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"cannot call his soul his own"

English translation: Too busy to have time for himself

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11:06 Mar 30, 2003
English to English translations [PRO]
Art/Literary
English term or phrase: "cannot call his soul his own"
In 1920s a British author used this expression in his book with quotations marks.

I know what the idiom means. What I cannot understand is why he used it as a quote.

Was there a direct source of this expression (in literature, history, religion etc.)?

What kinds of immediate associations might it call forth in readers' minds in 1920s ?

Also, an additonal question: How does the idiom sound now for a native's ear? Is it still widely used? Does it belong to common usage or bookish way of speaking?
Kirill Semenov
Ukraine
Local time: 03:10
English translation:Too busy to have time for himself
Explanation:
You asked this as kudoz/399672, but perhaps with different nuance.

I'm pretty sure it's not a direct quote, but rather an expression put into quotation marks to indicate that it's not the author's own words. e.g. Well I'm off to bed, "early to bed and early to rise" as they say.

The meaning is that the person is so busy looking after others that he (or more likely she) has no time to look after himself. Of a man, this may be because he is hen-pecked. I wouldn't regard it as particularly bookish or old-fashioned, but I suppose I might be surprised to hear it said by a young person. It may well be UK rather than US.

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Note added at 2003-03-30 12:01:09 (GMT)
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I\'ve tracked it down! It\'s from Dickens\'s Old Curiosity Shop, chapter 4, and as I suspected, said of a woman.

‘If he is!’ interposed the mother, putting down her tea–cup and brushing the crumbs out of her lap, preparatory to making a solemn declaration. ‘If he is! He is the greatest tyrant that every lived, she daren’t call her soul her own, he makes her tremble with a word and even with a look, he frightens her to death, and she hasn’t the spirit to give him a word back, no, not a single word.’

http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/d/d54oc/chap4.html

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Note added at 2003-03-30 12:04:50 (GMT)
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http://www.pbs.org/onlyateacher/haley.html

Under Haley\'s leadership, the CTF (Chicago Teachers\' Federation) fought for higher salaries, pensions and tenure, better school conditions, and, in Haley\'s words, the right \"for the teacher to call her soul her own.\"

From about 1900.

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Note added at 2003-03-30 12:06:35 (GMT)
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\"What moral sense can a woman have if she cannot call her soul her own, possesses nothing in her own name, and has been accustomed all her life to use her guile and charm as a means to escape from tyranny and constraint?\"
--From Flora Tristan\'s Promenades dans Londres (Cross, 52)
Selected response from:

David Knowles
Local time: 01:10
Grading comment
Thank you, David! Thank you everyone!

The quote from Dickens happened to be the very thing I needed. So, it seems to be a colloquial saying, not a grandiloquent expression. As far as I figured out, it has no relation to anything 'spiritual' or 'classical' (as I had suspected first).
4 KudoZ points were awarded for this answer

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Summary of answers provided
5 +1it's a quote from the bible - book of John
Marian Greenfield
5Kirill, your questions show very good knowldege ofHerman Vilella
4Too busy to have time for himself
David Knowles


Discussion entries: 3





  

Answers


5 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5 peer agreement (net): +1
it's a quote from the bible - book of John


Explanation:
not used in common conversation, at least not in the U.S. As a matter of fact, I've never heard it before...

John 19:25-27
... Is forced to part with everything. The four soldiers have obviously taken over the
lead. Jesus cannot call his soul his own. They have taken Jesus' garments. ...
members.iinet.net.au/~jvd/Sermons/Jn192527.htm

Marian Greenfield
Local time: 20:10
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 732

Peer comments on this answer (and responses from the answerer)
agree  Сергей Лузан
22 mins
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6 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 5/5
Kirill, your questions show very good knowldege of


Explanation:
literature and language and awarenes of their issues.

I suspect you will find an answer from other contributors.

If you don't, you can keep the phrase in quotation marks. Affter all, if you use it you'll be quoting.

However, it IS common, so you have every right to use it without quotation marks.

Decide which effect is best for the reader (the reader, always for the reader).

Herman Vilella
Local time: 02:10
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish, Native in SpanishSpanish
PRO pts in pair: 14
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44 mins   confidence: Answerer confidence 4/5Answerer confidence 4/5
Too busy to have time for himself


Explanation:
You asked this as kudoz/399672, but perhaps with different nuance.

I'm pretty sure it's not a direct quote, but rather an expression put into quotation marks to indicate that it's not the author's own words. e.g. Well I'm off to bed, "early to bed and early to rise" as they say.

The meaning is that the person is so busy looking after others that he (or more likely she) has no time to look after himself. Of a man, this may be because he is hen-pecked. I wouldn't regard it as particularly bookish or old-fashioned, but I suppose I might be surprised to hear it said by a young person. It may well be UK rather than US.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-03-30 12:01:09 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

I\'ve tracked it down! It\'s from Dickens\'s Old Curiosity Shop, chapter 4, and as I suspected, said of a woman.

‘If he is!’ interposed the mother, putting down her tea–cup and brushing the crumbs out of her lap, preparatory to making a solemn declaration. ‘If he is! He is the greatest tyrant that every lived, she daren’t call her soul her own, he makes her tremble with a word and even with a look, he frightens her to death, and she hasn’t the spirit to give him a word back, no, not a single word.’

http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/d/d54oc/chap4.html

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-03-30 12:04:50 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

http://www.pbs.org/onlyateacher/haley.html

Under Haley\'s leadership, the CTF (Chicago Teachers\' Federation) fought for higher salaries, pensions and tenure, better school conditions, and, in Haley\'s words, the right \"for the teacher to call her soul her own.\"

From about 1900.

--------------------------------------------------
Note added at 2003-03-30 12:06:35 (GMT)
--------------------------------------------------

\"What moral sense can a woman have if she cannot call her soul her own, possesses nothing in her own name, and has been accustomed all her life to use her guile and charm as a means to escape from tyranny and constraint?\"
--From Flora Tristan\'s Promenades dans Londres (Cross, 52)

David Knowles
Local time: 01:10
Native speaker of: Native in EnglishEnglish
PRO pts in pair: 612
Grading comment
Thank you, David! Thank you everyone!

The quote from Dickens happened to be the very thing I needed. So, it seems to be a colloquial saying, not a grandiloquent expression. As far as I figured out, it has no relation to anything 'spiritual' or 'classical' (as I had suspected first).
Login to enter a peer comment (or grade)




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