Day 1907: A grain of salt

People I love keep telling me to take things with a grain of salt, even though I should be restricting my salt intake.

If you don’t know the meaning of the idiom “a grain of salt,” take this!

“(With) a grain of salt”, (or “a pinch of salt”) is an idiom of the English language, which means to view something with skepticism or not to interpret something literally.

In a pinch, here are more grains of wisdom from that Wikipedia page:

Hypotheses of the phrase’s origin include Pliny the Elder‘s Naturalis Historia, regarding the discovery of a recipe for an antidote to a poison.[2] In the antidote, one of the ingredients was a grain of salt. Threats involving the poison were thus to be taken “with a grain of salt”, and therefore less seriously.

The phrase cum grano salis (“with a grain of salt”) is not what Pliny wrote. It is constructed according to the grammar of modern European languages rather than Classical Latin. Pliny’s actual words were addito salis grano (“after having added a grain of salt”).

An alternative account says that the Roman general Pompey believed he could make himself immune to poison by ingesting small amounts of various poisons, and he took this treatment with a grain of salt to help him swallow the poison. In this version, the salt is not the antidote. It was taken merely to assist in swallowing the poison.

The Latin word salis means both “salt” and “wit”, so that the Latin phrase “cum grano salis” could be translated as both “with a grain of salt” and “with a grain (small amount) of wit”. The phrase is said “with a pinch of salt” in British English and said “with a grain of salt” in American English.


These days, we could all use grains of wit, salt, and other antidotes to poisons.

Lately, I’ve been encouraged to take gloomier forecasts about my rotator cuff injury with  grains of salt. Those grains of salt are more helpful than rubbing salt in that wound.

Also, I should have taken yesterday’s forecasts about a “four-easter” in Boston with a grain of salt. I woke up early to find very little snow on the ground, which means fewer grains of salt on the highways and byways today.

Michael, who sometimes tells me to take things with a BIG grain of salt, just said, “I don’t think there’s going to be anything to shovel, baby. If you need any help with your car, wake me up.”

What do you take with a grain (or a pinch)  of salt?  Any of these photos?





You may take this with a grain of salt, but I think New England ducks have fun in the salt water.

There are at least three “Grain of Salt” songs on YouTube (here,  here, and here).

I look forward to the grains of comments about today’s post.

Grainy thanks to all who helped me write today’s salty post and — of course! — to YOU.


Categories: definition, personal growth, photojournalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “Day 1907: A grain of salt

  1. I wonder if there is a grain of Truth accompanying the grain of salt? Or a pinch, to grow an inch?

    I hope you have a safe drive in to work today.

  2. Your post reminds me of my former mother-in-law who’d pinch spilled salt on the table and throw it over her left shoulder. Now I will have to research that superstition. I remember going down into the earth on a little rickety train car into a dark salt mine decades ago.

  3. I enjoy living just outside the Salt City, Ann. In fact, just down the road from the library, I can visit the Salt Museum. In Syracuse, they took it with a block of salt, Ann. Oh, and thank you for reminding me of the history of Pliny the Elder, one of the best names from history ever …

  4. JoHanna Massey

    So interesting. Never knew where the ‘pinch of salt’ originated. It reminds me of the time …years ago, when a friend of mine read in a ‘holistic’ health book that if you ate some poison ivy in small amount in the spring, you would become immune to it. And yes I did try to talk her out of it. It turned out badly…emergency room, throat/mouth/tongue…it was not a good time for her. Great read this morning. Thank you.

  5. Sometimes when I share a story I tell people they should “season to taste”, my way of letting them know that more than a grain of salt may be needed. However I’d never deliberately poison anyone–at worst they may need to add their own salt to make up for my lack of wit.

  6. a grain of salt is never enough…

  7. I live with a grain of salt.

  8. A member of my cricket club would leave a salt block on the pitch and have a lick at regular intervals. I suppose you’d call that a pitch of salt

  9. happy how you make
    even a salt-free
    menu tasty 🙂

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