Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Grammar

Do Remember Your Salad Days?

Everyone experiences salad days in their lives, whether they realize it or not. Some of us might take a bit longer than others to move past them.

The first time I heard the phrase “salad days” was in an episode of one of my favorite classic TV shows, The Andy Griffith Show.

It came early in the January 25, 1965, episode titled, “The Lucky Letter.” The story focused on a chain letter that Deputy Barney Fife receives. With pistol qualifying around the corner, he’s determined to maintain the chain and send copies of the letter. But Sheriff Andy Taylor tries his best to convince Barney that chain letters are just superstitions. 

But the “salad days” reference comes before the main plot unfolds. In a long opening scene, Andy Griffith’s Taylor and Don Knotts’ Fife talk about what they did the night before.

The pertinent part of the scene went like this:

Andy: You must have been out late last night, eh?

Barney: (Yawning) Yeah, I was, actually. Did you go over to Helen’s?

Andy: Yeah, I went over there, but she felt like she was coming down with a cold or something so I went on home about 8:00, 8:30, I guess.

Barney: Oh, yeah? Boy, I bet my head didn’t hit that pillow before a quarter of 11.

Andy: A quarter of 11? Boy, I don’t know how you stand it burning the candles at both ends that way.

Barney: Well, these are my salad days. 

The idiom simply means “the days of one’s youthful inexperience.”

To trace the true origin of the phrase, you have to go back much further than the days of Andy Griffith’s Mayberry, North Carolina.

In fact, you have to go all the way back to the time of William Shakespeare, the man who is credited with creating the phrase.

In his Antony and Cleopatra, written in 1606, you’ll find this line in Cleopatra’s speech at the end of Act One:

My salad days, / When I was green in judgment, cold in blood

But according to Wikipedia, it wasn’t until the middle of the 19th century that the phrase became popular. The word green is often used to refer to inexperience, as in the word greenhorn

A salad is usually the first course of a meal, so from that perspective, the salad implies an earlier time.

So now you know what the phrase salad days actually means.

I hope yours were well-spent, learning valuable life experience that you still rely on today! 

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.