Language What does the expression "the saint go to heaven" mean and where does it come from?

It's something that happens to all of us

Language What does the expression "the saint go to heaven" mean and where does it come from?

It's something that happens to all of us. Our mind is accumulating data, ideas and opinions in the middle of a conversation or reflection with ourselves when suddenly, bang!, we go blank, losing the thread. The same thing happens when we go to a place in search of something and, upon arriving at said place, we have forgotten what that thing was that we were going to get. In a matter of a nanosecond we have gotten lost, forgetting what was going to be said or what had to be done. In those cases is when a very popular colloquial expression is used: "Going to the saint to heaven."

We verify that the academic definition of the phrase corresponds to the use we make of it: According to the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), "going to someone in heaven" means "forgetting what they were going to say or what they had." to do".

This lapse that we suffer is part of the functioning of memory, specifically the so-called working memory, a kind of temporary warehouse whose content disappears in a short time if it is not used. It is a basic and very fast process that sometimes suffers interference with which the brain interrupts thinking. That interference is the saint who has gone to heaven.

Experts suggest that the origin of the phrase could be in a priest who delighted in lengthening the sermons he gave to parishioners. In one of those endless speeches, going off as usual, the priest forgot which saint he was talking about. To get out of trouble, he said that the saint had gone up to heaven.

However, it is unknown who this religious person was or in what century the expression became part of the catalog of proverbs, idioms and popular sayings.

Benito Pérez Galdós used the expression several times in the novel Fortunata y Jacinta (1887). When Jacinta believes that if she saw her rival she would not be able to contain her anger: "If he saw her, he would definitely go to heaven." Now, as Manuel Lassaletta points out, in Galdosian colloquial language the phrase is used in this case as an equivalent to "go crazy."

Already in 1902, in the Treasure of the Castilian language: origin and life of the language, what the words say, by Julio Cejador y Frauca, the phrase írsele el santo al cielo appears with the meaning of "forgetting", "getting distracted" .

Spanish is full of religious expressions and it may be that, not without some exaggeration, the proverb contains more saints than the saints themselves. From this large group, common expressions such as: a santo de qué?, equivalent to "for what reason"; staying to dress saints, staying single; arrive and kiss the saint, to explain the brevity with which something is achieved; not being a saint of my devotion, not liking someone; password, password or the interjection holy heaven.

The locutions about specific saints deserve special mention. There are some popular ones like every pig gets his San Martín; Saint Rita, Rita, what is given is not taken away; Saint Thomas, once and no more; Those who have a car from San Fernando, go on foot some times and walk others; For San Blas you will see the stork, and if you don't see it, it will be a year of snow; For Saint John, you will eat figs; Valentine's Day, thousands of loves... The list is really extensive.

And if we go further back in time, to the 17th century, in the Vocabulary of sayings and proverbial phrases by Gonzalo Correas we find a hundred references to the saints that are barely valid today; Manure is not holy, but where it falls, it works miracles; To the past river, forgotten saint; Saint's words and cat's claws; When God does not want, the Saint cannot; Let the Saints fast, who have no guts; Every saint wants his candle; God is holy old man; Neither the child the bun, nor the saint the vote.