Nero Fiddles While Rome Burns

 


    NOTE: The extent to which the phrase "Nero fiddled while Rome burned" is used by the public in everyday speech and its frequent appearance in popular literature have placed it in the position of an adage. On examination its usage is found to hinge upon the meaning of the word fiddle. This word is defined by the New English Dictionary as "fiddle, substantive, a stringed instrument of music; usually the violin, but also, applied to other instruments of the viol kind." The verb, as given by the same dictionary, means to play a fiddle.

    There is another meaning of the word fiddle in use today. It is often employed to indicate the idea of accomplishing nothing, and is so defined by the New English Dictionary. The common remark, "He’s just fiddling around," is an excellent illustration of this usage. It suggests a lack of proficiency and an aimless or frivolous attitude.

    The phrase "Nero fiddled while Rome burned" is used to express both these meanings of the word fiddle. First it presents the picture of an individual playing a musical instrument as he took a sadistic pleasure in the terrible misfortunes of others. Secondly it represents ineffectual effort. That is, Nero, the Emperor, who should have made himself useful, was fiddling.

    After reading the report at length, the readers of this blog would bring home the analogy of the Heading.

 

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