The writing's on the wall

  • Edwin

    Senior Member
    USA / Native Language: English
    fetchezlavache said:
    oh i don't understand... what does it mean please ?

    The following from Wikipedia is a good definition.

    The phrase writing on the wall (or sometimes handwriting on the wall) is an expression thats suggests future doom or misfortune, visible to almost anyone. For example, She saw the handwriting on the wall and left the company before it collapsed.

    According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the expression originates from chapter 5 of the Old Testament Book of Daniel. The following excerpts are from the Revised Standard Version:

    King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand...they drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and silver, of bronze, of iron, wood, and stone. Immediately the fingers of a man's hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace.

    Further down in the same chapter, we learn that the writing was in Aramaic.

    And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL and PARSIN. For more details go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Writing_on_the_wall

    I would be surprised if there were not similar sayings in all so-called Christian countries.
     

    jacinta

    Senior Member
    USA English
    To see the writing on the wall means that there are obvious signs of an outcome before it happens.

    I should have seen the writing on the wall when I bought this house. (It's cute but it's falling apart and it's old.)

    This means that I should have realized that it would be too much work and money for me to renovate an old house to make it liveable.

    Someone else will have a better example, I'm sure.
     

    VenusEnvy

    Senior Member
    English, United States
    Example:
    When I found out that my boyfriend cheated on me, I should have known. He came home late all of the time. I saw lipstsick on his collar, and he smelled of women's perfume. The writing was on the wall! But, I was blind to the signs.

    Example (perhaps from a science fiction movie):
    Can't you see what's happening!? The writing is on the wall! Just look around! People are getting sick, animals are dying, our plants don't grow anymore, all after the chemical spill. Look at the clues! The chemicals are ruining our neighborhood! :eek:
     

    EricB

    Member
    US English
    To elaborate a little more on Edwin's post, the phrase suggests that in addition to those who can see and read the writing on the wall, there is someone else who doesn't see (or can't read) the writing on the wall -- usually someone powerful. If everyone can see it, the phrase doesn't quite work.

    "Everyone in school could see the writing on the wall; two plus two really DID equal four." This sounds ridiculous, in part because no one would dispute the fact 2 + 2 = 4. It's obvious to everyone.

    "The general declared that victory was within reach, but in the soldiers' eyes, the writing was on the wall; the war was lost." This works because what's obvious to the soldiers is not obvious to the general. They can read the writing on the wall, but he can't. If the sentence said, "In the soldiers' eyes, the writing was on the wall; the war was lost," it would still work, but it would imply there was some other person (or people) who couldn't see the war was lost.
     

    manzanilla

    New Member
    uk english
    (This is not an example but an extension from the wikipedia piece quoted above.) The hand that writes on the wall is referred to in this famous verse:
    The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,Moves on: nor all your Piety nor WitShall lure it back to cancel half a Line,Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it -- Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat
     

    rayb

    Senior Member
    Chile - Spanish
    Artrella said:
    Hi!
    Could somebody provide an example using this idiom?

    Thank you!

    Art, is there a nuance between "the writing's on the wall" and "the writings on the wall" Apparently yes, but I am not sure.;)
     

    Artrella

    Banned
    BA
    Spanish-Argentina
    rayb said:
    Art, is there a nuance between "the writing's on the wall" and "the writings on the wall" Apparently yes, but I am not sure.;)

    Yes!! The idiom is "The writing is on the wall"... now...what happens with the previous examples?? :confused:
     

    rayb

    Senior Member
    Chile - Spanish
    Artrella said:
    Yes!! The idiom is "The writing is on the wall"... now...what happens with the previous examples?? :confused:

    Apparently the examples proposed, by the way extremely interesting, are mainly for: "the writtings on the wall". Maybe the lyrics of these songs will bring you some hidden messages written somewhere on a wall ;):

    http://www.lyricstop.com/w/writingsonthewall-teaparty.html

    http://www.lyrics007.com/Destiny's%20Child%20Lyrics/Intro%20(The%20Writing's%20On%20The%20Wall)%20Lyrics.html

    http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Writing's-On-The-Wall-lyrics-George-Harrison/1B59C37C1A2C57394825695E001CCDA0
     

    garryknight

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    The previous examples are fine; the people posting them referred to your title, "The writing's on the wall".

