Sands and Hands of Time
Sometimes eggcorns catch on.
An eggcorn is the reshaping of a common word or expression that makes sense in a certain way. The term comes from misspelling eggcorn for acorn. As explained by Chris Waigl, “the substitution [of eggcorn for acorn] involved more than just ignorance: an acorn is more or less shaped like an egg; and it is a seed, just like grains of corn. So if you don’t know how acorn is spelled, egg corn actually makes sense.”
The often-heard expression “hands of time” may have begun as an eggcorn, but has caught on in general speech.
Long after hourglasses were replaced by clocks, the image of sand falling to the bottom half of an hourglass remained strong as an image of time passing. People talked and wrote about “the sands of time.”
Longfellow (1807-1882) uses the image in “A Psalm of Life”:
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time
NBC still uses it on the longest running soap opera on television:
Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.
Nowadays, people writing songs and selling beauty products want to “turn back” the “hands of time.”
Turn back the hands of time with these 5 beauty products
Skin Care Products for Women – Turning Back the Hands of Time
If I could turn, turn back the hands of time/Then my darlin’ you’d still be mine
“Hands of time” may have begun with someone who didn’t know about hourglasses but was familiar with the hands on an analog clock and the necessity of turning them back in regions that observe Daylight Savings Time.
I wonder what the new image will be when the image of a clockface is forgotten, and time is perceived as passing digitally. The bands of time?
Want to Improve Your English? Subscribe and Get a Free eBook: 100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid
- The subscription is completely free, and we only send out one email per week, on Tuesdays
- Our emails are fun and educating and will help you improve your English and writing skills
- You can unsubscribe anytime you want and keep the e-book as a gift