“Turn over a new leaf” is an idiom that means to begin again, to start doing things differently, to reform, to change.
Curious about the etymology of that phrase, I conducted an intensive Google search. I was sure that my investigation would inform me that the expression related to the changing of seasons. After all, the phrase does conjure up images of a leaf on a tree, the old leaf falling off in the autumn to be replaced by a new leaf in the spring.
A new beginning. A fresh start. A new leaf. Right?
My research indicated, however, that the origin of the adage has nothing to do with seasons, leaves, or trees.
One site said the turn of phrase dates back to the late 16th century, when pages in a book were often referred to as leafs (not “leaves”). Thus, turning over a new leaf is another way of saying “turning to a new page.”
Another site I came upon, however, claimed a considerably more interesting — and far more whimsical — origin for the phrase. A friend of Oscar Wilde allegedly suggested that Wilde, a homosexual, change his ways and turn over a new leaf. But when the friend found Wilde having gay sex with a hotel bellboy, the friend said, “But Oscar, you said you would turn over a new leaf.”
Wilde is supposed to have replied, “Yes, but I haven’t yet gotten to the bottom of the page.”
Get it? The word “page” can be a synonym for “bellboy.” That Oscar Wilde…he sure was quite the wit.
But I digress. Over the years I have, upon occasion, turned over a new leaf, which I assure you has nothing to do with hotel bellboys.
Occasionally my new leaf was to change some behavior that I felt needed changing, like quitting smoking. Sometimes it involved taking a new job. Sometimes it was moving from one part of the country to another. When I retired last year, I considered that to be turning over a new leaf.
What about you? How many times have you turned over a new leaf?
Written for today’s one word prompt, “leaf.”