Beginnings


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be·gin·ning

 (bĭ-gĭn′ĭng)
n.
1. The act or process of bringing or being brought into being; a start: the beginning of the universe.
2.
a. The time when something begins or is begun: the beginning of June.
b. The place where something begins or is begun: at the beginning of the road.
3.
a. The first part: The front matter is at the beginning of the book.
b. often beginnings An early stage or phase: the beginnings of human life on this planet.
c. The source or cause: What was the beginning of the dispute?
Synonyms: beginning, birth, dawn, genesis, nascence, rise
These nouns denote the initial stage of a developmental process: the beginning of a new era in technology; the birth of the industrial economy; the dawn of civilization; the genesis of quantum mechanics; the nascence of classical sculpture; the rise and decline of an ancient city-state.
Antonym: end

Beginnings/Endings

 

See Also: BIRTH, ENTRANCES/EXITS

  1. Breaking off with a hard dry finality, like a human relationship —Lawrence Durrell
  2. [A distressing event] came like a door banging on to a silent room —Hugh Walpole
  3. Comes and goes like a cyclone —Marianne Hauser
  4. Comes and goes like a fever —George Garrett
  5. (My urge to gamble) comes and goes like hot flashes —Tallulah Bankhead
  6. Come to a final end like a step climbed or a text memorized —John Cheever
  7. [The ecstacies and tears of youth] die like the winds that blew the clouds from overhead —Noël Coward, lyrics for Light Is the Heart
  8. Ebbing then flowing in again, like mud tides around a mollusc —Julia O’Faolain
  9. Finished, like the flipped page of a book (this day was finished …) —Isaac Bashevis Singer
  10. The first springs of great events, like those of great rivers, are often mean and little —Jonathan Swift
  11. It was over, gone like a furious gust of black wind —William Faulkner
  12. Leaving [a place to which one has become accustomed] is like tearing off skin —Larry McMurtry

    See Also: HABITS

  13. Like a horse breaking from the gate, my life had begun —Scott Spencer
  14. Like some low and mournful spell, we whisper that sad word, “farewell”—Park Benjamin
  15. Parted [husband and wife] as an arrow from the bowstring —Amy Lowell
  16. Parting is inevitably painful … like an amputation —Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  17. (You and that money are going to be) separated like yolks and whites —Saul Bellow
  18. Spent is my passion like a river dried up by the sun’s fierce rays —W. Somerset Maugham
  19. Things [like, popularity] come and go, like the business cycle —William Brammer

Beginnings

 

(See also INITIATION, STARTING.)

at first blush At first sight; apparently, at first appearances; on the first impression. The blush of this expression is from the Middle English blusche ‘glance, glimpse’ Thus, given a brief exposure to something, one might qualify an evaluation by using this expression.

At the first blush, it would seem that little difficulties could be experienced. (Benjamin Disraeli, Coningsby; or the New Generation, 1844)

back to the drawing board See FAILURE.

a clean slateTabula rasa, a blank record; a fresh start, a new beginning; often in the phrase to wipe the slate clean, meaning to forget the past and make a fresh start.

I can conceive nothing more desirable in the interests of these embarrassed tenants than that they should have a clean slate. (The Pall Mall Gazette, September, 1888)

Literally a slab of slate rock for writing, slate is used figuratively to represent the record or history of a person’s life. A clean slate, then, is one from which the past has been erased and which is ready to be written on again. The equivalent Latin term, now a part of the English language, means ‘scraped tablet.’

a foot in the door An in, a start, an opportunity or chance; usually in the phrase to get one’s foot in the door. Although the exact origin of this expression is unknown, it may be an expansion of the phrase to get one s foot in, dating from the early 19th century. Putting one’s foot in a doorway prevents it from being closed completely. In this expression foot is synecdochic for the body as a whole, the point being that once one’s foot is inside the door, the rest of the body will follow.

from scratch From the very beginning; without building on a pre-existing product or structure; without using prepared ingredients. Scratch is a line or mark indicating the starting point in a race. Figurative use of from scratch stresses the idea of a true beginning which allows for no head start or short cuts, as implied in William DuBois’ reference to “the task of organizing a major institution of learning almost from scratch” cited in Webster’s Third. The expression is frequently heard in regard to cooking without using a “mix” or other ready-made ingredients.

