Phraseologisms "to crush water in a mortar" and "to write with a pitchfork on the water" can be heard quite often. Like any stable combination, they carry a certain meaning. Of particular interest is the history of origin, which does not always unambiguously explain the appearance of these phraseological units of the Russian language.
The world of Russian phraseology is huge and diverse, for any occasion of life, expressions can be found in it that will help to give expressiveness and imagery to speech. Phraseologisms "to pound water in a mortar" and "to write with a pitchfork on the water" are perceived today in their figurative meaning and are used by speakers in certain situations.
The basis for the formation of phraseological units-jokes is an internal lexical contradiction, which is the basis of the artistic and pictorial means of the language, called an oxymoron.
Indeed, water with a mortar (a wooden or metal vessel, widely used in the old days) cannot be pounded - it will still remain it. Phraseologism can be used in a shorter version "to crush water", it formed the basis of the proverb that makes the inference - "water will be." The meaning of the expression is understood as a useless exercise, which will only waste your time. If you heard this phrase from someone, know: empty talk must be replaced with concrete deeds.
Pitchfork (a tool of peasant labor) is also not enough, especially on the water surface. Phraseologism is used in our speech to express doubt about the alleged events: whether what was planned will actually happen or not.
Phraseological dictionaries attribute these stable combinations to colloquial speech, indicate their emotional coloring - disdain.
Sources of phraseological units
Any figurative expression has its own history of origin, often the explanations of the etymology are ambiguous.
The emergence of the phraseological unit “to pound water in a mortar” is sometimes associated with a specific fact in history: in monasteries, as a punishment, monks were forced to do this. In linguistic comparison it turns out that the turnover is "tied" to the custom of punishment, and did not arise from it.
The Slavs considered a stupa not only a necessary item of household utensils, but also a means to help get rid of the disease, "crush" the ailments of people and animals in it.
This phraseological unit is often correlated with the time of the birth of the Christian religion in Russia, when the clergy had to fight the wise men and sorcerers, for whom it was common to pound water in a mortar. Christian priests considered such actions to be useless activities, not wanting to understand their real meaning.
But the wizards did their work not aimlessly: they gave the water magical properties. Beliefs about "living" and "dead" water lived among the people since ancient times, people used all sorts of ways to slander it. The Magi pushed the water until it was completely purified, then putting into it any necessary information. The water purified by magicians was used for cooking, and medicinal products were made from it.
Water quickly hides any traces, therefore, many peoples have long been figuratively defined the writing on it as a deliberately unnecessary and useless matter. The expression "write on water" can be found among ancient Greek and Roman thinkers and poets such as Plato, Sophocles, Catullus. It spread widely in the everyday speech of people, enriching in its own way. (For example, writing on material that cannot be stored for a long time (sand, snow, wind), in a figurative sense, also meant a meaningless, useless business).
Expressiveness and imagery are given to this combination by the choice of the instrument of action: pitchfork, finger, twigs and twigs. In folk speech, for example, there was even an expression "wrote with a magpie on the water."
The widest in use is the phraseological unit “to write with a pitchfork on the water”. The subject of discussion of linguists-historians of phraseology has become "pitchfork", it is the lexical meaning of this word that causes different opinions about the etymology of the phraseological turnover.
The most popular is the explanation of the expression from the point of view of materialistic reality: if you write on the water surface with any object, there will be no traces. The shaky material for writing, made with such an inconvenient tool serving other purposes, testifies to the unreliability and doubtfulness of what was drawn.
Fortune telling by water has long been popular among the Slavic peoples. But, as scientists explain, the use of the noun "pitchfork" in the instrumental form indicates not the inscribed water marks, but the writing instrument.
There is a mythological basis for explaining the expression. Its essence lies in the fact that once the peasants, protecting themselves from the tricks of the water, at the time of the conspiracy drew a cross with a scythe or a knife on the water. This superstition gave rise to the writing on it with a pitchfork. And the meaning, indicating doubtfulness and ambiguity, has developed as a result of people's distrust of such spells. Such an interpretation is usually considered incorrect primarily because the pitchfork symbolically personified the instrument of the devil, using them against evil spirits did not correspond to the pagan faith.
Slavic mythology calls "pitchforks" the mermaids born of water, fog and morning dew that lived in lakes, springs, wells. They were considered very playful mythical creatures who were not averse to making fun of people, as well as predicting their fate. The mermaid's prophecies were drawn on the surface of the water, and a rare person could read the records. As a result, they began to speak expressively about the unrealizable and unrealizable: "It is written with a pitchfork on the water."