Sep 11 2011
Greetings, Cool Peeps:
Recently, a friend texted me early on a Saturday morning with the following message: “Up and Adam, Molly, we’re going shopping today.” I’d like to say that I just laughed, wondering how she could mistake “up and at ‘em” for “up and Adam,” except that for years, I thought the expression was said the same way. I often pondered why “up and Adam” meant “wake up and get out of bed,” but I never researched it. On the day I saw “up and at ‘em” written out on a billboard, it was a giant duh-you-moron moment for me.
Yesterday, a down-on-his-luck friend said to me, “It seems like I lost all of my clients in one foul swoop.” While it can be very foul to lose one’s clients, the original term, either coined or popularized by Shakespeare in Macbeth, is “one fell swoop.”
This got me thinking. Just how many words and phrases do we hear misused all the time? Of course, there’s the classic misheard lyric from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising.” Instead of “There’s a bad moon on the rise,” millions of peeps were singing “There’s a bathroom on the right.” And let’s face it, that makes a lot more sense. I’ve never said “There’s a bad moon on the rise” in my life, but I can’t count the number of times I’ve pointed someone in the direction of the men’s or ladies’ room.
We all hear words misspoken all the time. But it can be a real tricky situation to correct someone. Maybe, with a good friend, you can share a hearty laugh over a verbal or written faux pas, but some peeps don’t want to be corrected.
Last week at lunch, my coworker BFF Randy and I overheard someone at the next table tell a friend he was an “Oregon donor.”
“I don’t think he has any right to give that state away,” Randy whispered, grinning.
When I first went to college, I needed a doctor and made an appointment with the one closest to campus. But his receptionist scared me away. First, she asked me a question, and when my answer wasn’t complete enough, she said, “Can you be more Pacific?”
No, but I can be more Atlantic, I thought. “Yes, I can be more specific,” I told her.
When she asked me if I knew of my family’s “generic history,” I politely excused myself and found a new medical practice.
There are also expressions that we use correctly, but really don’t understand. “Oh, little Trevor is as cute as a button.” Cute as a button? Being the fashion diva I am, on rare occasions I have told peeps that the buttons on their garment are cute, but in general, do I equate cuteness with buttons? Uh, no, I don’t think so!
Then there are those expressions that we just don’t know what they mean. Here’s an example: “Everything is hunky-dory.” Okay, we all know that means that things are going great. But where did this expression come from, and why are we still using it? If you Google it, you’ll find several origins cited. Have you ever thought about how many bizarre words we use without a second thought?
I had a neighbor who used to say, “The whole kit and caboodle.” I always knew what she meant, but I don’t have a freakin’ clue what a kit or a caboodle is. Seriously, peeps, do you?
Another interesting aspect of the expressions we use is how they sound to those whose first language is not the same as ours. If you think about what you say, you’ll find that you’re probably using way more colloquialisms, expressions, and clichés than you ever imagined. This was brought home to me once when a young French au pair I knew said to me, “Molly, I hear people talking about ‘the crack of Don.’ Who is Don, and why do people talk about his crack?” When I stopped laughing, I explained to her that the expression was “crack of dawn,” and meant early morning. By then, she was laughing, too.
Here’s another favorite: “Naked as a jaybird.” Again, we know what it means, but what does it mean? I see blue jays all the time. Like other birds, they have feathers. They’re no more naked than robins, cardinals, woodpeckers, finches, herons, eagles, and all the rest.
The question is: do I sound cuckoo to you? Do you think about the expressions you use? Do you always know what they mean? Do you correct others who misuse expressions? Tell me your funny stories. Believe me, you’ve got a captive audience.
See you next week,
Yours in pickiness,