get off on the right foot To begin propitiously, to have an auspicious start. The phrase’s origin probably lies in the now less frequently heard right foot foremost, an expression related to the Roman superstition that one should always enter and leave a room or dwelling right foot first. Thus the current right ‘correct’ figurative meaning was originally right ‘right side’ contrasted with left ‘left side’ and its attendant sinister, evil connotations. See also get up on the wrong side of the bed, ILL TEMPER.

get to first base To complete the initial step of a task; to finish the preliminaries of a project or undertaking. This expression originated in baseball, where a batter’s initial task is to reach first base. The phrase’s figurative meaning of making a preliminary breakthrough is commonly heard, though most often in a context of failure to do so.

I thought I’d read Italian to read Dante and didn’t get to first base. (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Letters, 1938)

The expression is frequently used by men to describe a minor victory in the seduction of a woman.

She gives you the feeling that you’ll never get to first base with her. (P. G. Wodehouse, Service with a Smile, 1962)

hang out one’s shingle To advertise one’s professional status; to open an office; to begin one’s career. This colloquial Americanism derives from the practice of displaying a shingle, or sign, to advertise the names and services of professionals. Today the expression is used in referring to the beginning of a practice or career, regardless of whether an actual sign is involved.

Jobless, Metcalf put out his shingle as a food consultant. (Newsweek, August 22, 1949)

pick up the pieces To rebuild one’s shattered life; to put the past behind one and make a fresh start. Though this common expression is most often heard in a context of personal, emotional crisis, it is also possible to “pick up the pieces” of any project or undertaking that has been left in shambles and carry it forward to fruition.

pick up the threads To resume an undertaking after a period of absence or inactivity; to pick up where one left off. The allusion is to weaving.

stick one’s spoon in the wall To move into new quarters; to establish residence. In former times, one of the first things a person did upon acquiring a new domicile was to hang a leather pouch on a wall by the fireplace for the placement of spoons, scissors, and other sundry items. The expression is rarely heard nowadays.

References in classic literature ?
I keep turning over new leaves, and spoiling them, as I used to spoil my copybooks, and I make so many beginnings there never will be an end," he said dolefully.
On the papers were written thoughts, ends of thoughts, beginnings of thoughts.
The founders of the greater part of the families which now compose the aristocracy of Salem might here be traced, from the petty and obscure beginnings of their traffic, at periods generally much posterior to the Revolution, upward to what their children look upon as long-established rank,
In various quiet nooks and corners I had the beginnings of all sorts of industries under way -- nuclei of future vast factories, the iron and steel missionaries of my future civilization.
Never mind," answered Rebecca; "we are the BEGINNINGS of ladies, even now.
Four sides of incoherent and interjectional beginnings of sentences, that had no end, except blots, were inadequate to afford her any relief.
She knew that as a general rule there are feeble and ridiculous beginnings to all excellence, but she never applied general rules to her own case, still thinking of herself as an exception to them, just as she had done when she romanced about Smilash.
I lived here about a year, and completed my studies in divinity; in which time some letters were received from the fathers in Aethiopia, with an account that Sultan Segued, Emperor of Abyssinia, was converted to the Church of Rome, that many of his subjects had followed his example, and that there was a great want of missionaries to improve these prosperous beginnings.
The canon and his servants were surprised anew when they heard Don Quixote's strange story, and when it was finished he said, "To tell the truth, senor curate, I for my part consider what they call books of chivalry to be mischievous to the State; and though, led by idle and false taste, I have read the beginnings of almost all that have been printed, I never could manage to read any one of them from beginning to end; for it seems to me they are all more or less the same thing; and one has nothing more in it than another; this no more than that.
Since he had first seen Tarzan again from the wings of the theater there had been forming in his deadened brain the beginnings of a desire for revenge.
The dinner and my conversational beginnings ended, I noted for the first time that almost all those who had surrounded me at first were gone.
The most extraordinary thing to my mind, of all the strange and wonderful things that happened upon that Friday, was the dovetailing of the commonplace habits of our social order with the first beginnings of the series of events that was to topple that social order headlong.