Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Episode 195: Lost to the Mists of Time



This week Shauna and Dan explore all that has been lost to the mists of time. Well, at least the phrase; which sounds spooky and spiritual. And maybe it is. Bonus: Calvin and Hobbes, peer pressure from dead people, amazing museums, and rhyming poems. 

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Bunny Trails: A Word History Podcast
Episode 195: Lost to the Mists of Time
Record Date: June 12, 2023
Air Date: June 14, 2023


Welcome to Bunny Trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase.

I’m Dan Pugh

And I’m Shauna Harrison

Each week we take an idiom or other turn of phrase and try to tell the story from its entry into the English language, to how it’s used today.

Opening Hook
Have you ever contemplated the idea that one day you will no longer be around and eventually all of those who remember you will be gone as well. It's a daunting idea and maybe a little bit depressing. But it also is similar for all of us. Eventually, many years from now, every one of us will be lost to the mists of time.


Now when we say lost to the mists of time, we're not referring to losing track of time or an amount of time going missing or when you are stuck at the traffic light and you feel like that length of time was wasted.

Rather, Lost to time is not about the time itself but instead refers to a thing that is no longer remembered.

When a person, place, thing or knowledge was known or existed so long ago that it's been forgotten.

When the memory of something has faded entirely and it is as if it never existed at all… this is when something has been lost to time.

It’s rather poetic.

The origin for today’s phrase seems itself to have been lost to time. However, there are a few dates we can pin down. The word time has been in use since before the English language was even what it is today… Therefore, the date that provides us the best information for the phrase is for the usage of the word lost.

Oxford English Dictionary tells us that the phrase to be lost to was in use in the early 1500s.
to be lost to:
To have passed from the possession of;
to have been taken or wrested from.

End quote

To avoid too much pedantry, we’re going to trust the experts on this one that phrases stating something is lost to someone or something starting showing up in print around the early 1500s.

This pairing of words was used by John Milton in his 1667 work Paradise Lost.
Other joy To me is lost.
End quote

Whether it is people or items or knowledge, the concept of things forgotten over the years has been expressed in numerous ways.

Other versions of this phrase include:
Lost to time
Lost to the ages
Lost to the sands of time
And so many more.

My favorite version of this idiom is Lost to the mists of time. I personally love the nostalgic, almost epic sense this phrase implies. It is also the most consistent and common throughout time.

Merriam-Webster shares the simple definition for the idiom
lost in the mists of time as

long forgotten
The origins of this ancient ritual are lost in the mists of time.

According to Oxford English Dictionary, the figurative phrase mists of time means

A dimness or haziness produced by time.
End quote

The essayist and poet Mary Chudleigh used this phrase in her work Ladies Defence, published in 1701.

And who see clearly thro' the Mists of Time, Those puzling Glooms where busy Mortals stray.
End quote

Here is one of the older instances of Mists of Time I was able to find in print. This is from the book The Works of Mr. Abraham Cowley published in 1700.

A dark and huddled Chaos long he lay,
Till thy diviner Genius powerful Ray
Dispers’d the Mists of Night, and gave him Day.
No Mists of Time can make thy Verse less bright;
Thou shin''t like Phæbus with unborrowed Light.
Henceforth no Phæbus we'll invoke but thee,
Auspicious to thy poor Survivers be !

End quote

The enquirer, November 22, 1808, out of Richmond, Virginia.
In a letter to Sir James Madison, Esq. and signed simply Pierre.
Come, Retrospection! Thro’ the mists of time,
Pourtray the patriot, who with soul sublime
Has never bent now bow’d to pow’r,
Nor left his country in her needful hour
Has ne’er deserted freedom’s sacred cause
Nor lent his suffrage to unrighteous laws,
Who long admir’d, belov’d, has stood
Chief of the wise, and first among the good

End quote

That was just part of the rather long letter…

The work Paul Ardenheim, the Monk of Wissahikon by George Lippard was published in 1848. Here is one excerpt,
" It is even possible, that on the last night of the second week in June, 1777, while you await the coming of the Chiefs, in the appointed place, not a single one will appear. Yes, the tradition which commanded them to meet, may have been lost in the mists of time, and the clamors of battle, and the changes of circumstances.
End quote

Next we have the book titled, A History of Savings Banks in the State of New York from Their Inception, in 1819 Down to 1869 by Emerson Willard Keyes, published 1870. I know everyone wants to read the entire book but let's just catch a snippet.


Regarding the establishment of savings banks in our State as an outgrowth of conditions not by any means peculiar to our people, but prevalent in human society, I desired, as an illustration of the spontaneity of the movement resulting in their institution, to note such facts as I could obtain concerning their origin in other States, in so far as these were found to be antecedent to or cotemporaneous with their origin here.

