I was really wondering if this phrase is modern (post-electricity) or older than that. (musing) I was driving home one day last week and the sun was hitting a building I had not previously noticed in a spectacular way. The idiom came to my mind and got me thinking: if this was coined really long ago, then asking someone to "See things in a different light" would have implied "let some time pass" as well (with sun moving etc).
Figurative usage of "light" in that respect dates well before electricity. Light, on the other hand, has always existed. Early usage instances appear to draw on the religious metaphor of Light:
Meaning "a consideration which puts something in a certain view" (as in in light of) is from 1680s.
Early usage instances:
Religious Library, Volume 1 American Tract Society, 1671
- A new light, in which things appear far otherwise than they did before.
- For the consideration is not, how it now appears to you or to me, who look upon it in a different Light, and on contrary Principles from theirs
Interesting question! I did a Google Ngram search and found a reference to
Pennsylvania. Governor, George Edward Reed - 1681 - Snippet view - More editions
Your extraordinary manner of stating the Case would indeed set everything in a different Light; but while you can call your sending up about three hundred armed Men with Drum and Trumpet to terrify our Inhabitants by the name of levying of ...