Monday, February 26, 2007

The answers to all your questions. (Sort of.)

"Mind your P's and Q's!" Gnightgirl, that must have been a VERY bad date! My handy, dandy little book offered no explanation. But I did find all of this information:

The date of the coinage of mind your Ps and Qs is uncertain. The OED used to print a citation from 1779 but, as they have now withdrawn it from the online version of the dictionary, presumably they consider it unreliable.
So, the meaning, spelling and coinage of the phrase are all debatable.
Now we come to what is really uncertain - the derivation.
Nevertheless, it is one of those phrases that people know the origin of. When pressed all that really means is that the person they heard explain the origin had made a random choice from the list of proposed derivations below.
As no one knows the origin I'll just list those suggestions - mind your ps and qs derives from one of these:

- Mind your pints and quarts. This is suggested as deriving from the practise of chalking up a tally of drinks in English pubs (on the slate). Publicans had to make sure to mark up the quart drinks as distinct from the pint drinks. This is a favourite of folk-etymology. It is scuppered somewhat by the fact that drinks were rarely sold in quarts in English pubs.

- Advice to printer’s apprentices to avoid confusing the backward-facing metal type lowercase Ps and Qs. I've never heard any suggestion that printer should mind their Ds and Bs though and that has the benefit of rhyming which would have made it a more attractive slogan.

- Mind your pea (jacket) and queue (wig). Pea jackets were short, rough woollen overcoats, commonly worn by sailors in the 18th century. Perruques were full wigs worn by fashionable gentlemen. It is difficult to imagine who might be seen wearing both a pea jacket and a perruque.

- Mind your pieds (feet) and queues (wigs). This is suggested to have been an instruction given by French dancing masters to their charges. This has the benefit of placing the perruque in the right context - so long as we accept the phrase as being originally French. There's no reason to suppose it is from France and no version of the phrase exists in French.

- It is advice to children learning to write to take care not to mix up the lower-case letters p and q.

- It derived as reminder to children to be polite. This is supposed to be as a form of 'mind your pleases and thank-yous' - 'mind you pleases and kyous'. Pretty far-fetched that one.

"For Pete's sake!" Kimber, I think that everyone else is right about this, Pete is just a poor sod (well, maybe it's supposed to be St. Peter) whose name is evoked for no other reason than to avoid taking the 'Lords' name in vain. And my book contained no information about it. Which we shall see is a continuing theme in this post!

"Fill your boots." Ms. Eigler, this book just continues to disappoint! I did find this rather revolting little suggestion, however: I read one reference which suggested that the phrase originated with the English Cavaliers, who wore thigh-high riding boots. When drinking, rather than stepping outside to relieve himself, a Cavalier apparently had the option of doing so into his boots. Thus, "filling his boots" meant he could drink all he wanted without leaving the table. Gross, but is it true?

"It's a load of cod's wallop." I've heard this one before, LGS, and was wondering about it myself. But guess what, my amazing tome of information didn't have a word on this phrase either. But what I found was:
Entry revised for OED Online
Also cod's wallop. Origin unknown.It is often suggested that this word is from British soft drinks manufacturer, who patented several designs for mineral water bottles in the 1870s Codd + WALLOP n. (see sense 4c at that entry), and that it was originally used by beer drinkers as a derogatory term for soft drink. However, no evidence has been found for early use of the word in this sense, and derivation from the surname is not supported by early spellings.

"Bread and pull it." Blackcrag...I have to tell you, that sounds rather more crude than I can imagine your mother using! But then, I do have a knack of twisting things. Anyway, my perpetually useless little book didn't say a word about it, but I did look around a bit and found this conversation online:
Posted by Smokey Stover on June 02, 2004
In Reply to: Re: Bread and Pull it posted by ESC on June 02, 2004
: : My father, a man of Kent, used to use the phrase 'Bread and pull it' when asked what was for dinner/tea, whatever. Has anyone heard this phrase or know it's origin? Should the 'pull it' bit perhaps be 'poulet'? and if so, why bread and chicken?