    Here's another example: "The council has employed a new clean-up team for the town. The writing's on the wall for the graffiti artists". ;)
     

    Artrella

    Banned
    BA
    Spanish-Argentina
    But Rayb, what's the difference between both expressions?

    Garry says the examples correspond to my "The writing's on the wall" ...
    so, what is the difference you find in both cases?

    :confused:
     

    jacinta

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Art, can you be more specific with your question? What is it that you don't understand?

    The saying is "The writing on the wall" or "the writing is on the wall". It is never used in the plural "The writings on the wall", at least I've never heard it used.

    Was that the confusion?
     

    rayb

    Senior Member
    Chile - Spanish
    Artrella said:
    But Rayb, what's the difference between both expressions?

    Garry says the examples correspond to my "The writing's on the wall" ...
    so, what is the difference you find in both cases?

    :confused:

    Art, I'm not sure. :rolleyes: The nuance I see is that, on one hand, the idiom "the writing is on the wall" is telling me that there is somewhere a message or a sign for me, that I have to discover. I have to open my eyes. Incidentally, the message doesn't need to be necessarily written physically on a wall. Conversely, on the other hand, the expression "the writings on the wall" is simply speaking about graffitis or any other writings effectively written physically on a wall.
     

    garryknight

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    rayb: The thread was only ever about "the writing's on the wall" (that is, "the writing is on the wall") as a metaphorical expression. I made a play on words about graffiti in an example, but it still referred to the metaphor - it had to or it wouldn't have been a play on words.
     

    te gato

    Senior Member
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    I should have seen where this thread was going..the writing was on the wall..

    (and it was not in the form of writing's on the wall..that said to go to He**)

    tg;)
     

    la grive solitaire

    Senior Member
    United States, English
    rayb said:
    Apparently the examples proposed, by the way extremely interesting, are mainly for: "the writing's on the wall". Maybe the lyrics of these songs will bring you some hidden messages written somewhere on a wall ;):
    http://www.lyricstop.com/w/writingsonthewall-teaparty.html
    http://www.lyrics007.com/Destiny's%20Child%20Lyrics/Intro%20(The%20Writing's%20On%20The%20Wall)%20Lyrics.html
    http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Writing's-On-The-Wall-lyrics-George-Harrison/1B59C37C1A2C57394825695E001CCDA0
    "Writing is on the wall" is always singular, never plural. The confusion arose because of a missing apostrophe in rayb's post. I checked all the songs and they also read--correctly--the writing's on the wall.
     

    Artrella

    Banned
    BA
    Spanish-Argentina
    jacinta said:
    Art, can you be more specific with your question? What is it that you don't understand?

    The saying is "The writing on the wall" or "the writing is on the wall". It is never used in the plural "The writings on the wall", at least I've never heard it used.

    Was that the confusion?


    Jacinta, I was asking for an example using this idiom "The writing's (is) on the wall"... they Rayb said that there was a difference between "The writings on the wall" and "The writing is on the wall" and so that he thought that the examples given by the other foreros were referred to "the writings on the wall". Consequently, I assumed there was a difference ...then I just asked about that possible difference.

    But I only wanted an example for this "The writing is on the wall" because in my dictionaries there weren't examples!!! oohhhhh!!! :p But it's ok now, Garry has clarified the matter.... :thumbsup: :idea: :thumbsup:
     

    lsp

    Senior Member
    NY
    US, English
    EricB said:
    ... If everyone can see it, the phrase doesn't quite work.
    ...
    I disagree, Eric. I don't think the phrase requires two opinions of the outcome, just that the message is as yet implied but not stated. As in, "While the jury wept at the victim's mother's testimony, I looked around and saw that we were all thinking the same thing- 'the writing's on the wall.'"
     
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