Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Busy as a Bee

Sometimes we use a phrase without giving much thought to its meaning. Many expressions that are now a part of our every day language have a rich history, of which we may not always be aware.


Recently, I was weeding around our caragana hedge - and collecting enough scratches from the thorns to make me look like I had been in the middle of a cat fight! While weeding, I observed a big fuzzy, beautiful bumblebee collecting nectar from the flowers of the hedge. Weeding is not a very cerebral task, so my mind was free to wander.  I started thinking about bees, and the phrase, “busy as a bee”
came to mind.  


According to The phrase finder, the expression “busy as a bee” is from a line of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, (the Squire's Tale), written between 1386-1400:  
“... Ey! Goddes mercy!” sayd our Hoste tho,
Now such a wyf I pray God keep me fro.
Lo, suche sleightes and subtilitees
In wommen be; for ay as busy as bees
Be thay us seely men for to desceyve, ... ”
I read part of Canterbury Tales in high school, but it is doubtful I gleaned enough during that class to begin quoting Chaucer! I do remember my mother saying the phrase when I was young; it is much more likely that I picked it up from her!

I realized yesterday that the blossoms on our Canada Red Cherry tree had also become a magnet for bees. While watching the cherry tree for a bit, I realized there were various sizes and shapes of bees buzzing all over the tree and sucking polling from its blossoms.



Although very different from each other, they were all working very hard.  Trying to take their picture was harder than getting a toddler to sit still for a portrait. Every time I focused on a bee it moved before I could click the shutter.  They were in constant motion, from flower to flower.


We have many moments in our lives when we feel like we are going full tilt, or when we are amazed by how busy someone else may be.  We might describe ourselves or that other person as “busy as a bee.”  


As well loved as they are - it's doubtful anyone would ever consider it a compliment to be describes “as busy as a ladybug!”

After observing bees at work, I am wondering if the phrase “busy as a bee” perhaps flatters the human race just a little.  Can any person or anything else really be as “busy as a bee”? 

It is quite a compliment, but I have my doubts!


What do you think?

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14 comments :

  1. Lately I have been feeling busier than a bee. Not enough time in the day, etc. I need to stop and smell the roses, or the blossoming heather plant or something. Thanks for the nudge, Susan. I needed it. As for the Chaucer reference - well, I have a story for you. When I was in fourth year, I needed to pick up an English credit. The class I wanted was full. A prof noticed my frustration and pulled me out of line. "Sign up for the Chaucer course. You won't regret it. Great prof, great course." Ever so reticent (I mean Chaucer? Seriously?) I did. It was magical. He was fantastic. We spent the entire term reading Canterbury Tales. The prof constantly related it to modern times and it was transformative. So thank you - for yet another great memory resurfacing, Susan. And may the bees continue to buzz in your part of the world!

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    1. I can't say I had the same experience when I read Chaucer Kelly - I'm impressed! And I hope the bees continue to buzz in your part of the world too!!

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  2. You did a great job photographing the bees Susan! I read once that honey bees visit 2 million flowers just to make one pound of honey. That's a lot of work! I'm like Kelly and have been feeling way too busy lately. I'm looking forward to the lazy days of summer!

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    1. Thanks Lana. I'm glad bees work as hard as they do - I love honey!

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  3. Bees are not only busy, but productive. In my really busy patches I feel as if I am constantly running and getting nowhere.

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  4. They are in constant motion...no wonder they have such a short life....they're exhausted.

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    1. I know Delores - when you think about the amount of energy they spend, in relation to their size, it really is mind-boggling.

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  5. I sure feel "busy as a bee" lately! I have way to much going on and I am ready for a break which I will be taking this weekend for some much-needed me time. Even though, I have to go to my hubby's company picnic and then drive to Savannah and back on Mother's Day but I'll take it!

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    1. You are busy Rena! Happy Mother's Day!!

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  6. Bees are amazing creatures. I love part the play in nature

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    1. They really are very cool, I agree!

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  7. I am busy as the busiest bee. This week particularly has been so crazy, I had to go out to the grocery store on my lunch hour to get some food in the house because I've had something every night this week and all weekend and I didn't want my family to starve! I'm kind of looking forward to summer because that's a slightly slower time for me. I do love bees though - we don't get many, I don't think there is a hive very close to our busy urban area.

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    1. I hope life slows down a little for you Adrian - but if your blog is any indication, you seem to be juggling your busy lifestyle very well!

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