: I'm from the U.S. and haven't heard that phrase. But my guess is that it was a joke. You may wish for bread and poulet for dinner. But all you get is bread and "pull it." As in pull off another hunk of bread.

Kentish folkways are out of my line, but it seems reasonable for a man talking about food to say "Bread and pullet." In the U.K., as in the U.S., a pullet is a young hen, and is usually considered quite edible, properly prepared. SS

"Now put that in your pipe and smoke it." Josie, I laughed when I read that! My grandma used to say that all the time, all the while looking very pleased with herself. You're right, it was a conversation stopper!
And guess what.
Nothing in the book. And nothing really anywhere. I mean, lots of places online had what it meant (not that it's difficult to figure out) but I couldn't find anywhere that explained where the phrase came from. If anyone knows....?

Here's a few that ARE in the book (which has sunk considerably in my estimation since I started this little project):

"Peeping Tom" Why do we call a person who makes a practice of peeping a "peeping Tom"? It's because the tailor who tried to get a look at Lady Godiva as she rode naked through the streets was named Tom. Though this particular Tom was struck blind.

"Hoodlum" How did ruffians come to be called 'hoodlums'? It's all due to illegible handwriting. In an attempt to coin a name for a San Francisco gang, a reporter took the name of the gang-leader, Muldoon, and reversed it making "Noodlum." The typesetter couldn't read his writing and set it up as "Hoodlum".

"Cheshire Cat" Where did we get the expression "grin like a Cheshire cat"? From Ireland. Cheeses once sold in Cheshire County, Ireland were molded to look like cats - and these "cheese cats" had very broad grins.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ah, just the look I was booking for!

I have a new book in my possession.

"Why Do We Say It? - The Stories Behind the Words, Expressions and Cliches We Use."

The title is long. The book is...a bit odd.
BUT, it does have some very interesting information to dispense.
For instance:

Why is the center spot of a target called a "bulls-eye"? Aboard sailing ship, a 'bulls-eye' is an oval wooden block without a sheave but with a groove around it for the band and a hole in the center through which a small line may be drawn. A target with a center spot looks something like this block and the block looks something like an actual bull's eye-whence the name.

How did the word "lump" get into the expression "if you don't like it, you can lump it"? * A person's face will often look "lumpy" after crying. So to "lump it" is to sulk or look sulky-and the phrase "like it or lump it" means "like it or sulk".

Why do we say an apologetic person "eats humble pie"? Because of a pun. The entrails of deer ** are called 'umbles' and at one time these 'umbles' were made into a pie which the servants and huntsmen of a lord ate-while the lord and his guests ate the carcass. So a person who humbled himself was said to "eat humble pie". more!

What is the origin of the expression "I've got the willies"? The term comes from "wiffle-woffles." "Wiffle-woffles" are "collie-woffles" or "collie-wobbles." If your stomach is upset, you have the "colic" and it seems to "wobble". ***

This book has some strange reasoning in it, but it IS occasionally informative.

If anyone has any queries of their own, line them up in the comments for me and I'll see if the amazing "book of cliches" has an answer for you. Which I will turn in to my next post!
Because I am lacking in new and exciting post ideas and need help.
Seriously. I need help. ****

* Hmm. Yes, I do believe I heard my mom say that to me once or twice. It's nice to know that it really DID mean something after all.
(I mean, I could figure out, "You're cruising for a bruising", all by myself.)
** Wow, deer entrails again! ('Cus it it takes GUTS to make this blog what it is.)
***, I can't say I really get this explanation! But it's got to do with GUTS and that's enough for me!
****Have I mentioned needing help?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Life in a small town.

Remember that night we all snuck out?

Was it summer?

It might have been, I don't remember being cold.

Out into the night we went, out into the forest.
Up the old dark dirt road for no better reason than because.
I couldn't see a thing! Our steps were slow and cautious, and the rocks glinted; a fraction of a moon to show the way.

