cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “sayings”

Why We Say: #31 Tumblers, Turkeys, and Turns


Tumblers

There are many ways to categorize people. Dogs or cats? Soccer or football? Gelato or frozen yogurt? And the big one: glass up or glass down in the cabinet?

Housecleaning isn't what it used to be. Four hundred years ago it was even more of a problem. In fact, it was such a problem, especially dust issues, that glasses were designed with a pointed bottom so that when stored they would "tumble" over unless stored rim side down. Having a German mother, however, I do know about house cleaning, so this entry about tumblers took me to wondering just why we store our glassware in the manner of upside down. And yet, I'm wondering about how people actually used the glasses since they couldn't be set on the table. Were there catchers for these tumblers?

Turkey

The Ben Franklin story about wanting the turkey as our national bird is not this story. This story sounds like a bit of a fairytale though. Apparently tradesmen having discovered some birds, guinea hens, and sent them back to England by way of Turkey. Do you see what's going to happen here? When the birds arrived they were naturally named Turkey after the country they were thought to have originated from, which is why when settlers from England arrived to America and saw the natives with birds that looked like turkeys they were called turkeys.

I'm having a difficult time with this one too. Sometimes my little Why We Say… book has some really interesting explanations. Checking it out I found this information: maybe my little book isn't so wrong after all.

 

Taking a few turns…

Turning thumbs up or down

This one is so well known that you probably already know that a gladiator's fate was not always determined by whether he won the fight, but rather how well he fought. Thumbs up–he lived. A turn of the thumb, well, job security as a gladiator was a bit tenuous back then.

Turnpike

Originally, to prevent people from traveling down the road without paying for that privilege, a pike or bar was swung into place. And you thought those little gates were annoying.

Turn the Tables

Just like it sounds, during a certain card game a player could turn the table to replace his perceived poor hand with perhaps a better hand held by his opponent. Wait! That reminds me of a Bugs Bunny cartoon gag (around 3:35–the old carrot juice switcharoo).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOUhGcsHqDM

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Why We Say #30: torture, tickling, and toeing the line


 

“This is my lucky day!”

Finding some extra cash, just when a bill is due. Getting that perfect parking spot when running late. Hearing that number called out, the one that matches your ticket stub–these and more examples make someone shout out: “This is my lucky day!”

Surprisingly enough, Napoleon started this expression. He isn’t generally known for his luck. After his defeat, it was discovered he owned a book listing lucky and unlucky days for starting battles. Maybe he got his days mixed up for Waterloo, which has its own expression: “I met my Waterloo,” meaning I met my undoing.

 

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image: Wikipedia

Through Fire and Water

“I’m telling the truth–so help me, I am. I’d go through fire and water to prove it.” Heard those words before?

Lying can definitely have its consequences. Telling lies back in Olde England had mortal consequences. If thought to be untruthful, a person could be given two tests. The first involved walking over nine red-hot plowshares. If there still remained some doubt after hot-footing it, then a person would be bound up and dumped in the river. If the person survived the drowning by untying all the binding then he or she had to be telling the truth, since surviving fire and water has to be through Providence.

Tickled to Death

“Well, I’d be tickled to death to house sit your place for a week and take care of your plants and three dogs.” This particular expression alludes to being so pleased that it’s an absolute delight. And be delighted to the point of laughter is pleasant. Who doesn’t want to laugh? Laughing is great fun, right? Then again sometimes what makes us laugh can also be painful.

Tickling, that paradox of pain that makes us laugh, was once considered a form of Chinese torture. The victim would be tickled without mercy. That’s right, dying from laughter. When a person says he or she is tickled to death, maybe second thoughts of what they are really saying should be under consideration.

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image: Etsy

Toeing the Line

This might be a regional expression or one that is outright too old-fashioned to mention, but I do say it or hear it from time to time. Letting someone know he or she needs to get things just right and not go beyond expected boundaries makes sense when applying this saying as it derives from when boxers had to step up to a designated mark on the floor as they faced up before fighting each other. Not that I expect to knock anyone out, but I do appreciate everyone that know where things stand. Hmm, is that like drawing a line in the sand? Gotta look that one up.

Why We Say #29: taking and talking


Taking a back seat can just take the cake sometimes, especially when talking turkey about telling a gag.

