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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

American Idiom



A little while ago my youngest son was doing something for which he needed to be very well behaved. He wasn't. So naturally as his mother I corrected him the first moment I could. Informed him that he needed to behave better than that in public. Suddenly his eyes welled-up and he looked at me and said, "Mom! You're making me feel like  a Canadian Idiot!" *

Er . . . huh? Okay, that wasn't my first response. My first response was "Hahahahahahahah!" My second was, "Er . . . huh?"

Turns out there's a song called "American Idiot" which has been spoofed by Weird Al, and the spoof is entitled "Canadian idiot." No idea where my Little Dude would have heard this. But how interesting that he picked up on it.

The other day I was in the car with him, his friend, and my husband. I mentioned in passing that one of my other children was acting "all pooped-out." Now, I think this is a pretty common expression. But the gales of giggles that immediately burst from the boys, and the baleful look my husband gave me, indicated otherwise.

Oh come on. Really? He hadn't heard of feeling "pooped?" It just means "tired." And . . . um . . . okay. If you think of it literally, it is kind of . . .  Well I was shocked. Never in my life had I thought of being pooped-out in that way. But my husband did. Swore that no one in their right mind said "pooped" for "tired." (Of course, we won't bring up the fact that in the middle of all the little-boy-laughter my son sucked in enough air to tell his friend that "pooped" meant "tired." And he said it without any prompting from me. So maybe the huz just isn't as cultured as the rest of us. I mean, if an eight year-old gets it . . . )

This made me wonder about other expressions and how they came to mean what they do. We'll probably never know how "all pooped out" became "really really tired" instead of "really really cleansed." But wouldn't it be interesting to find out?

Here are a few more idiomatic expressions. Maybe you can figure out where they came from and let me know:

Playing by ear  (as opposed to playing by rear. or some other body part.)
Pull your chain  (old fashioned toilets had chains. is this what people mean when they say "I'm flush with pride" or "I'm feeling flush today"?)
Put your foot in your mouth  (yeah, I'd like to see you do that)
Bad blood between them  (if there's any blood between them, it can't be good)
Beat the rap  (there are some raps I'd like to beat with a stick)
Blow your stack  (how else do you cool your pancakes off?)
Salt of the earth  (why not basil of the earth? or cinnamon? i love cinnamon.)
Say Uncle  (like this isn't sexist. say Aunt! say Aunt!)
Take guts  (i'd rather take pictures)
Tongue in cheek  (mmmm. i don't get this one at all. you can't talk with your tongue in your cheek)
Double Whammy  (isn't the Whammy some sort of super absorbent cloth? why would I want two of them?)
Dutch treat  (dude. If the Dutch are treating, I'm there.)
Laughing stock  (is this anything like Woodstock? because I'd rather go to Laughingstock any day. sixties music's got nothing on funny people.)
Zip it  (okay fine. guess you've had enough of me being an idiom.)

*No Canadians Were Harmed In The Creation Of This Post. The Author Has Nothing Against Canadians, Has Visited Their Lovely Country Many Times, And Wouldn't Mind Hanging Out In Victoria Again As Soon As Possible. If You Wish To Take Issue With "Canadian Idiot," Please Contact Weird Al Yankovic. In Fact, I May Do It, Because I Think He Has Warped My Child.

2 comments:

William Kendall said...

Well, Dutch treat refers to the penny pinching stereotype of the Dutch: both people coming to have lunch or dinner pay for their meals, essentially.

Now then, if you'll excuse me, as a Canadian, I have to have some words with Weird Al. If you hear screams and the sound of heavy machinery, don't bother investigating until I've had time to hide the body.

Russo said...

You always write things that make me giggle out loud, "all pooped-out." Who knew three words could cause quite a stir.

I love the word choice baleful. I also dug your list of idiomatic expressions.