Off in the dim woods to the side of the path; a rustling sound.

It's a dog! "It's Jeremy!"

The happy mutt who shared so many of my paper delivery mornings found me again in the middle of the night and joined us for this dark trek.

Soon though, fretting over twisted ankles and worrying about angry parents we turned back down the path. Now we had to make our way down to 'civilization'.

That was just as difficult as forward progress.
Loose rocks, slippery slopes and Jeremy bounding under our feet made the return trip even more difficult.
As we made our way back to hard concrete and streetlights, we past a horrible stench buried deep in the woods.

We scampered past quickly. Fetid and disgusting weren't what we had planned on.

I idly wondered where the dog was as we emerged from the dark, when he bounded ahead of us making his presence known; a coiling stretch of something following behind him in a long line.
"What does he have?"

"I think...I think...oh my god!! That's intestine!!"

Sure enough, Jeremy the good dog was skipping along ahead of us with 2o feet of gut and entrails straggling behind him.
"That must of been that smell! Someone must of dressed a deer and left the guts there."

So we followed the bloody dog prints home that midnight.
The next day there will be gore and entrails all over our small town, and only we would know why.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Ripped off.

Yesterday was a lovely day. A long walk, a good lunch and a good dinner planned out.

Everything was proceeding nicely.

I bought a bottle of wine for dinner, and was id'd (carded) by the teller (at almost 35 I got ID'D!! If that isn't enough to make my month!) and then on to make purchases for dinner. bank card wasn't working at the debit machine at the cash register (it happens), so I went to the on site bank machine to withdrawal enough to cover my groceries.

"Insufficient funds." What ominous words.

I left the store, embarrassed and confused. I'm a little less than perfect in my account keeping, but I KNEW that something was dramatically wrong.

When I got home, I logged into my bank account online, only to discover...all of my money was missing.

In a single withdrawal from an undefined ABM machine, hundreds and hundreds of my hard earned dollars were stolen.

This morning at the bank they said it would take at least a month for the investigation to be concluded, and at that point they would be able to make the decision to refund my money. Or not.

I'm lucky. I didn't have three hungry children waiting for me at home to bring back dinner. There was only me and I have plenty of food, gas and everything else to suffice 'til pay day.

This theft left me annoyed and inconvenienced, but it could have left someone else in very dire straits indeed.

But I guess the people who do such things aren't thinking about anyone but themselves.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Narcissism 101

I blame it all on Spider Girl.
She said, "When we're old, we'll be happy to see good photographs of ourselves."
(Well, it's not exactly a direct quote, but it'll suffice!)

So here's lookin' at me!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ghoti is the new fish.

Ghoti = fish

laugh = f
women = i
fiction = sh

How is ANYONE supposed to figure this stuff out!?!

English is a hard language to learn! It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, really, when you pick it apart.
I've been speaking it, reading it and mangling it for my entire life. And it shows! I've always sufferd from 'bad' spelling.
But I kwestcheeon whethur my spelling is baad or just individualistik.

Wind wind wound wound pear pair pare tear tear tare were where wear read read

fawggy day

i before e except after c...and except in neighbour and weigh.
That's just great. The logic astounds.
Who made up these rules, anyway?

I read somewhere (perhaps Bill Bryson's "Mother Tongue") that many of the spelling decisions (desishuns) we make these days were merely put in place by some guy who preferred words to look a certain way (weigh, whey).
Take fulfill, for instance.
It's not FULLFILL, the second 'L' has been dropped. Why? 'Cus some guy deesided it luked better that way.
I give up.
If it whernt four spell chek, it's possibell that my posts wood be unreedible.

Ore allmost.
Becuz alltho thee spelling apeers hard on thee aye, it m(aches) cents.

We have so many rules and exceptions to the rooelles that English as it stands should not be the most spoken langwage in the world, it should be the leest.
Japanese has no exepshuns.
Maybee wee shud lern it, insted.

Arigato for yore thyme.