Taking a Back Seat
In England’s Parliament, members of power get the front seats, kind of a ringside view of the political show, while those members who are in the minority power must contend with the seats in the back, and probably don’t get to contribute in the same manner.   So when we tell someone to “take a back seat” we are basically letting him or her know that they don’t have the main say. Although back seat drivers are known for having quite a bit to say. Here are some back seat quotes to consider:

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Take the Cake
Remember once upon a time when there were school carnivals with all those wonderful games, including the cake walk? Moving around the circle hoping your number was called after the music stopped so you could pick your favorite cake from the selections was a definite high point of the evening. After the surprise of getting your number called you got to take the cake home–that’s pretty special, winning a cake. And so it goes with the expression: it’s pretty special, even amazing, when someone or something “takes the cake.”

Image result for take the cake

Moving on from taking to talking…

Talking Turkey
Early American settlers trading with Native Americans were not always interested in bargaining for anything offered but turkey. Turkey was a new type of meat, and many a settler had developed a taste for the bird. Getting right to the talk of trading for turkey, without having to sift through other trading talk, meant “talking turkey,” getting right down to the facts, the serious business. Some may not quite understand that talking turkey is serious stuff….

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northstonerealestate.com

Which leads us to telling a gag
Telling a joke, a “gag,” stems from the days when performers would save the situation when one partner would forget his or her lines by filling in the moment with a quick joke. This quick save avoided an otherwise awkward silence and helped the stricken partner regain the forgotten lines. The filler joke was referred as a gag, since gags were used as silencers. There are some great entertainers who knew all about great jokes:

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Why We Say #26:rolling and ruling


Two quick “r”s before moving on to the S section:

As a teacher I must adhere to a couple of musts and one of those is taking attendance. I still find myself referring to it as “taking roll” which brings to mind me in a drill sergeant uniform and yelling out last names of my students as they stand at attention at their desks before sitting down to receive instruction. Now there’s a movie in the making, I know there is. Kind of a GI Jane meets Dead Poets Society. Wait a minute–I think Michelle Pfeiffer did it already. Never mind.

Seriously, taking attendance or taking roll, is a must-do within the first ten minutes of class. I have to scamper over to my desk computer and make sure all my darlings are in plus before dishing out my lesson du jour. So where did roll call come from?

Back in the day before books were bound, important documents were rolled up sheets of parchment, eventually become rolled paper. When a group assembled and the need to know who was present and who was not, the one taking attendance would unroll the paper and call out the names. Aah–so attendance and roll taking are in cahoots. I have a role in taking roll. I’ll take mine with cinnamon, thank you.

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image: livestrong.com (I wouldn’t mind attending to these rolls…)

Teachers make judgments all the time. Sometimes I have time to make a quantitative decision based on fact and experience, no science involved at all, while other times I take a rule of thumb measurement and hope for the best. Seat of the pants decision making–but that term is somewhere in the S zone coming up.

Rule of thumb–an odd little expression that harkens back to the days when people measured not with accurate tools but with their body parts. Yes, the ark was built with elbow power (check out cubit sometime). In this case thumbs and fingers measured a given unit. It probably wasn’t as accurate as a measuring tape or a ruler, but if those are invented yet a person improvises. Yes, improvised decisions are called rule of thumb.

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You know something–why we say these sayings do make more than sense. Although putting a crown on my thumb would be kind of weird.

From Super-size to Bite-size


With summer vacation officially starting for me I decided to attack my office and tidy up the mounds of paper that has been accumulating through the year. This is both a needed chore and also serves as a means of procrastination. I know I should be sitting down and actually getting back to those writing projects. Like that cow joke book…

Cows can wait momentarily, for I found treasures to share.


[Zits points out that literature, and I will extend this to quotes, is a matter of perspective] 

Every year in September I attend the local SCBWI (Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators) annual conference. My main goal is have a manuscript professionally critiqued by an editor or agent (who will be so delighted with my writing that I am offered a contract on the spot). Another goal is network and source gather. Both are conducive to bettering my writerly skills.

One workshop handout proved too fun to toss.The idea is to take a well-known quote and make it more relatable to teens by translating into more YAish language. Here is their example:

“When today fails to offer the justification for hope, tomorrow becomes the only grail worth pursuing.” Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

Here’s their translation: “Some days it’s hard to see the point of it all, so you have to wait for tomorrow and hope by then there’ll be something worth waking up for.”

