I called my friend "salt of the earth" recently. I meant it in the best way possible - he is representative of moral goodness.
But when I looked up the definition, I became a bit uncertain of my usage. I found two definitions:
an individual or group considered as representative of the best or noblest elements of society.
Basic, fundamental goodness; the phrase can be used to describe any simple, good person: “I like Mary: she's reliable, trustworthy, and straightforward; she's the salt of the Earth.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his followers, who are mainly fishermen and other simple people, “Ye are the salt of the Earth.”
The first definition fits my compliment very well. "Representative of the best or noblest elements of society". But I dislike the second definition. I surely DID NOT mean to call my friend simple, since, after all, he is a very sophisticated scientist.
I want to know whether the connotation of "simple goodness" or "goodness in being simple" is common with this expression? Is that what people understand it to mean? Or did I use it in the right way?
Update: So there seem to be two types of responses - 1. whether I insulted my friend 2. whether there actually is an implication of being unsophisticated in the phrase.
I'm actually not interested in question (1), I'm only interested in question (2).