Saturday, February 04, 2006

On Loin Girding

An offhand comment I made a few days ago on Guy Wonders' blog turned me all tangental again.

While commenting on the confluence of events that threatens to disturb the peace of his Canuck Cul-de-Sac, I wrote to him: 'gird your loins.'

I like words. I like to play with them. I like to know their meanings. And I realized that Iwasn't 100% certain what the phrase 'gird your loins' meant.

I knew it was a biblical reference, and its common usage (as if a phrase like 'gird your loins' could have a usage that could be considered common) meant 'be prepared.' But what did it really mean?

Man, I love the internet.

Typing the phrase in my google search box on my browser brought up 'about 22,800' references.

The very first listing in the results gave me a plethora* of information.

To gird your loins during the Roman Era meant to draw-up and tie your lower garment between your legs as to increase your mobility and agility. This prevented the loose ends of the tunic from becoming snagged on something or entangled with your feet which would cause you to stumble or fall down when moving about quickly.
It even gave me instruction on how one would go about the business of loin-girding:

This was accomplished by pulling up the fabric of the knee-length tunic so the length in front stopped at your upper thigh, and collecting the excess material in your front. (You pull the material forward so the back of your tunic is snug against your backside.) Next, you tuck the extra front material down between your legs and gather it behind you. At this point, you collect half of the material behind you evenly on each side of your back (left and right). The final step involves wrapping each side of the material around your waist and tying it together in front.
Wow. Sounds like a cross between a toga wedgie and a big diaper.

But the second listing seemed to offer a slightly different interpretation:

Although "to gird your loins" sounds racy to the modern reader, all Elijah is doing is pulling in his pants. "Gird"-- actually "gird up" in the original -- means "tighten with a belt" or "put on a girdle." Elijah does not, as modern usage might suggest, fortify his thighs -- "loin" may rhyme with "groin," but this sense is relatively new.

Hmm...close, but not quite the same. And no 'how-to' section either. But it does offer a bit of triviata:
Equally disappointing is that Elijah does not "gird up his loins" to rush into battle. Rather, after slaughtering the false prophets of King Ahab's adopted god Baal, he simply wants to be the first to tell the town of Jezreel the news. So he pulls in his petticoats the better to outpace Ahab, which is no small feat since the king's got a chariot.
I like the part about pulling in petticoats. Makes a rather dainty counterpart to the whole false-prophet slaughter business. And if I just killed a whole bunch of folk because they had a different belief system, I know I'd want to high-tail it to another city. Another difference is that the first reference takes its verse from the New Testament (Ephesians 6:14), and the second is Old Testament (I Kings 18:46).

Maybe loin-girding techniques changed over the centuries, because my introduction to the phrase took place in the field of athletics, and it meant, roughly, 'hold onto your balls, or else they'll get knocked off.'

It was uttered by a coach I had in high school, and he used it in practice whenever we were about to face a particularly touch opponent. "It's gonna be a slobberknocker," he'd shout with barely-concealed glee. "Gird you loins, boys! Gird your loins!"

Perhaps I should point out that I went back to my hometown for my 10th year high school reunion, I met up with many of my former teammates, and this particular coach was a topic of conversation, and the topic was, in fact, loin-related.

It seems that this particular coach had made sexual advances to every single player on the team.

Except me.

And while my overriding reaction to this revelation was 'thank God,' there was another small part of my mind that immediately asked: 'So what was wrong with my ass?'

Perhaps my loins were too well-girded.


* 1. A superabundance; an excess.
2. An excess of blood in the circulatory system or in one organ or area.


Blogger Guy Wonders said...

Good one - I did the same search after your use of the phrase. Although familiar with its usage, I had no idea about its origins/true meaning. Thanks to you, I've been happily girding my loins ever since . . . and confident that I can explain myself to curious onlookers.

8:39 AM  
Blogger mal said...

geee, my brothers kept calling their athletic cups "loin girders" Now I will have to disabuse then *L*

"Roman Wedgie" is good!

10:08 AM  
Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

I'm all for a good disabusing, Mallory. I've done a fair share of self-disabusing as well.


1:30 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Creepy coach. Consider yourself lucky.

11:19 PM  
Blogger United We Lay said...

Boys are weird.

5:46 PM  

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