Anything but pedestrian

It may not take a genius to sit in quiet contemplation while staring at a body of water; but you may be one for taking that time to do so. I think that Nigerian-American writer Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu said it best when she said that she, “go(es) to the ocean to calm down, to reconnect with the creator, to just be happy.” Ever since I can remember, I have had a love affair with the ocean. I would surf the waves when I was a teenager and the older that I get, the more I love just staring at the endless waves, cascading on the sandy shore. Being from Eastern North Carolina definitely has its perks because in my opinion, the beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world. But the beaches are not the only place that has been a place of quiet contemplation.

I have mentioned before that my parents house was built 50 yards from a creek that is a tributary to the Northeast Cape Fear River. This creek connected to another small tributary that flows from a wetland area south. These tributaries met behind my parents house and the smaller tributary had a small waterfall. Over the banks of the small creek lied a huge fallen oak tree. I would sit with my back against this tree for hours listening to the sounds of the waterfall and watching a beautiful aspect of nature. There was nothing pedestrian about the situation. The sensory overload was anything but lackluster. This spot in the middle of a wooded area was my secret oasis; my serenity. I would grow older and hurricanes would tame the landscape as they saw fit. Water erodes. Trees fall down and rot. The spot does not look the same anymore but there are other spots that I frequent to try to find a break from the mundane.

On the banks of the Hollands Shelter Creek (a tributary of the Northeast Cape Fear River) sits Hollands Shelter Creek Restaurant. My family took me there when I was a kid and now that I have a kid of my own; we enjoy taking him. Daniel has always been fascinated with the river that flows by the seafood restaurant, so it seems only logical that his favorite place to go is to sit on the dock on the river, eat some ice cream and hopefully spot an alligator.

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What can you see through Broken Windows?

IMG_0760The second story windows of the old Johnson Cotton Company building in Wallace, NC have become weathered. Some panes have been broken by the rock of a rebellious child or pine branch thrown by the forceful breeze of a summer storm. The lower level windows were bricked years ago, while the building’s front entrance houses a set of decorative metal framed display windows that lead you to the entrance of the long been shut down store. The recessed entrance is still inviting because it is now used as storage but the hints of its history peak through.

The now Historic Commercial District sat formidably as the nucleus of a booming railroad and agricultural town. This small Southern town is situated in the coastal plains region of North Carolina and lies in the southern edge of Duplin County. Wallace was originally incorporated in 1873 as the settlement known as Duplin Roads; but was incorporated as the town of Wallace (named after railroad official Steven Wallace) in 1899. Like many Southern railroad towns, the small town’s orthogonal grid developed along the railroad tracks. The small town grew and grew because it was an important transportation link between the large port city of Wilmington to the South and Faison to the North.

Over the years, Wallace continued to expand. Fast food restaurants were built on Highway 117 and businesses extended passed the grid pattern that once hugged the railroad. The one and two story brick buildings in this historic area now house offices or maybe even modern stores. Buildings whose foundations were laid in the late 19th and early 20th centuries found themselves booming in a post World War II period. So these historic buildings, like the Johnson Cotton Company; whose second story windows still peer down upon the renovated Train Depot; still scintillates above a town that they help inaugurate.

Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Famous Deadly Weapons

Before Lockheed Martin created the F-22 Raptor and even before the Kalashnikov family created the AK-47 during World War II; there were many weapons that were infamous for being deadly. Whether the wielder made the weapon famous or vice-versa, people knew that if they disobeyed the wielder or were on the wrong end of this weapon…then it ultimately meant their doom. With the sword first appearing during the Bronze Age; being made primarily out of copper and was uncovered at the Harappan sites in what is now present-day Pakistan. By the Middle Ages iron and steel swords were being mass produced and used in battle. Time went by and generals, kings, emperors, soldiers and all around bad-asses yielded swords and other weapons of mass destruction. This was however before the era of guns but as soon as primitive firearms came to be in 13th century China; the age of portably propelling projectiles utilizing gunpowder had begun. The era of modern firearms has led to automatic and assault rifles strong enough to pierce a tank’s thick skin. In this blog we will discuss historically famous weapons who made the wielder famous or the wielder made it famous. Weapons from mythology, movies, video games, TV shows, etc. will not be listed but with that being said; here are, in my opinion, are – Top Cat’s Tuesday Top 10: Famous Deadly Weapons


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Honorable MentionSmith & Wesson Schofield .45 revolver – One of the most notorious outlaws that lived in the annals of Old West history, Jesse James was without argument a robber. He and his top-break action Smith & Wesson Schofield revolver became somewhat of a folk hero after the Civil War. James and his brother Frank robbed banks in the former-Union territory and the press at the time portrayed him as the Confederate’s Robin Hood. Though his motives deviated from any ‘give-to-the-poor’ mentality, he and his revolver have went down in history none-the-less.