I don’t know about you, but I can see this opening up a YA book that will be full of angst, humor, a touch of romance, and maybe even a bit of defiance.

YA is one genre that I would like to get out there into the hands of readers. There must be room for another John Green. I’m working on getting my YA voice down, and that’s the point of this exercise. Tell you what, rate me on whether I’m even close.

Marcel Proust, In Search of Time
“We believe that we can change the things around us in accordance with our desires–we believe it because otherwise we can see no favourable outcome.”

C.Muse translation:
“If I can’t see the silver lining, I’m still gonna carry an umbrella.”

Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
If people bring so much courage to this world the world has to kill them to break them, so of course it kills them.”

C.Muse translation:
“The world wants to suck your joy, just like vampires, and vampires aren’t exactly EMTs.”

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre
“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”

C.Muse translation:
“Life is too short to be hanging on to bruises–get over it and go have a bagel.”

Quotes of great possibility I didn’t get to:

“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

“I know not all that may be coming, but be it what it will, I’ll go to it laughing.”
Herman Melville, Moby Dick

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Everyone suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever know.” 
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

It was actually pretty entertaining to listen to everyone’s interpretation. As I recollect my vampire translation received a few polite guffaws. Does that mean it was perceived as a home runner or just a bummer?

I do have a couple of YA manuscripts I plan on revisiting and sending out on their “please-publish-me” tour.

Blue Skies and hope your summer is also off to a spiffy start.

 

 

Why We Say #22:Junk to Jeeps


Getting into the J zone of sayings with junk, jalopy, jazz, and jeep…

Jalopy: when a car goes south, south of the border

Archie probably didn’t buy his car from Mexico, although if he did, he might have bought it in the town of Jalopa. Since there was a shortage of cars in Mexico around the 1900s, many old automobiles would come to the country by way of USA cast offs. A car bought in Jalopa meant buying a worn out ride, sometimes a junky one. Eventually a jalopy car is what these were known to be called.

Junky Jewelry: be forewarned of Forney

Remember, those vendors are probably selling phoney Coach purses. Don’t buy one. Same goes for the watches. Stick to touristy stuff as souvenirs.

Well, we all know that some market vendors aren’t totally on the up and up when it comes to the authenticity of their wares. Purses, watches, clothing–consumer be wary. Forney, a manufacturer of cheap jewelry, may have started the knock-off industry, junk merchandise. Spotting a “Forney ring” became a buyer habit. The name changed to “phoney” and today we are still on the lookout for poorly made merchandise claiming to be the real deal.

 

watch out for those phoney phones

Jazz: mixing up the beat

There are many different thoughts to the origin of Jazz. Why We Say claims the word is derived from the Louisiana French verb “jasper” which means to speed up, chatter, or make fun. As we know, “it don’t mean a thing, it it don’t got that swing.” doowop doowop doowop

Jeep: initially an Army ride

When the US Army designed their “General Purpose Car” they probably didn’t know that the “G.P.” would eventually been shortened to jeep.

GP=jeep

morguefile image: click

one last minute “j”: jumping the gun

This one is easy. About 35 years ago, racers started off at the bang of run firing off a blank cartridge. Anticipation was undoubtedly high, so it wasn’t unusual for a runner to start off before the bang, which became known as jumping the gun.

Why We Say: #19–hello to grapevines and heirlooms


A greeting known through the ages that actually didn’t start out so friendly. “Holla” was once used as a warning and Shakespeare placed it in his plays when a character wanted another to stop. From “holla” came the verb “holler” and when the phone was introduced the connections weren’t the best so people had to holler to be heard. These days, we no longer need to holler our hello into the phone, instead we simply ask “Can you hear me now?”

Before telephones people passed information from ear to mouth, and if you’ve ever played the telephone game, you know that second, third, and fourth hand information is not that reliable. Sending information from person to person rarely traveled in a straight line, and the information was bound run as crooked a course as a grapevine. “Heard it through the grapevine” may make for a great song, but it doesn’t make for a reliable source.

Moving away from hellos, we now explore heirlooms. This one is so incredibly logical. Way back in the day, the family loom was an important aspect of a household, being used to weave cloth to make clothes. This family possession would be passed from heir to heir. Today, an heirloom signifies something passed from one generation to another. Good thing that–my small house would be hard-pressed to make room for a loom.

photos from Morguefile.com

Next month: getting the lowdown on perceived lowlife…

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