The details of their early establishment are so far lost in the mists of time (a little more than fifty years!) as to be almost or quite inaccessible, at least without greater expenditure of time and labor than it was possible for me to bestow. A few dates, however, will suffice the more material purpose I had in view.

End quote

From the Journal of the American Geographical Society of New York, Volume 10, published in 1878.
The Peulhvens
 [blocks in formation]
A few words with reference to them will suffice. The term "peulhven," composed in the Breton language of the syllable peulh, column, and men (in contraction ven), stone-namely, a narrow, straight column or pillar. These pillars have much less bulk than the menhirs, and are generally found alone, not in rows. In some cases they are evidently fashioned by the hand of man. I have seen some with one side quite smooth, and showing angles at the edges. The want of evidence connecting them with funeral rites, and the absence of human remains near them, have led archæologists to regard these peulhvens as merely commemorative monuments, erected to recall some distinguished man or striking event in the history of the race that erected them, the record of which is lost in the mists of time. Until those mists shall be pierced by the light of science, speculation alone can flash its uncertain rays around the origin and objects of those peulhvens.

End quote

Now, let’s move to our modern uses, right after we say thank you to our sponsors.

A Quick Thank You
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Modern Uses

Within the video game series, Skyrim - Lost to the Ages is the name of a quest in The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard which was released in 2011. The quest is summed up pretty well in the walkthrough posted on

Lost to the Ages is a quest in The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard. The quest details the investigation of a lost ancient Dwemer secret and the search for four pieces of solid Aetherium. It can be started by locating and reading a copy of the book The Aetherium Wars. It can also be started by entering Arkngthamz and talking to Katria, skipping directly to the second part of the quest.
End quote

Lost in Mists of Time is a 2016 documentary on Thai Buddhism which was funded by the University of Leeds, England through the Youth Media Foundation Selected to screen at the Thai Embassy, ​​England, Oxford University. The video is Thai with English subtitles.  

Information about the video was shared on the site Dharma Documentaries. The site gives the title as Lost in the Midst of Time but I believe this was a simple mix-up.
Here is part of the description,
This is a very interesting documentary about the discovery of the author of one Dhamma book in Thai, who turned out not to be one of the most famous monastics in Thai Buddhism of the 20th century, as was previously believed, but a forgotten Thai lay woman, Yai Wisetsiri.

The film was made by Dr. Martin Seeger, Associate Professor of Thai Studies at Leeds University, and Khun Nari Charaschanyawong, an independent Thai researcher, and follows their adventures in tracking down the real author of the book, and the other books she was responsible for.

End quote

From the subreddit r/EnglishLearning, posted in 2020. ago by user yukiiiiii2008.

What does 'lost to time' mean here?
Age of empires 2. Played the game before I could read English. Both original and HD version. kinda sad that the original cd was lost to time and would not work anymore even if I still had it.
End quote

The jazz song Lost in the Mists of Time from the album Follow the Stars by Peter Pearson was released in December of 2020. The artist’s website places this song in the Genre: Chillout.

Born in London 1947, qualified as a Doctor 1970, and subsequently became a General Practitioner until retirement in 1997. He dabbled in guitar (with brother), piano, and songwriting (with sister) in an earlier life, and played keyboards in a blues band (Blue Shift) in the nineties. After retirement from medicine, Peter was then able to concentrate on his other great passion- music composition.
End quote

We will share a link to that song so you can listen for yourself and perhaps discover the smooth jazz cousin that is Chillout.

The official video for the song Through The Mists of Time by AC/DC was released in 2021 and was part of the album Power Up.
Rolling Stone published the article AC/DC Take Trip Through Museum of Their History in ‘Through the Mists of Time’ Video in September 2021.
The song appears on the group’s 17th studio album Power Up, which arrived last fall.
The concept for the novel new clip was conceived by Angus Young. Director Najeeb Tarazi and creative director Josh Cheuse spliced together footage of each of the five bandmates filmed separately in different parts of the world, weaving it alongside photos and shots from performances through the years. Set in a museum — which features classic paintings along with new ones of the band as well as posters and other memorabilia — it also includes a virtual performance.

End quote

Lost In Time is a 2023 novel by A G Riddle.
Here is the synopsis from the publisher,
One morning, Dr. Sam Anderson wakes up to find that the woman he loves has been murdered. For Sam, the horror is only beginning. He and his daughter are accused of the crime. The evidence is ironclad. They will be convicted. And so, to ensure his daughter goes free, Sam does what he must: he confesses.

But in the future, murderers aren't sent to prison. Thanks to a machine Sam helped invent, the world's worst criminals are now sent to the past – approximately 200 million years into the past, to the dawn of the time of the dinosaurs – where they must live out their lives alone, in exile from the human race. Sam accepts his fate. But his daughter doesn't.

