When Paul Collingwood hit the winning runs through mid-wicket, he sparked wild celebrations never before seen by an England cricket team and with it, lifted the biggest millstone from around a nation's neck.
- The Daily Mirror
George Osborne was not too upset at having the inheritance tax millstone — the pledge to increase the threshold to £1m — removed from round his neck.
- The Times
...the staff pension scheme remains something of a millstone around the group's neck...
- The Metro
It would be possible, perhaps even desirable, to wander through this life without ever even wondering what a millstone is. The answer, since you ask, is that it is a large stone disk that is ground against another large stone disk. This is not done for fun. Grain is put between the stones, and the result is flour.
Seems obvious, I hear you murmur, but why would you put a millstone round somebody's neck? Isn't that a trifle odd, perhaps even antisocial?
The answer is that Jesus wants you to do it.
Whilst in Capernuam, Jesus called over a child and told his disciples:
And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. - Mark 9v42
It would seem relatively clear that Jesus is thinking not of putting the millstone round somebody's neck but of attaching it by means of a chain or a strong rope. (It's terribly important that you get the details right before murdering people, at least that's what I find).
The millstone-chained-to-a-chap's-neck thing was not actually Jesus' idea. It was a reasonably standard Roman punishment*. And He's not necessarily saying that you should tie a millstone round someone's neck, only that it might have been better for him in the long run.
In fact, Jesus didn't say large millstone either. He said donkey millstone, which means the same thing, but is much more fun.
The Inky Fool invites you for a swim
* So saith D.E.Nineham. I can't find anything on the web.