been hidden by the iron safety-curtain of the King’s dictatorship.” Joseph Goebbels wrote of an “iron curtain” in his weekly newspaper Das Reich:
The first oral mention of an Iron Curtain was in a broadcast by Count Lutz Schwerin von Krosigk to the German people on May 2, 1945: “ In the East the iron curtain behind which, unseen by the eyes of the world, the work of destruction goes on, is moving steadily forward.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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Anyone who has struggled to pick up a spill of mercury knows that it is a hard-to-catch silver-colored liquid: it flows; it is “quick”.

Those qualities gave it its older names. The Greeks called it hydrarguros, meaning “watery-silver” (from hydrarguros we get its chemical symbol, Hg) and in Old English it was quick-silver. The old name is still used for the element, or metaphorically to refer to such a shifting character.

quicksilver – rapidly shifting and changeable esp. with the sense of elusive, hard-to-catch
[Wordcrafter definition; I’m not satisfied with what the dictionaries give.]
    The heat of the day made a shimmer over the tar, and at the horizon was quicksilver, shining like water in a dream.
    – Stephen King, The Stand

    He turned in a circle, trying to catch the minnow of a thought that swam through his mind, too quicksilver to show itself clearly.
    – Jodi Picoult, Second Glance
 
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I thought it was what the Lone Ranger said to his horse.

Is there a sense of "aliveness" in the "quick" of quicksilver?
 
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And of course there's always the Quiksilver clothing line (without the "c").
 
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Hawaii has many descendants of Portuguese speaking immigrants from Madeira who came to work in the sugarcane. Silva is a frequently heard family name among them, and "Hi-Yo" or "Hi-Ho" is a common nickname for the Silva boys.

Remembering the Lone Ranger ......
 
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Quicksilver is also the name of the first volume of Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle. I highly recommend his later works, but if you aren't familiar with them, start with Crytonomicon rather than Quicksilver. It is a standalone novel.
 
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High prices for gasoline make today's word a timely one.

lead-foot – a car-driver who drives too fast (also used as verb or adjective)
[from lead as heavy]

This term is quite common, but surprisingly, very few dictionaries include it. I give my own definition, plus some very-recent supporting examples:
    “I was a lead-foot,” said Dan Ronan. “I would drive too fast, too hard, hit the brakes. I was down to 12 or 13 miles per gallon.”
    – CBS 42 (Texas), July 14, 2008

    So, he's taking aim at the lead-foot drivers with his radar gun.
    WRCB-TV (Tennessee), July 17, 2008

    Finally, police officers will continue keeping a watchful eye on Eineke Boulevard to make sure motorists aren't lead-footing it through the subdivision
    – Chicago Daily Herald, July 17, 2008
 
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Recall that "quick" meant alive, as in "the quick and the dead." So too with the motion of mercury.


RJA
 
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Our ancient-metals theme ends with gold, and we can choose among many “gold” terms. Let’s take a familiar one.

gold starinformal: a symbol of recognition for merit or effort; also, the recognition itself
    Facebook has brought together friends from long ago, and anything that can make keeping in touch a little easier deserves a gold star in my book.
    – Dallas Morning News, July 11, 2008
 
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