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Wacky Words of Wisdom, Or – Animalistic Trivia

Here are just a few of the possible and/or possible derivations of some of our favorite expressions, each with an animal focus. Being a rather peculiar subject, it seems apt to begin at the end of… Life, that is… with ‘Kick the Bucket’.

It seems very strange to attribute this expression to death – until we learn that the word “bucket” comes from the Old French for the slaughter beam (usually in a shed), used to hang a live animal (usually a pig). slaughter. In its death agony, the unfortunate creature jerked and kicked at the beam (or bin), apparently leading to the expression, to ‘Kick the Bucket’. Another possible origin comes from the fact that many suicides have been accomplished by hanging – after standing in a bucket which was then thrown out, thus fulfilling the poor soul’s wish to end it all, or “Kick the Bucket”.

An afterlife experience of the animal kind is encountered when we give to someone “The Cold Shoulder”. We clearly know… and show, our disdain or unwelcoming feelings as described by this expression, but what does Really mean? It is not hard to see that it is indeed a matter of hospitality, BUT – when a normally generous and hospitable host served his guest cold mutton instead of the delicious hot roast he was expecting, he gave the guest the strongest possible message that he was either –

a) an uninvited and unexpected dinner guest, or

b) he had seriously overstayed his welcome.

In the middle class of the 19th century, this was the most gentlemanly way to say goodbye to that ill-tempered person – permanently!

Staying at this end of Life, we take a penetrating look at real state of all things – “From the horse’s mouth”. And we accept without question that this expression shows it to be the truth of the Gospel – no doubt because of its origin, which is precisely indicated by its title.

When a horse was Man’s primary means of transportation, its age and health were crucial to ascertain and be able to verify… at the time of purchase. You see, a horse’s teeth are an encyclopedia of answers to these questions, for the discerning buyer – and it was accepted, indeed expected, that he would definitely get the facts ‘From the Horse’s Mouth’.

The only exception to this particular rule was if the horse was actually a gift – in which case it would be extremely bad manners and quite insensitive. “Look a gift horse in the mouth.”

Few of us would suspect that the expression “A nine day miracle” it could have anything to do with the beginning of Life – especially animals – specifically dogs! It was widely accepted that it started with a saying that –

“A miracle lasted nine days – and then the puppies are open” –

And this is reinforced by the reality that newborn puppies have unfocused vision for the first nine days of their lives – and surely they must be wondering about this new and wonderful world they now inhabit, but cannot see.

Translate this into the human experience of being initially dazzled and enchanted by something wonderful and new – only to see through the ‘Wow’ factor as reality takes over and teaches us that it was but “A nine day miracle”.

We definitely know when “Let the cat out of the bag”, we give away a secret or let slip an important fact – but why have a cat in our bag to begin with? Well… many years ago, in country markets, live piglets could be offered, at a discount if bought ‘prepackaged’ in a tightly tied Hessian sack, commonly called a ‘poke’ – so you buy ‘Pig in the sack’ (or not knowing exactly what was inside the bag).

The capable and responsible homemaker usually didn’t worry about this, instead embracing this option for reasons of freshness, being able to feel the “real” weight… AND… the relative ease of carrying it home with her other shopping her.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous traders have been around since almost the beginning of time – and sometimes, a stray cat would magically find itself securely tied inside the bag, only to be mistaken for a piggy bank! Some casual shoppers have learned this lesson the hard way before, opting to unzip the bag for a look, only to – “Let the cat out of the bag”.

Clearly, it is of utmost importance to ‘starting over’, “get to the sloth” of the subject, even when it is ‘touch and go’with “throwing them away from the smell”so that ‘blaze a trail’ “between the devil and the deep blue sea”and simple “Win hands down”.

Are you confused by these last expressions? Stay tuned for more delightful definitions of these and other delusional idioms – coming soon! Oh… I didn’t tell you, I’m playing with words too!

© 2012 Christine Larsen All rights reserved worldwide

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