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10. Tizona Sword – Formed in Córdoba, Spain from damascus steel in 1002 AD, the medieval sword known as Tizona was one of many swords owned by Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar aka El Cid. El Cid would use Tizona to fight against the Moors. Due to Tizona’s wielder, El Cid became known as one of King Alfonso VI’s most valuable asset. Tizona is now on display in the Museo de Burgos (Burgos Museum) in Spain and definitely helped El Cid become a Spanish hero.


 

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9. The Fujiwara Kanenaga samurai sword – World War II is not a time that is known for samurai and ninja legends but the man known as “The Tiger of Malaya” is famous for his time in battle. Tomoyuki Yamashita was a general of the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II and became legendary after he led the Japanese to conquer the British colonies of Malaya and Singapore. After WWII he was tried for the atrocities that took place in the Philippines and Singapore (specifically the Manila Massacre) which culminated with a controversial death sentence. The controversial case changed the way the United States rules in regards to military leaders responsible for war crimes (a law that is now known as the Yamashita Standard and has been added to the Geneva Conventions). The Fujiwara Kanenaga sword (created somewhere between 1640 and 1680) which was by his side during his military career is now displayed in the Military Arms wing of the West Point Military Museum.


 

hattori hanzo spear

8. Ieyasu spearHattori Hanzōs famous 14 foot long spear and ceremonial battle helmet are on display inside the Sainen-ji temple whose cemetery in Yotsuya, Tokyo house the remains of one of Japan’s most Japan’s most historical figures…during the greatest periods of samurai culture. Hanzō’s significance has bled beyond the immediate Samurai culture and is now a pop culture icon where his likeness is seen in many films, anime, manga, and comic books (mostly due to the fact that there were rumors of Hanzō’s supernatural abilities which were rumored to be teleportation, psychokinesis, and precognition). Hanzō was an expert tactician, and despite having many beautiful swords; he was known to be a master of spear fighting. He lived the last years of his life as a monk under the name “Sainen”. This brave ninja leader, born into a samurai class, will forever be known for his ferocity on the battlefield; and commitment to his leaders and the men that he commanded.


 

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7. The Cutlass – The 15th Century French Pirate François l’Olonnais was as ruthless as they came and his cutlass was used as a tool to inflict pain and fear into fellow sea-goers. During his bloody reign as a French Pirate during the 1660s, led a fleet of upwards of eight ships housing over 400 pirates and even sailed alongside the infamous pirate Captain Morgan (yes the one that they named the rum after). He and his men raped/pillaged cities and preyed upon sea going vessels in a blood thirsty manner which earned him a reputation for being a cruel and ferocious pirate. “The Bane of Spain”, as he was so nicknamed, came to Central America where he pillaged the town of Puerto Cavallo in Honduras where he captured two Spaniards, drew out his cutlass, sliced open the chest of one of the men, pulled out his heart and began to ‘gnaw it with his teeth, like a ravenous wolf’. The surviving Spaniard showed l’Olonnais a clear passage to San Pedro, he and his crew were captured by the indigenous Kuna tribe where he was torn to pieces and eaten. Call it Karma…call it justification. I call it just an epic ending that a pirate with blood lust with be proud to call his own ending.


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6. Smith & Wesson Model 3 – Upon the day of the most famous gunfight in American history ‘The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral’; Wyatt Earp (sworn in as a temporary policeman); his older brother and town Marshal Virgil; his younger brother; Special Policeman Morgan; and temporary policeman Doc Holliday sought to end a long-simmering feud with a loosely organized group of outlaws called the Cowboys. The shootout took place around 3:00 on Wednesday, October 26, 1881 near the narrow lot on the side of C.S. Fly’s Photographic Studio on Fremont Street (despite the aforementioned name) in the town of Tombstone in the Arizona Territory. The gunfight was not relatively well known to the American public until Stuart Lake published the biography Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal; which began a myriad of pop culture references to the gun fight and subsequently Old West’s Superman: Wyatt Earp. Despite becoming the archetype for the stereotypical Old West story, Wyatt Earp didn’t actually carry a gun called “The Peacemaker” on the day of the infamous O.K. Corral gunfight (which in pop culture was conceived to be the Colt Buntline Special that Stuart Lake described in the biography). On the day of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Earp was carrying a Smith & Wesson Model 3 (with a modified 8-inch, 200 mm barrel) that he received as a gift from Mayor and Tombstone Epitaph editor John Clum. That gun and now Wyatt Earp are immortalized in the annals of pop culture forever.


