A New Leaf

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“Turn over a new leaf” is an idiom that means to begin again, to start doing things differently, to reform, to change.

Curious about the etymology of that phrase, I conducted an intensive Google search. I  was sure that my investigation would inform me that the expression related to the changing of seasons. After all, the phrase does conjure up images of a leaf on a tree, the old leaf falling off in the autumn to be replaced by a new leaf in the spring.

A new beginning. A fresh start. A new leaf. Right?

My research indicated, however, that the origin of the adage has nothing to do with seasons, leaves, or trees.

One site said the turn of phrase dates back to the late 16th century, when pages in a book were often referred to as leafs (not “leaves”). Thus, turning over a new leaf is another way of saying “turning to a new page.”

Another site I came upon, however, claimed a considerably more interesting — and far more whimsical — origin for the phrase. A friend of Oscar Wilde allegedly suggested that Wilde, a homosexual, change his ways and turn over a new leaf. But when the friend found Wilde having gay sex with a hotel bellboy, the friend said, “But Oscar, you said you would turn over a new leaf.”

Wilde is supposed to have replied, “Yes, but I haven’t yet gotten to the bottom of the page.”

Get it? The word “page” can be a synonym for “bellboy.” That Oscar Wilde…he sure was quite the wit.

But I digress. Over the years I have, upon occasion, turned over a new leaf, which I assure you has nothing to do with hotel bellboys.

Occasionally my new leaf was to change some behavior that I felt needed changing, like quitting smoking. Sometimes it involved taking a new job. Sometimes it was moving from one part of the country to another. When I retired last year, I considered that to be turning over a new leaf.

What about you? How many times have you turned over a new leaf?


Written for today’s one word prompt, “leaf.”

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13 thoughts on “A New Leaf

  1. Renard Moreau September 22, 2017 / 9:16 am

    [ Smiles ] In my case, I have done that many times.

    And, thank you for the historical lesson.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. baddadcartoons101 September 22, 2017 / 9:20 am

    I think of my life and the idiom is more like turning over the compost pile with the eventual creation of a rich organic pile of compost which may not be a pretty ending but it is useful

    Liked by 4 people

    • Fandango September 22, 2017 / 9:33 am

      I try not to think of my life as a compost pile, but maybe that’s exactly what it is.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Marilyn Armstrong September 22, 2017 / 11:22 am

    I like to think of my life as a very thick book. There are lots of leafs (and chapters) to turn. If this one doesn’t quite do it, maybe the next one will. I think, technically, the pages of a book are still called leafs, not leaves. This alteration seems to be recent. “Leafs” sounded “wrong” … so we fixed it.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Esme upon the Cloud September 22, 2017 / 1:01 pm

    I’m not convinced he was much of a friend to Oscar to suggest said ‘leaf’ be turned to be honest, but Oscar had a superb reply for every scenario.

    I’m less a turner than a wanderer; sometimes unlikely paths are the most pleasant to traverse. In the words of Pauline Calf –

    “If you like it do it; if you don’t like it . . . do it you might like it”

    – Esme wearing a cloak of autumn leaves about her shoulders upon the Cloud grinning

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango September 22, 2017 / 10:24 pm

      Wandering can, in and of itself, be the turning of new leafs. I like Pauline Calf’s Words. Thanks for sharing them.

      Like

  5. cagedunn September 22, 2017 / 3:27 pm

    My book of leafs turned over are locked, tagged, tied down and kept in a deep, dark and secret place – and I only look in there when bringing out my story characters, so keep your cotton-pickin’ nose out of it! Okay.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. newepicauthor September 22, 2017 / 3:41 pm

    When I ran out of weed my dealer said that all the good stuff was gone and that I would have to be turning over a new leaf,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fandango September 22, 2017 / 10:29 pm

      I hope he had something decent to offer you. Perhaps a little Acapulco Gold?

      Liked by 1 person

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