Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Counting the Cost

When I was a child I often had toothache, and I knew that if I went to my mother she would give me something which would deaden the pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother--at least, not till the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not go was this. I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin; but I knew she would also do something else. I knew she would take me to the dentist next morning. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from pain: but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right. And I knew those dentists: I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache. They would not let sleeping dogs lie, if you gave them an inch they took an ell.

Now, if I may put it that way, Our Lord is like the dentists. If you give Him an inch, He will take an ell. Dozens of people go to Him to be cured of some one particular sin which they are ashamed of or which is obviously spoiling daily life. Well, He will cure it all right: but He will not stop there. That may be all you asked; but if once you call Him in, He will give you the full treatment.
~C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 9: Counting the Cost (1952)

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On this day:

1954 Lewis delivers his Inaugural Lecture, "De Descriptione Temporum," at Cambridge University.

6 Comment(s):

At Tue Nov 30, 07:47:00 AM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

Just wondering about colloquialisms here--I've always heard the expression as "give him and inch and he'll take a mile". But the definition of "ell" is given as "An English linear measure equal to 45 inches (114 centimeters)", or the approximate distance from a person's middle fingertip to the elbow. I also remembered this reference to ells in The Two Towers:

‘A pity I didn’t think of bringing another length,’ said Frodo; ‘but I left the Company in such a hurry and confusion. If only we had enough we could use it to get down. How long is your rope,I wonder?’

Sam paid it out slowly, measuring it with his arms: ‘Five, ten, twenty, thirty ells, more or less,’ he said.

‘Who’d have thought it!’ Frodo exclaimed.

‘Ah! Who would? ‘ said Sam. ‘Elves are wonderful folk. It looks a bit thin, but it’s tough; and soft as milk to the hand. Packs close too, and as light as light. Wonderful folk to be sure!’

‘Thirty ells! ‘ said Frodo considering. ‘I believe it would be enough. If the storm passes before nightfall, I’m going to try it.’
Anyway, I know this is not the point of the C.S. Lewis quote, but I tend to get sidetracked easily...

 
At Tue Nov 30, 08:59:00 AM EST, Blogger CarolynVB said...

So an "ell" is, basically, to the el-bow. Cool. I guess that's like a "hand" in horse measuring.

I like that bit from Sam..."soft as milk..." Never heard anyone say that either.

 
At Tue Nov 30, 09:43:00 AM EST, Blogger Lumpy the Cook said...

Ell is pretty obscure! Heres a definition...

http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-ell1.htm

and a few alternatives for the proverb here!

http://www.giga-usa.com/gigaweb1/quotes2/quautproverbx096.htm

 
At Tue Nov 30, 02:02:00 PM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

Thanks, Lumpy, that precisely answers my question--I was wondering if it was an English saying, and if you say it is obscure, then it must be obscure!

 
At Wed Dec 01, 01:36:00 AM EST, Blogger Bob said...

I'm reading Mere Christianity now for the first time. (I'd tried when I was younger and it didn't go so well.) And I feel exactly the same way about doctors. I go to them for something and they start prodding one and giving advice about changing your diet and exercising more.

Anyway, I looked up "ell" in the Oxford English Dictionary and I found the following:

c. As a fluid measure.
[Several correspondents inform us that they remember seeing the announcement ‘Beer sold by the yard’, on the signboards of country taverns, the reference being to the long narrow glasses about a yard high.]

Frankly, I find that hard to fathom. ;-)

 
At Wed Dec 01, 07:46:00 AM EST, Blogger Arevanye said...

I've seen the half-yard beer glasses--they come with a wooden stand, so that they don't tip over! And wouldn't ya know, someone sells them: 1/2 Yard of Beer Glass

 

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