Remember, remember – a thought for Guy Fawkes Night

5th November 2013
'Remember, remember the 5th November,' as the saying goes. This was the date of the dastardly Gunpowder Plot of 1605 when rebels tried to murder King James and most of the occupants of the English Parliament. It is remembered every year on what we English call 'Guy Fawkes Night.' Named after one of the ringleaders of the plot. An annual event. We gather together with bonfires and loud fireworks, frightening pets and animals for miles around.

But perhaps in our more sober moments we might also remember something else. The King-James version of the English Bible (1611).
snapshot of page from old bible

The terrible 'what if' of Guy Fawkes Night

I sometimes wonder, had the plotters succeeded, whether that great masterpiece of the English Language might ever have been commissioned at all. A terrible 'what if.'
random page from the King James bible

Turns of phrase


There is probably no work apart from Shakespeare that has had a greater impact on the way we speak and write in English. Its rhythms of speech and turns of phrase have entered into common usage everywhere. And we all use them, whether we are Christian or not, or even if we have never once looked inside a copy of the Bible ourselves. It is a part of the creative soul of every person who ever speaks or writes in English.




  •     a thief in the night

  •     a thorn in the flesh

  •     be fruitful and multiply

  •     a bottomless pit

  •     by their fruits ye shall know them

  •     to be all things to all men

  •     a Den of thieves

  •     Eat, drink and be merry

  •     to fall by the way side

  •     to go from strength to strength

  •     to give up the ghost

  •     How are the mighty fallen

  •     In the twinkling of an eye

  •     Land of Nod

  •     the left hand know what thy right hand doeth

  •     Let there be light

  •     Love thy neighbour as thyself

  •     Money is the root of all evil

  •     new wine into old bottles

  •     physician, heal thyself

  •     to suffer fools gladly

  •     to take root

  •     seek and ye shall find

  •     the powers that be

  •     signs of the times

  •     the skin of my teeth

  •     The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak

  •     Woe is me

  •     a two-edged sword


Easy to take all these for granted. But their origin lies in that very special collaboration of 17th-century scholars and divines. So, on Guy Fawkes Night, something to celebrate, indeed, and to remember. The King James Bible, on the fifth of November.

Authored by Robert Stephen Parry

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