Thursday, October 3, 2013

Thursday Trivia: Bone of Contention

This idiom refers to the subject of a dispute - usually understood as a long standing disagreement between two people.

The implication is that the topic is divisive enough to cause some significant tension or strife.

Agatte trying to steal Ulysses' rawhide bone
photo courtesy quantum bunny, Creative Commons 3.0

Its analogy is obvious, as there are fewer things a wise person would choose to do than come between two dogs embroiled in a dispute over a coveted bone!

But how far back does the saying date?

The first printed reference is found in the 1562 publication of John Heywood, where he writes, "The diuell hath cast a bone to set stryfe Betweene you."

That makes it over 450 years old - and probably much more than that, if one takes into account the commonality of the concept and cultures with a rich oral history.

"You done with that bone yet?"
photo courtesy tsand via Creative Commons 3.0
We found the Spanish version of the idiom equally fascinating: "apple of contention".
Its origin is from a Greek myth about a golden apple dropped in front of three goddesses, with an attached note, "To The Fairest". Yeah, we could see where that might sow some discord!

Interesting, yes?
Free Dictionary
English Forums


  1. Never heard of the Spanish version how interesting. Have a tremendous Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

  2. Now that's one we have heard off.. BOL xxooxxx

    Mollie and Alfie

  3. What an interesting version! Thanks for sharing. So interesting I learn a lot from your posts.

  4. Hmmm... I think I should be glad that I'm a cat and don't have to mess with any bones.


  5. How about broccoli of contention....? Bugsy and I fought over broccoli one time... then when I won and got it, I found out it wasn't worth the fight...

    Have a great day.

    hugs, Knuckles

  6. I would like it better if it was a mouse of contention.

  7. That's very interesting! You always come up with the most interesting sayings to explore.

  8. This is a good one...I'd never connected the Apple of Discord to Bone of Contention but it certainly makes sense now that I think about it

  9. I'm thinking I'll leave that 450 year old bone for the dogs.
    ; ) Katie

  10. I do so love popping by your blog, I always feel cleverer when I leave!

  11. Interesting version , greeting from Belgium

  12. Don't looks like something Waffles would LOVE!
    ; )

  13. Always teaching us something new. Mom says that she likes the idea of the apple of contention. Purrs and hugs, Lily Olivia, Mauricio, Misty May, Giulietta, Fiona, Astrid, Lisbeth and Calista Jo

  14. We rather favor the Apple of Discord, as that certainly led to a lot of contention!


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