Sunday, 14 June 2015

Deaf Adders

I've always enjoyed the Jeeves and Wooster stories by P G Wodehouse; comic tales of privilege and entitlement in an age gone by and the foibles of the rather dim English upper crust. I was delighted then to discover Wodehouse's Blandings series recently; same general idea but a different set of characters. Highly enjoyable whether you're an Anglophile or not.

It was in this unlikely context that I came across the reference to deaf adders. I like to think my biblical literacy isn't too shoddy, but this expression was completely new to me. To set the scene: Lord Emsworth's prize pig is "pickled" (so to speak) after a close encounter with a flask of the hard stuff, inadvertently dropped in her sty.
"She's like the deaf adder in Holy Scripture. I don't know if you're familiar with the deaf adder. It comes in a bit in the Bible I used to learn at Sunday School. Like the deaf adder, it says, what don't pay a ruddy bit of attention to the charmer till his eyes bubble."
How, I wondered, had I missed that?

In days of old one would have pulled Cruden's Concordance down off the shelf, but these days the first recourse is the all-knowing Google. The passage in question seems to be Psalm 58:4 in the KJV.
Their poison is like the poison of a serpent, they are like the deaf adder that stoppeth her ear.
It's a colourful expression, perhaps deserving of wider use and application. Deaf adder syndrome seems quite prevalent in certain places even unto this day. Too bad the "till his eyes bubble" bit doesn't appear in the original though.

1 comment:

  1. I didn't recall that psalm either.

    What an odd comparison, equating wicked people with snakes that don't obey the instructions of snake charmers and enchanters.