Adeline Anderson has already lost her mother to a deadly, unfair disease. She can't bear to lose her father as well. So she sets out on a quest to prove him innocent. And to get him back. People around her insist that both are impossible tasks.

But Adeline doesn't give up. She only works harder.
She soon learns that impossible tasks are her specialty. And that she is made of tougher stuff than she ever imagined. As she peels back the layers of the mystery that tore her father from this world, Adeline finds more questions than answers. Everyone around her is hiding a secret. But which ones are connected to the murder that exiled her father?

That mystery stretches across the past, present, and future – and leads to a revelation that will change everything.

End quote

Wrap Up

I am an anthropology student and this includes archeology as well.

I was recently posed the question: what will be your trademark?

I'm not sure how or even if I want to be remembered for any particular thing or by people who don’t know me personally.

I hope that my children remember me as kind, loving, and supportive. And if my partner and I don’t get our desired outcome of passing at exactly the same moment in some exciting adventure at a very old age… I hope I’m also remembered for being kind, loving, and supportive… and maybe as a badass?

To me, it feels odd to think of others remembering me at all… let alone trying to figure out why or how they might do so. I figure I’ll be like everyone else and eventually the memory of me will be lost in the mists of time.

However, there is a mark I'd like to leave on the world - an impact I’d like to have. I want to recover things that have been lost to time. Perhaps regaining some lost knowledge or gaining new knowledge about the past,  the evidence of which had been previously lost to time. I want to recover artifacts and forgotten people… connecting forgotten identities to their earthly remains.

I want to add to the understanding we have as human beings - of ourselves - of our past and history. And maybe that knowledge could help future generations to have a more positive experience. If people are able to have a deeper understanding of themselves and one another… perhaps they would be better to each other… Or perhaps I am just a reckless optimist.  

That’s about all we have for today. If you have any thoughts on the show, or pop culture references we should have included, send us an email:, or comment on our website


It’s patron poll time!

Recently we posed this question to our Patrons:

Which of these museums do you want to visit? (Or have visited)

The site with the most visits was the Field Museum in Chicago followed closely by The British Museum in London and Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.

Others that made the list include:

Louvre, Paris
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
National Museum of China, Beijing
Vatican Museums, Vatican City
Museo Nacional Centro de Art Reina Sofia, Madrid

I've never been to any of these museums, but I've really enjoyed a few that I have been to over the years, including Museo de Arte Costarricense in San José and the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, in Washington, DC. I'd love to spend a day or two at the Field Museum and the Smithsonian's National Museum of History

Jan shared
I went to the British Museum last year and the Field Museum in late 2021. There's just so much at each to remember everything, but the Egyptian exhibits at both were great. Gems and jewelry sections we're cool, too if you're into gold and silver. Highly recommend the Victoria & Albert Museum in London if anyone is going there to see the British Museum. And the Shedd Aquarium is a must in Chicago, too and right next to the Field.
End quote

Emily replied including music note emojis in the comment,  
🎶 “Between the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium, there’s always something jumping in Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium!” 🎶😁
End quote

Emily also said
I’ve traveled to Chicago, New York, and DC. I prefer museums of history or science to ones of art. I’m planning a trip to London and am excited to go to the Victoria and Albert Museum, especially after the linked article described it this way: “you'll want to go if you're interested in architecture, vintage fashion and furniture, and exhibits dedicated to theater and performance.” Textiles and theatre are two of my favorite things.
End quote


Pat Rowe said
I have been to the Field Museum and The Smithsonian. However, exhibits change quite often so multiple visits -- a grand idea. Sure I want to see it all! One that could be added to the list is the Galleria dell'Accademia or Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy. home of Michelangelo's David.
End quote

Heather shared
I've only been able to visit the Louvre, but I would love to see all of them one day.
End quote

I’ve been to a few museums and I never tire of them! My favorites definitely included The Field in Chicago and The Art Institute of Chicago. I could stay there for a month just going back and forth between the two. Maybe a year. Honestly, I want to spend the rest of my life either finding things that could go in museums or learning about the things we already have there.


Mary shared,
I've been to the British Museum of London and several others including the palaces. They have great museums because they honor history as a part of their everyday lives. When I was in Italy, I visited Pompeii before it was locked down. I could feel the civilization that was lost with hot and cold running water, showers in the locker rooms and modern looking swimming pools amid battering rams and corpses covered in ashes. There is no way to see all of the museums at the Vatican in one day so I went directly to the Sistine Chapel after it had been cleaned and discovered why Michelangelo's work is so revered above other artists…
End Quote

As a reminder, our silly polls mean absolutely nothing and are not scientifically valid. But Patrons of all levels get to take part. Head over to to take this week’s poll!


Thanks for joining us. We’ll talk to you again next week. Until then remember,

Words belong to their users.

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