snopes.com  

Go Back   snopes.com > Urban Legends > Language

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 03 June 2008, 07:48 PM
moonfall moonfall is offline
 
Join Date: 17 May 2004
Location: Central FL
Posts: 3,139
Default "Contemplating one's navel"

My Shakespeare professor uses this phrase practically on a daily basis. It apparently means something along the lines of "soliloquizing." (Hamlet's "To Be or Not to Be" speech is an example of contemplating his navel.) I never heard it before, so the first time he said it, I thought he meant that Richard III really was thinking about his belly button at some point in the play. Is it a common phrase in the UK?
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 03 June 2008, 09:04 PM
Ieuan ab Arthur's Avatar
Ieuan ab Arthur Ieuan ab Arthur is offline
 
Join Date: 19 October 2005
Location: Toronto, ON
Posts: 2,202
Icon104

Hi Moonfall:

Quote:
Originally Posted by moonfall View Post
My Shakespeare professor uses this phrase practically on a daily basis. It apparently means something along the lines of "soliloquizing." (Hamlet's "To Be or Not to Be" speech is an example of contemplating his navel.) I never heard it before, so the first time he said it, I thought he meant that Richard III really was thinking about his belly button at some point in the play. Is it a common phrase in the UK?
I don't know about those across the pond, but I use the phrase (and it's compatriot "navel gazing") frequently enough.

Of course, when I contemplate my navel, the only enlightment I seem to achieve is that I need to clean the lint out of my bellybutton

Here's what the Online Etymology Dictionary has to say about it - see the last couple lines.

Ta ra 'wan,

Ieuan "navel officer" ab Arthur
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 03 June 2008, 09:46 PM
Noctilca's Avatar
Noctilca Noctilca is offline
 
Join Date: 07 October 2005
Location: Blue Ridge Mountains, VA
Posts: 1,024
Default

I've heard the phrase used a few times in reference to meditation (although not very often). Although, I have to admit that the first thing that's popping to mind is that episode of Perfect Strangers when Balki is telling Larry about the origin of "lint paintings" on his home island of Mypos:

Quote:
"The first one was done by Brektos, our spiritual leader in the storybook days, and the legend says that he went up on the mountain for sixty day and sixty night to contemplate his navel. And when he came down he had...a lint painting."
But, erm, yeah - Ieuan ab Arthur's link is much more helpful
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 03 June 2008, 10:55 PM
violetbon's Avatar
violetbon violetbon is offline
 
Join Date: 23 October 2005
Location: Chicago, IL
Posts: 586
Default

I have heard the phrase used to imply that one is extremely self-centered.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 03 June 2008, 11:35 PM
Silas Sparkhammer's Avatar
Silas Sparkhammer Silas Sparkhammer is offline
 
Join Date: 22 September 2000
Location: San Diego, CA
Posts: 26,843
Whalephant

It comes from the early days of Transcendental Meditation. Meditation involves bypassing the senses: this is why users chant a mantra, and fill their eyesight with an unusual image. Some use a mandala. Some use their own navel. Some close their eyes.

Alas, it has taken on a connotation of being self-centered, but the original meaning of this was much more benign: it was to indicate a person merely being "centered," and bypassing the illusions of the senses.

As with so many things, the extreme claims for the benefits of TM are garbage and hooey. You can't fly, and it won't bring about world peace. But the lesser claims have some validity. It is certainly relaxing, and helps a lot with everyday stress. It appears to lower the heart-rate. And if you have an hour to kill, it's better for you than watching daytime tv!

Silas
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 03 June 2008, 11:39 PM
A Turtle Named Mack's Avatar
A Turtle Named Mack A Turtle Named Mack is offline
 
Join Date: 21 June 2007
Location: Marietta, GA
Posts: 21,451
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
It comes from the early days of Transcendental Meditation. Meditation involves bypassing the senses: this is why users chant a mantra, and fill their eyesight with an unusual image. Some use a mandala. Some use their own navel. Some close their eyes.

Alas, it has taken on a connotation of being self-centered, but the original meaning of this was much more benign: it was to indicate a person merely being "centered," and bypassing the illusions of the senses.

As with so many things, the extreme claims for the benefits of TM are garbage and hooey. You can't fly, and it won't bring about world peace. But the lesser claims have some validity. It is certainly relaxing, and helps a lot with everyday stress. It appears to lower the heart-rate. And if you have an hour to kill, it's better for you than watching daytime tv!

Silas
How self-centered - taking time to be more relaxed, calm, and healthy. Don't you know you're supposed to be constantly pushing yourself to do things for other people until it kills you!?!?!?!?!?



ETA: I already am having decaf - why do you ask?
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 04 June 2008, 02:24 AM
liebeslied
 
Posts: n/a
Default

There's a fun word for it: omphaloskepsis.
Is it a made-up word? Yes, they all are!
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 04 June 2008, 02:45 AM
CatPurrson
 
Posts: n/a
Icon215

I haven't heard this one in a while, but my dad used to say it pretty often, as in "Why don't you go sit in a corner and contemplate your navel?" Dadspeak for "Shut up and leave me alone."

If I recall correctly, my college lit prof referred to scenes like that one in Hamlet much the same way-- though I could be mistaken. He wasn't a native English speaker, so I'm not sure if he'd use an expression like that.

