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Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

What does it mean, to you, for one to be a 'salt of the earth' kind of person?

Asked by Simone_De_Beauvoir (38942points) March 15th, 2010

I know that it has a Christian origin but I’ve been wondering if the meaning has changed/morphed or if it means something else to different people. And who, in your life, is like that?

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46 Answers

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I guess it means that I’ll be illegal in New York state soon…

tinyfaery's avatar

Nothing. That is why I never use it.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

@CyanoticWasp HAHAHA!!! Good one.

njnyjobs's avatar

I hardly hear salt of the earth being used in regular conversation, however, Scum of the Earth is pretty typical around here…

Coloma's avatar

Open, honest, unpretentitious, easy going, equitable to all.

mrentropy's avatar

I always thought salting the Earth was a bad thing. So, if someone were to say I was a “salt of the Earth” type of guy my feelings would be hurt because it implied that I killed crops and made sure the land would be infertile.

Trillian's avatar

I knew what it meant in the abstract but never really tried to put it into words before. I found this link which was pretty interesting.

Nullo's avatar

I take “salt-of-the-earth-type” to mean “person who ‘seasons’ /improves things around them.”

jeffgoldblumsprivatefacilities's avatar

I agree with @mrentropy. I’ve always thought it had a more negative connotation than a positive one.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@CyanoticWasp lol
@Trillian – yeah I read stuff like that, just wondering if you know of other meanings. It’s such a foreign phrase to me.

Coloma's avatar

I have never looked up the true defintion…interesting our interpretations.

I guess it does have a bit of a negative ring to it…sort of like something one would say about someone who was nice but maybe rather rough around the edges. Dunno…

YoH's avatar

Matthew 5.13:
‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

davidbetterman's avatar

One who supports the rest of the folks through hard work and uncomplaining toil.
The backbone of America is made up of salt of the earth type people.

aprilsimnel's avatar

I always took it to mean a non-pretentious person who treats everyone the same regardless of rank or status, doesn’t care much about luxuries and who feels most comfortable around kith and kin.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@aprilthimnel I’m allergic to my kin, but I do like kithing.

ratboy's avatar

It means that one is essentially worthless. Salt does nothing to improve the flavor of dirt.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@ratboy whoa, do you have a backstory to this?

bummer's avatar

To me, if I called you salt of the earth, it means you were once a woman and looked back once too often.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

The sting in your wound. The clog in your arteries.

kevbo's avatar

Funny… my association immediately jumped to sort of a monetary or economic definition… someone who is frugal (in a sustainability sense) yet always pays it forward and leaves money on the table because of a cosmic sense of brotherhood and knowing (more or less) that enough of it will come back. Now I’m going to look at @Trillian‘s link…

YoH's avatar

If I said someone was ‘the salt of the earth’,I would be saying they are kind,honest,and reliable. Roman soldiers used to pay workers who mined, with salt,and that is where the phrase ‘you’re worth your salt’,came from.

CMaz's avatar

Being one with your surroundings.

bobloblaw's avatar

I always thought it referred to honest, hardworking, blue-collar-background, average people that don’t ask for much, but give plenty when needed.

Val123's avatar

@bobloblaw Dang it! That was my answer!

bobloblaw's avatar

@Val123 I’m in your head, plucking your thoughts.

Val123's avatar

Well stop it or I’ll sue you for plagiarism!

Berserker's avatar

I don’t think I have it right, but for some reason that always makes me think of some hardcore dude who rips out his bad teeth with pliers then downs some whiskey to ease the pain rather than to go see a dentist. As hardcore as they come!

thriftymaid's avatar

The people who make the earth palatable.

Cruiser's avatar

For me it means connecting with the immediate world around you! Growing your own food which I do and volunteering in your community which I do as well.

stardust's avatar

@aprilsimnel yes, I was going to say something along those lines

Silhouette's avatar

The common decent man.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Does this term carry derogatory connotations? What does it mean to be ‘common’?

bobloblaw's avatar

From what I gather, the term is not derogatory. “Common” refers to the average nature of the person. Think of Jefferson’s ideal yeoman farmer that works hard to bring home the bread for his family.

KatawaGrey's avatar

I always figured it meant some who was practical, friendly, hard-working and more than a little traditional but not necessarily harsh in their traditional mindedness.

My grandfather was something of a salt of the earth type with regards to my above description. He was a wealthy man but his daughters were all required to hold down jobs and do well in school. He also raised each of his daughters to be able to do anything he could do, and he was a tall, big, strong man. To this day, my teeny, chubby, 50 something, arthritic, cancer survivor mother can do more manual labor than most of the young, strong, healthy men I know. He was always kind and tried to make his judgments of people on an individual basis. He was traditional in that he had a hard time swallowing my mother having a child out of wedlock and, had he been alive, I’m sure he would have had an awful lot of trouble getting past my wild hair.

Please excuse my long answer. I take any excuse to talk about my grandfather that I can. :)

MrsDufresne's avatar

The kind of person that gives me hope, when I feel all others have lost their minds (or hearts rather).

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@bobloblaw The yeoman farmer is hardly the norm in the U.S., is it?

bobloblaw's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir The yeoman farmer isn’t the norm in the US, but, Jefferson envisioned a country that was composed of yeoman farmers that would be capable of reaching just results through the democratic process. Of course, this mythical person is Jefferson’s ideal version of the virtuous citizen. What I meant was that those that would be categorized as “salt of the earth” probably had many characteristics of Jefferson’s yeoman farmer, but not necessarily the same.

mattbrowne's avatar

Here is what it means to me: Jesus reminded us that we make ourselves very unhappy when we hate other people. This reminder might save us from living a miserable life. If we use this guiding principle and also point this out to other people we become the salt in Jesus’ salt of the earth metaphor.

JeanPaulSartre's avatar

I always took it to mean someone who’s extremely ordinary… like salt… in the Earth. Eh.

mattbrowne's avatar

@JeanPaulSartre – No, because 2000 years ago salt was very rare and precious. In antiquity Greek and Roman philosophers and scientists only had rudimentary knowledge of geology (see for example Theophrastus and his work called “On Stones”) and were in no position to systematically search for it. When Jesus used the term salt he meant the exact opposite of extremely ordinary. He meant “very special and valuable”.

Val123's avatar

@mattbrowne I’m trying to figure that out. Salt is essential for our bodies to function. Did people 2000 years ago commonly suffer from salt deficiency?

Nullo's avatar

@Val123
Most salts are dissolved in whatever it is that we eat or drink. The salt that @mattbrowne refers to is the stuff in crystalline form, rather like table salt. Evaporation of sea water was the most efficient procurement method, which limited production to coastlines Getting it from A to B added cost.
Fun Fact: “Salary” come from the Latin term salarium, which was a stipend paid to Roman soldiers with which they might buy salt.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, when people dug wells 2000 years ago, like today, ground water contains small amounts of salts. Same for the water in creeks etc. Which is important for animals too.

But the ancient people realized that food can taste a lot better when “table” salt is added. And doctors learned that diarrhea needs extra salt in addition to normal drinking water. There have been mines (for example in ancient Greece) and dry saline lakes (for example in Egypt) but without geological knowledge people could not search for new locations to find larger quantities. Only much later did people begin to realize that certain areas of land used to be oceans in the past which eventually evaporated.

Drawkward's avatar

Maybe someone who is particularly sweaty.

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