Worth one’s salt and explore few salty phrases

worth one's salt
Worth one's salt
Spread a smile

Salt, as everyone knows, is one of the essential component of our everyday life. From the normal functioning of the human body to its integral role as a flavouring as well as a preservative of food, its uses are many.

An unsung hero

To be precise, currently, there are about 14,000 documented uses for salt, a startling figure for such a humble commodity. Maybe for the same reasons, salt has found a place for itself in the English language usage as well, reflecting its significance in society.

Salty phrases

The expression to be worth one’s salt and other few salt-related phrases came into use, at a time when salt was an expensive and scarce item in the community.

What does it mean?

The expression, to be worth one’s salt means, one deserves the earnings and respect for the work they accomplish, as they are immensely efficient and competent in what they do.

Search for the roots

 The expression is assumed to have originated and may refer to the fact that, in ancient Rome, soldiers were paid either in salt or were given allowances to purchase it, as it was scarce and an expensive item back then.

 The origin, similar to many other phrases, is questionable, but most scholars accept this entomology.

Scarcity value

In medieval England, salt, an expensive seasoning agent, was affordable only to the higher ranks of society. The inflated value of salt during those periods rested on its scarcity. For centuries, until salt deposits were discovered and its extraction methods improved, its prestige continued to prevail in the society.

Prized possession

Salt, a valued possession

In medieval times salt was placed in the centre of the high table in ornate containers, where the elites dined. A tradition, the society still follows, keeping salt and pepper (king of spices, often mentioned as black gold) in the centre of the dinner table for flavouring.

What is your salary

Salt, though an indispensable entity, currently has come to be an inexpensive and readily available item, as its extraction process improved over the years. No one would be willing to get compensated in salt or being provided with an amount to buy sufficient salt. Strangely, the compensation you get paid for has some salty roots.

Etymology of salary

The world salary implied to be derived from the Latin word Salarium, which is inferred to have originally referred to a soldier’s allowance to buy salt.

Salt has a long history

In ancient times, before the invention of canning and refrigeration, travellers and explorers preserved their food with salt. Some ancient societies, roads and cities developed as a result of the salt trade.

More salty expressions

Ancient Society’s positive attitude towards salt is evident in the following expression as well.

The salt of the earth : people who are described as the salt of the Earth are those who are considered to be of great worth and reliability. A term coined about the value of salt and derived from the Bible, Mathews 5:13

Above the salt: of high standing or honour

Below the salt: people who are ordinary or lowly

Old salt: a seasoned sailor who is hardy and forthright

Attic salt: a shrewd, subtle humour

Back to the salt mines: back to daily work, especially very hard or unpleasant kind of work.

Eat (one’s) salt: to be someone’s guest 

Changing values,changing phrases

In the contemporary era, where gold is a coveted possession, phrases with similar meaning acquired a flicker of gold. 

Worth one’s weight in gold: beneficial, valuable and important 

Love salt?

Apart from the phrases and daily seasoning, there are plenty of salt-rich foods that are enjoyed by many individuals, like french fries, packed snacks, pickles, and canned foods etc. As per a new study, those who love salty food are named supertasters, a different topic for another day.

As the polish saying goes, Without salt, the feast is spoiled!

Sayeeda Pearl

Doctor by profession, Trivandrum medical college alumni, a passionate reader first, writing tidbits here and there on this and that. Sharing bits of life’s fascinating teachings that everyone encounters.

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