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Do You Know "Achilles' Heel"?-- Analyzing the Relationship between Greek Myths and English Language

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Do You Know "Achilles' Heel"? -- Analyzing the Relationship between Greek Myths and English Language Abstract: Do you know "Achilles' Heel"? It's an allusion from Greek myths. Instances like this are not difficult to find in English language. They are terse and vivid because of Greek myths and legends behind them. Therefore, they enjoy popular use. But these words and phrases are peculiar to the native culture and language, they appear exotic to foreign learners. So let's share some words and idioms which are relevant to Greek myths in view of knowing the ins and outs of them and understanding how to apply them. In the meanwhile, they can help you understand English history and English culture more thoroughly and deep and taste the wisdom and humor of the English people. Key words: relationship, Greek myths, English language, English idioms Once the Republican supporter made comments on Clinton's scandal, "A misbehaving president is regarded as a government's Achilles heel and is expected to resign." What is Achilles' heel? If you don't know it, you will not understand the meaning of the supporter's comments. The idiom means the weak or vulnerable point of a person, organization and country, etc. which comes from Greek myths. The story is about Achilles, one of the Greek heroes in the Iliad. When he was a child, he was taken by his mother Thetis and dipped in the river Styx to make him invulnerable. The water washed every part of his body expect the heel in his mother's hand. ...read more.


But on his journey he unwittingly killed King Laius with whom he quarreled. He arrived at Thebes shortly thereafter and saved the city from the ravages of the Sphinx. He was proclaimed king in Laius' stead, and he took the dead king's widow, Jocasta, as his own wife. After several years a terrible plague struck Thebes. The Apollo declared that the plague would be stayed upon one condition: whoever had murdered King Laius must be punished. In the course of his investigation, Oedipus discovered that he himself was the killer and that Laius had been his real father. Finally he couldn't act against the decrees of fate. In his despair at this discovery, Oedipus blinded himself. Girls have a similar sexual desire for the father which is repressed in analogous fashion and is called Electra complex. It also comes from Greek mythology. Electra is the daughter of Agamemnon, the king who led the Greeks against Troy in the Trojan War. To obtain favorable winds for the Greek fleet sailing to Troy, Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigenia to the goddess Artemis and so came under a curse. After he returned home victorious, he was murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra, and her lover. To avenge his father's death, Electra helped her brother kill their mother and her lover. * Sphinx's riddle The allusion also comes from the Greek legend of King Oedipus. The Sphinx is winged monster having the head and breasts of a woman and body of a lion. ...read more.


For example. * Money may bring you happiness, but sometimes it is a Pandora's box. (Zhuang Hecheng, 2002) * Abolishing the regulations on financial dealing was like opening Pandora's box---it was chaos. (CID) * Horn of plenty In Greek myths, when Zeus was born, his mother Rhea brought him to Amalthea in order to save him from being swallowed by his father, Cronus. Amalthea brought him up on the milk of goat in a cave in Crete. This goat having broken off one of its horns, Amalthea filled it with flowers and fruits and presented it to Zeus.. When Zeus overpowered his father and became the father of all gods, he also brought Amalthea and the horn to the sky. And nowadays the horn of plenty is regarded as a treasure because the horn has the power to give to the person in possession of it whatever he or she wished for. Let's look at an example in actual uses. * Nature, very oddly, when the horn of plenty is quite empty, always fills it with babies. (Zhuang Hecheng, 2002) English language is abundant in words and phrases which are related to Greek myths. Since these words and idioms are peculiar to the native culture and language, it is difficult for foreign learners to master them. However, if you read the myths of Greece, you will be clear about the relationship between Greek myths and these words and idioms. It will help you know how to apply them. In the meanwhile, it can also offer you a good opportunity to understand English history and English culture more thoroughly and deep and taste the wisdom and humor of the English people. ...read more.

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