Lisa's week

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Lisa's week: Once in a blue moon


With all the talk of super moons, blue moons or just ordinary full moons this month, I thought we could look at this moon-based idiom.

Example in use: How often do I go to the gym? Well, after the initial month when I went really regularly, I have to say that I became demotivated and now I only go once in a blue moon.

Meaning: very seldom, irregularly, on rare occasions, almost never

Possible German equivalent: alle Jubeljahre

Possible origin: When I looked online to find the origins of this idiom, I was surprised to find several theories and some discussion regarding the original use of the phrase to mean something that was ridiculous through to it referring to something that never occurs or is impossible and then to more popular use of the word today meaning something that is not regular or occurs rarely. Not to mention the use of the term “blue moon” to refer to a spefic full moon within a specific period or even the fact that some volcanic activity sending ash into the atmosphere could give use the impression that the moon was in fact, a blue-ish colour.

At the time when it could be used to refer to something absurd, the moon was also sometimes described as being made of green cheese. Clearly that was a stupid idea and therefore, the use was similar to the idiom “pigs will fly”. (You can find out what I wrote about that idiom here)

It is unclear why the meaning changed from ridiculous to impossible but it seems to date back to medieval England. An example of this can be found in this text from 1528 by the Bishop of Chichester who sarcastically stated, “Yf they saye the mone is belewe, We must beleve that it is true.” (If they say that the moon is blue, we must believe that it is true.)

It seems that this meaning also died out and the phrase became popular again in the early 1800s with the meaning adjusted to something occurring rarely. I couldn’t find anything to explain why!

To add another layer of confusion to the matter, a blue moon has also become the name given to a second full moon within a month. A rare occasion that happens around every 32 months.

January 2018 was one of those double full moon months although with the heavy cloud cover and bad weather all month, I only caught a glimpse of each of these moons and there was no chance of me having the chance to go out and capture this rare event on camera as I’ve managed to do in the past. Did you get to see it?

So, to use the idiom once more… how often did we see blue skies and sunshine in January? Only once in a blue moon! Here’s to February and the hope for better weather!

once / wʌns

What is Lisa's week?

"We’ve (hopefully) been entertaining you so far with the meaning and background of a weekly English idiom and now we’ve decided to expand that a little to give me the chance to share some details that come my way in my daily life as a Business English teacher. I hope to find weekly tidbits of information and experience to tell you about such as British traditions that I (or we) celebrate, or typical mistakes made when speaking English, or even some of the funny things I come across in my daily life. We hope that you’ll enjoy the insight into the life of a Brit in Germany!"


Episode 1: The Queen's 90th birthday

Episode 2: What did you do last Sunday?

Episode 3: What's the best way to answer?

Episode 4: The sound of London

Episode 5: Not just a last resort

Episode 6: Quick tip of the week: advice vs. advise

Episode 7: Title talk

Episode 8: The Union Jack

Episode 9: Why Thursday?

Episode 10: Quick tip of the week - Are you watching or just looking?

Episode 11: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Episode 12: Don't forget to take you handy to the public viewing!

Episode 13: Up in the Highlands

Episode 14: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends

Episode 15: Pie in the sky 

Episode 16: Through the tunnel

Episode 17: Keep left!

Episode 18: Quick tip of the week - Rise vs. raise vs. arise

Episode 19: How do you say that?

Episode 20: Back to School!

Episode 21: Sweet cravings

Episode 22: Can you change a fiver?

Episode 23: Grabbing some "me time"

Episode 24: Typical Mistakes (part 1)

Episode 25: Fancy a cuppa?

Episode 26: Quip tip of the week - Fell vs. fall etc.

Episode 27: Things that go bump in the night!

Episode 28: Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpower, treason and plot

Episode 29: What's that badge you're wearing?

Episode 30: Bless you!

Episode 31: What are you thankful for?

Episode 32: Where's the larget Christmas Market outside Germany or Austria?

Episode 33: What's behind the door?

Episode 34: The joy of a Christmas cracker!

Episode 35: Does it all fit on the table?

Episode 36: Seeing in the New Year

Episode 37: How are your resolutions going?

Episode 38: Quick tip of the week - "Popular" false friends - part 2

Episode 39: What will the Year of the Rooster mean for you?

Episode 40: Sweet Valentine

Episode 41: A Reminder

Episode 42: I'll have mine with sugar and lemon juice, please!

Episode 43: The joy of golden daffodils

Episode 44: To correct or not to correct, that is the question

Episode 45: The whole world's going green!

Episode 46: Idiom of the week - Raining cats and dogs

Episode 47: The joke's on you!

Episode 48: Left over from the Middle Ages!

Episode 49: More calendar food-based ponderings

Episode 50: We use German words too

Episode 51: Celebrating St George

Episode 52: The perfect start to the day

Episode 53: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 1)

Episode 54: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 2)

Episode 55: The tiny apostrophe is actually something big (part 3)

Episode 56: Holiday season is coming!

Episode 57; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 1

Episode 58; ‘Tis the season (of Bank Holidays) – part 2

Episode 59: Summer Solstice

Episode 60: Harry Potter turns 20

Episode 61: Quick Tip of the Week - live, life, live

Episode 62: Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

Episode 63:  I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!

Episode 64: Stick a stamp on it!

Episode 65: Idiom of the week - Water under the bridge

Episode 66: I say QWERTY, you say QWERTZ

Episode 67: Doing your homework and making mistakes! (Part 1)

Episode 68: Doing your homework and making mistakes! (Part 2)

Episode 69: Joking around in Scotland

Episode 70: The first day of school

Episode 71: Let's go down to the Wiesn!

Episode 72: Celebrating language

Episode 73: It's a Harry thing!

Episode 74: My favourite time of the year

Episode 75: TED-Ideas Worth Spreading

Episode 76: Grinning like a Cheshire cat

Episode 77: Enjoying the downtime

Episode 78: Talking Tenners

Episode 79: Do you need anything from the Hight Street?

Episode 80: Just another few minutes!

Episode 81: Counting the cards on my shelf.

Episode 82: What sign are you?

Episode 83: Great if you have a sweet tooth

Episode 84: It's an acquired taste!

Episode 85: New Year's Resolutions

Episode 86: Quick Tip of the week - go/come & take/bring

Episode 87: My Luve is Like a Red Red Rose