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Chris -- 2018-04-11
The word glean comes from O.Fr. glener, from L.L. glennare “make a collection”, related to L. glutino, “stick together”. The social role of the poor gleaners, who would collect scattered grain after the harvesters had passed, is now unfamiliar to most. Millet’s famous painting The Gleaners, that portrays gleaners sympathetically, was shocking to the jumpy French upper class, apparently. It sold for a derisory sum during his lifetime, then for 100 times as much upon his death. Self-proclaimed gleaners still exist in France, and are just as poorly regarded.
My eldest brother was an enthusiastic gleaner. One of his favourite pastimes was collecting great stuff out of the town dump in the small backwoods town where he lived. I still have some classic items that he scored that way. He cleaned up, you might say. Others think that gleaners are cleaners who choose the wheat and discard the chaff.
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Didn’t realize Millet’s The Gleaners was so controversial.
When I was growing up, I had small reproduction of Millet’s Angelus on my bedroom wall. Don’t know who hung it there. Same story as The Gleaners, apparently—offensive to popular, cheap to priceless.
Hatching new language, one eggcorn at a time.