An ill wind that blows. . .

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SweetMommaSue

Senior Member
USA
USA/American English
How does one explain the expression: "It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good" ?

I understand the sense of it, but don't know how to explain it to someone who is learning English.

Thank you,
SMS :eek:
 
  • foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    To put it in concrete terms, when an "ill wind" brings you foul weather, that weather is being brought from somewhere else, and relieving that place at the same place it brings grief to yours.

    So to those people the wind is bearing all that nastiness away from, it's a good wind. In the big picture, things aren't always what they seem from your local and limited perspective, it all balances out.

    Say what? Oh, why didn't you say so? I'm in policy sales, you need to talk to the claims adjuster. Here, I'll give you a 1-800 number.
    .
     

    SweetMommaSue

    Senior Member
    USA
    USA/American English
    Well, now I'm a bit more confused. Sorry. It says that the ill wind blows nobody any good. Wouldn't that suggest that there is no one who benefits? Or am I just being completely dense, here?

    :rolleyes:
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    SweetMommaSue said:
    Well, now I'm a bit more confused. Sorry. It says that the ill wind blows nobody any good. Wouldn't that suggest that there is no one who benefits? Or am I just being completely dense, here?

    :rolleyes:
    Think of it as:
    It is truly an ill wind that ....

    however, in most cases, someone, somewhere, is benefiting,
    thus a genuinely ill wind is very rare.

    Even as we speak, someone is making a buck out of Katrina.
     

    foxfirebrand

    Senior Member
    Southern AE greatly modified by a 1st-generation Scottish-American mother, and growing up abroad.
    SweetMommaSue said:
    It says that the ill wind blows nobody any good. Wouldn't that suggest that there is no one who benefits?
    You're just missing the idiomatic nuance because the language is a little archaic, even a bit cryptic. Here's another way of phrasing it.

    "It's an ill wind that doesn't blow (or bring) somebody something good."

    Again, as I suggested, even a catastrophic storm that brings you a lot of woe-- carries that devastation away from someone else. The implication is, there's really no such thing as an ill wind-- wind is wind, and its value, for good or ill, isn't contingent on human considerations.
    .
     

    SweetMommaSue

    Senior Member
    USA
    USA/American English
    Ok. I have it now (finally :rolleyes:). Amazing how a little quiet reflection, some warm tea (or coffee) and the explanations of some patient foreros will help to shed light on a matter.:)

    Thank you all for contributing and not criticizing.;)

    Sincerely,
    SMS
     
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