I like the expression, though!

Cat"Conteplating sleep"Purrson
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 04 June 2008, 10:55 AM
Floater's Avatar
Floater Floater is offline
 
Join Date: 24 February 2000
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Posts: 6,834
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
It is certainly relaxing, and helps a lot with everyday stress. It appears to lower the heart-rate. And if you have an hour to kill, it's better for you than watching daytime tv!
And, according to something I've read somewhere, it's indistinguishable from sleep when you monitor the brain activity, so of course it should be relaxing.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 04 June 2008, 03:25 PM
Cyrano's Avatar
Cyrano Cyrano is offline
 
Join Date: 01 September 2005
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 2,906
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by violetbon View Post
I have heard the phrase used to imply that one is extremely self-centered.
... or, to quote french author Frédéric Dard:


... some people are so self-centered that they believe their navel is the hole left by God's compass when he drew the universe, instead of realizing it's just a useful cavity to put salt in when you eat hard-boiled eggs in bed.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 04 June 2008, 05:55 PM
Joostik's Avatar
Joostik Joostik is offline
 
Join Date: 14 July 2003
Location: Utrecht, Netherlands
Posts: 1,789
Default

Indeed the expression "navelstaren", staring at ones navel, is used in Dutch as well.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 04 June 2008, 06:17 PM
Silas Sparkhammer's Avatar
Silas Sparkhammer Silas Sparkhammer is offline
 
Join Date: 22 September 2000
Location: San Diego, CA
Posts: 26,843
Whalephant

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyrano View Post
... or, to quote french author Frédéric Dard:

... some people are so self-centered that they believe their navel is the hole left by God's compass when he drew the universe, instead of realizing it's just a useful cavity to put salt in when you eat hard-boiled eggs in bed.
Magnificent!

It's also a very good container for apricot brandy in small doses (requires either very high spinal flexibility or at least one intimate companion.)

Silas
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 05 June 2008, 04:24 AM
MissBethiepoo
 
Posts: n/a
Spit Take

I saw the title of this thread and I just started giggling! I had a history teacher in my junior year of high school tell us this all the time. Usually it was because he had to check on something with the teacher he team-taught with for the class before mine or if he wanted someone to sit down and be quiet. I always thought it was funny, the supposed deeper meaning of the phrase is not needed for me...just sit there and think about that little hole in your tummy and keep your pie hole shut!
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 05 June 2008, 04:38 AM
Dropbear's Avatar
Dropbear Dropbear is offline
 
Join Date: 03 June 2005
Location: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Posts: 7,237
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silas Sparkhammer View Post
Magnificent!

It's also a very good container for apricot brandy in small doses (requires either very high spinal flexibility or at least one intimate companion.)

Silas
Which leads me to ponder whether I'll ever get the chance to say:

"He's so self absorbed he drinks apricot brandy from his own navel."

Dropbear
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 05 June 2008, 05:08 AM
para1's Avatar
para1 para1 is offline
 
Join Date: 31 December 2006
Location: Helena, MT
Posts: 993
Default

I always understood it to mean the same as "examining your eyelids for holes" or taking a little nap. But definitley similar to meditaion or day dreaming.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 05 June 2008, 06:36 AM
Themis's Avatar
Themis Themis is offline
 
Join Date: 26 July 2000
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 2,035
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dropbear View Post
Which leads me to ponder whether I'll ever get the chance to say:

"He's so self absorbed he drinks apricot brandy from his own navel."

Dropbear
I am going to FORCE this statement into the first appropriate conversation forthwith. Thank you, kind sir!

I've heard it used for an expression of meditation and focus, like Silas states. It's different, then, that the phrase "shoe-gazing"? Because I've only heard that used disparagingly to describe certain types of angsty teenagers.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 05 June 2008, 12:10 PM
Floater's Avatar
Floater Floater is offline
 
Join Date: 24 February 2000
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Posts: 6,834
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joostik View Post
Indeed the expression "navelstaren", staring at ones navel, is used in Dutch as well.
And in Swedish: navelskĺdande.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 05 June 2008, 12:13 PM
Tarquin Farquart's Avatar
Tarquin Farquart Tarquin Farquart is offline
 
Join Date: 20 November 2005
Location: London, UK
Posts: 16,354
Read This!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Themis View Post
I've heard it used for an expression of meditation and focus, like Silas states. It's different, then, that the phrase "shoe-gazing"? Because I've only heard that used disparagingly to describe certain types of angsty teenagers.
I've heard shoe-gazing but used with a different meaning than that.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 05 June 2008, 12:15 PM
DadOf3's Avatar
DadOf3 DadOf3 is offline
 
Join Date: 28 August 2005
Location: Halifax, NS
Posts: 2,261
Default

Today's Rudy Park comic strip uses the phrase. It seems to mean self-centred or at least self-absorbed the way it's used in this strip. I always took it as being in a meditative state.
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 05 June 2008, 04:00 PM
Themis's Avatar
Themis Themis is offline
 
Join Date: 26 July 2000
Location: Denver, CO
Posts: 2,035
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tarquin Farquart View Post
That's hilarious, because I love and still listen to ALL those bands.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is On

Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 08:16 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.