People use this expression a lot, and despite their best intentions, what does it really mean?
Perhaps, literally, it means that bad times are like dark clouds, blocking out the sun, but we can see the lights rays behind them, and that is the silver lining. This seems to be the most common explanation.
Where did it originate?
It is said that John Milton used the phrase ‘silver lining’ in his ‘Comus: A Mask Presented at Ludlow Castle in 1634, but it was not until much later, in Victorian England that it was expressed in more uplifting language in The Dublin Magazine in 1840, in the review of a novel, Marian; or, a Young Maid’s Fortunes.
But, figuratively, we like to think that in the event of something bad happening, there will always be something better to come from it.
It probably goes hand in hand with two other interesting expressions, things can’t get any worse, maybe because I’ve hit rock bottom.
Of course, in the first instance, you say things can’t get any worse, but they generally do, as in bad things happen in threes.
We tend to believe, for whatever reason, that if it has happened twice then it’ll happen again. So, while we may think lightning never strikes twice in the same place, in fact, it has. What are the odds it’ll happen to me?
Then, misfortunes never come singly, which tends to suggest that bad events or situations always come in groups. That’s why when one person dies, it’s unfortunate, two people die, it prompts the notion that there will be another.
We always hope it doesn’t, but we are not necessarily surprised if it does.
In the second instance, rock bottom is said to be caused by poor lifestyle choices. Can you go any lower, supposedly not, but…
There’s another saying which came out of an old movie I was watching one night, very late, and that was ‘he’s lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut’.
To compound this line of thought, let’s add one more, ‘It never rains, it just pours’, with several variations on the wording, but the intent is the same and suggests that unfortunate events happen in quantity.
Sadly, it happens more often than not.