June 27th, 2007
American / no rest for the weary or the wicked?
by Barbara Wallraff
Beatrice Kabler, of Madison, Wis., writes: “I am distressed with the egocentrism of people who refer to themselves as ‘Americans’ when they mean they are from the US of A. It is presumptuous to think we are ‘America’ when there is South America and when Central America and Canada are on the North American continent. Canadians are most specific and never refer to themselves as ‘Americans.’ We should do the same.”
Dear Beatrice: I agree with you that if the citizens of the United States were coining a name for themselves today, they might reject “American” as grandiose -- or else consider it correct but not specific, the way Chinese and Japanese seem to feel about “Asian.”
Susan Hall, of Gaylord, Mich., writes: “Is it ‘no rest for the weary’ or ‘no rest for the wicked’? I learned it one way but keep hearing it said the other. I haven’t corrected anyone, but it does grate on my ears. Also, do you know the origin of the saying?”
Dear Susan: Actually, the original phrase is “no peace for the wicked,” and it comes from the Bible. It appears twice in the Book of Isaiah: “This is what the Lord says ... ‘If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea ... There is no peace,’ says the Lord, ‘for the wicked.’” And “The wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked.’”
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