Vale of tears > veil of tears

An eggcorn that expresses the individualisation of religion? With a short sermon for the Dutch.

Glen Perkins this morning on Today re the appalling failure of Coop Funeral Care in Shrewsbury following the death of his daughter:

We were seeing the world through a veil of tears.

The image is powerful, I have no doubt that that’s the spelling he’d have chosen, and it’s common out there. However, Paul Brians, Emeritus Professor of English at Washington State, says in Common Errors in English Usage:

The expression “vale of tears” goes back to pious sentiments that consider life on earth to be a series of sorrows to be left behind when we go on to a better world in Heaven. It conjures up an image of a suffering traveler laboring through a valley (“vale” ) of troubles and sorrow. “Veil of tears” is poetic sounding, but it’s a mistake.

But Perkins clearly knows what he means, and the professor is wrong. It’s difficult to see on this compressed chart (try the original), but there’s post Georgian-era growth in “veil of tears” and a decline in “vale of tears”:

I’d put this down to the individualisation of religion away from geographical features to be traversed by tribes towards private griefs generally shared, but I haven’t investigated further.

An aside to the Dutch

Someone needs to acknowledge in the Dutch Wikipedia entries for Tranendal and Jammerdaal the almost certainly Biblical origin of these place names. How can a country which seems to be rediscovering patriotic fervour be so ignorant of its religious past, without which it might never have existed? I would be surprised if the Afrikaners were unaware of the meaning of the names of their homes-from-home.

On the other hand I am encouraged to believe I detect a chronological progression in the quotes in the INL entry for tranendal from despair to hope:

Dese Werelt is ons Christenen veeltijts een Tranendal, een droeven Kercker, en ellendighen Pijn-kelder, SPRANKHUISEN, Paus. Dul 97 [1635].
Zalig is de man, … die in zyn herte betragt om op te klimmen, door het traenendal, tot de plaetse die hy gestelt heeft, De Getyden of de Bedestonden (Ps. 83) 200 a [1731].
Wij gaan uit een traanendal, een verblijf van zorgen en ellenden over, tot het nieuw Jerusalem, wier straaten van goud zijn, WOLFF en DEKEN, Wildsch. 5, 69 [1796].
Deze aarde is niet maar een tranendal. Het zou ondankbaar zijn haar dien naam te geven, BEETS, St. Uren 5, 75 [1858].
Trekken zij door het tranendal, dan maken zij het tot een oord van bronnen, en overdekt de voorjaarsregen het met zegeningen, Leidsche Vert., Ps. 84, 7 [1901].

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Last updated 01/06/2015

Kaleboel (4307):

Salve Regina (1): The Salve Regina, also known as the Hail Holy Queen, is a Marian hymn and one of four Marian antiphons sung at different seasons within the Christian liturgical calendar of the Catholic Church.

Vale of tears (1): Vale of tears is a Christian phrase referring to the tribulations of life that Christian doctrine says are left behind only when one leaves the world and enters Heaven.


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