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What does salad days mean? I've heard the term used to describe past better days, but what does that have to do with salad?

Also, when was the phrase coined?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 12 down vote accepted

It refers to the time of youth when one was naive and inexperienced, and therefore happy and optimistic - in other words, when one was "green," as in "unripe" or "not yet mature." It's a bit of a convoluted pun.

Like so many English idioms, the term was coined by Shakespeare in the 17th century (Antony and Cleopatra.)

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6  
Shakespeare make a pun?? Say it ain't so!! :-D –  Marthaª Nov 18 '10 at 14:52
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If one equated life as a multi-course meal, the salad course comes early if not first. –  curt Nov 20 '10 at 16:28
    
@curt: the position of the salad course in a meal varies among European countries, and has changed over time as well… So that might or might not be an extra layer of cleverness in Shakespeare’s pun. –  PLL Jan 16 '11 at 18:56
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Salad course? The best way to enjoy a vegetarian diet is to feed it to the cow. –  Brian Hooper Jan 16 '11 at 19:30

Just agreeing with @PyroTyger, with the actual quote:

Charmian: By your most gracious pardon, I sing but after you.

Cleopatra: My salad days, When I was green in judgment, cold in blood, To say as I said then!

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