Scuse me – may I wax poetic?


I have a growing fascination with words and phrases that we frequently use, but have no idea where they came from or what they mean. One that has always puzzled me is “waxing poetic.”

It has nothing to do with bees, candles, or polishing cars. The verb ‘to wax’ is ‘to grow’; the opposite of ‘to wane’, which is ‘to decrease’. Grow and decrease have largely superseded the archaic terms wax and wane in almost all modern usages, apart from the waxing and waning of the moon.

The other remaining contemporary uses of ‘wax’ with the meaning of ‘grow’, survive in various expressions like ‘wax poetic’ and ‘wax lyrical’. These are often explained as deriving from the imagery of the waxing of the moon. In fact, the word is extremely ancient and was used to mean grow in many contexts prior to it being used to describe the monthly increase in size of the visible moon.

So I guess you could say I have a waxing need to wax my floors, but a waning desire to follow through.

So now you know. Time for me to wane poetic and stop.

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