Or, for example, such a common expression: “Make an elephant out of a fly”. Where did these strange creatures come from - the elephant and the fly, which can be increased to elephant sizes? If someone asks us about this, we will be surprised. We will answer him that, of course, we are not talking about a specific fly and elephant. That this is just a proverb. And if they ask us where, from what source, this proverb went, then, most likely, we will shrug our shoulders in confusion. Or answer something like: "They always said that ...".
But is it possible to get to the bottom? Let's try to trace the origin of some proverbs and sayings.
"To make mountains out of molehills"
A quotation from the satirical work Praise the Fly, written by the Greek writer Lucian.
“Bury talent in the ground”
It takes its origin in the gospel parable about how a certain person, when leaving, ordered three slaves to protect their property. One he gave five talents, the other - two, the third - one. The slaves to whom he handed five and two talents lent them at interest. A slave who received one talent, buried him in the ground.
Returning home, the master demanded a report from the slaves. Received five talents, gave the owner ten, received two - four. The owner praised them. The slave, who received one talent, said that he had buried him in the ground. “A wicked and lazy slave!” The master told him. “You had to give my silver a growth, and then I would get it with a profit!”
The word "talent" was originally called the ancient Greek monetary unit. Later, this word became synonymous with high endowments in any field. And the expression “to bury talent in the ground” has become used in the sense of “neglecting abilities, not developing them.”
"The veto, the right of veto, to impose a veto"
In Latin "veto" means "forbid." The legal practice of imposing a veto (that is, a ban on any decision) originates from the time of the Roman Republic. The tribunes of the people, which were representatives of the plebs, had the right to veto decisions of the senate and magistrates.
"Sword of Damocles"
The expression denotes constant danger with visible happiness and well-being. Its source is the ancient Greek tradition, cited in the work of Cicero "Tuskulan Talks". The legend tells about how the Damocles, being the favorite of the Syracuse tyrant Dionysius the Elder, considered him the happiest of people and was very jealous of him.
Then Dionysius invited Damocles to occupy his throne for one day. At the feast, Damocles noticed with horror a sharp sword over his head, suspended from a thin horsehair. And Dionysius explained to him that the sword symbolizes the dangers to which he is constantly exposed as a ruler, despite the apparent well-being.
"The root of evil"
The expression is taken from the Bible, from the Book of Job. Used in the sense of: the cause of any troubles, misfortunes, etc.
This expression was first used by P. A. Vyazemsky. It is used in an ironic sense and implies a stupid, hardened adherence to the obsolete and absurd "traditions" of national life and an equally stupid and categorical rejection of someone else's, foreign, "not ours."
Used in relation to lazy, stupid and inept workers. This word has long been met in popular speech, but it was especially widespread after it was used by Saltykov-Shchedrin in the “History of one city” in the chapter “On the root of the origin of the Foolovites”.
Perhaps enough. Of course, it is impossible in one short note to cover all the richness of the Russian language, where many, many hundreds of similar proverbs, sayings and popular expressions. My task was only to interest the reader, to make him think about why we say that? I hope that I accomplished this modest task.