 

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6. Zulfiqar Scimitar – Muhammed, the prophet and founder of Islam, gave Ali (his cousin and son-in-law (not sure how that works)) a Scimitar at the Battle of Uhud. The scimitar, which is now a symbol of the Islamic faith and is admired by millions of people is a West Asian or South Asian curved blade sword. The sword was famously used during the Battle of the Trench where the Prophet Muhammed, Ali and other Muslim defenders built trenches to protect the city of Medina against the oncoming calvary. The sword became known as “Zulfiqar” and has been passed down from each new Imam (name for their religious leader) since the death of Ali.


 

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4. Colt Single Action Army .45 Revolver – So a slave, born in 1838, learns of the abolishment of slavery after fleeding north into Indian Territory; he grows up to become the first African-American US Deputy Marshal west of the Mississippi River; after he Bass_Reeveslearns the Indian languages and masters skills of hunting and tracking with the Cherokee, Seminole, and Creek Indians. Sounds like a premise of a Hollywood blockbuster right? Well its the life story of one of the greatest lawmen in the history ofthe US. Bass Reeves and his Colt Single Action Army .45 Revolver are credited with more than 3,000 arrests and killed 14 outlaws in self defense. During his long career, he would track outlaws and criminals hundreds of miles through thorns, over mountains and through dangerous Indian territory to bring them back to meet justice at the hands of “The Hanging Judge” Judge Isaac Parker. Bass Reeves may not be a household name but that does not change the fact that he and his Colt Revolver overcame great odds and helped bring justice to dysfunctional land while being a real life Lone Ranger.


 

richard the lionheart with axe

3. Dane Battle Axe – A Victorian times King nicknamed “The Lionheart” wielding a twenty two pound steel battle axe on the field of battle sounds like another amazing image straight off the Hollywood big screen; but it is in reality true accounts of the King of England: Richard I of English aka Richard the Lionheart. Whether we agree with the crusades or not, no one can deny how ferocious of a site it would be to witness Richard the Lionheart wielding a Danish battle axe while attacking the Sultan Saladin and his army during the Battle of Jaffa.


 

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2. Tonbo-Giri – From the late Sengoku to the early Edo period of Japan; Honda Tadakatsu rose from a proud Japanese Samurai to a general to a noble daimyō (also known as Lord) of Otaki (a town in Chiba, Japan). He was known as the greatest Samurai of Eastern Japan and earned a reputation for being a samurai among samurai. The veteran of over a 100 battles by the end of his life never once even suffered a significant wound and was known as “The Warrior who surpassed Death itself”. The reputed samurai was known for being a recognizable figure on the field of battle by his helmet, famously adorned with deer antlers, his horse Mikuniguro, and his spear which was named Tonbo-Giri aka the Dragonfly Cutter. It was named Tonbo-Giri or Dragonfly Cutter because as the legend goes, a dragonfly landed on the tip of the spear and it was so sharp that the dragonfly was cut in two. His fighting prowess led him to be known as one of the “Three Great Spears of Japan” and the spear itself has became a natural treasure of Japan.


 

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  1. Scottish Longsword – The scabbard, hilt and belt of this sword were originally made with the dried skin of English commander Hugh Cressingham. Despite the sword being a pop culture symbol, the infamous 13th century “Guardian of Scotland” Sir William Wallace wielded the 6 lb, 4 feet by 4 inch sword during the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and in the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. William Wallace fought and was eventually executed for the freedom of his country. Today, in Scotland, he is known as a national hero; and everyone around the world knows of his Patriotism. What is now one of the most famous swords in the world (housed at the National Monument in Stirling, Scotland); William Wallace’s longsword invokes an image of freedom. Most of that is because of Mel Gibson’s portrayal of William Wallace in the 1995 blockbuster hit “Braveheart where he flung the 4 foot long sword through the sky while yelling “FREEDOM”. That scene is forever etched into the annals of Pop Culture and William Wallace and his longsword will forever be immortalized.

 



Images:
Featured Image Jesse James colleague image courtesy of NRA, Fair Use.
Espada Tizona sword image by and accredited to Infinauta – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8027534
General Tomoyuki Yamashita’s Fujiwara Kanenaga sword image by and accredited to William Maloney – Fair use, http://www.williammaloney.com/Aviation/WestPointMilitaryMuseum/WorldWarII/pages/19GeneralYamashitasSword.htm
Hattori Hanzo spear image – Fair use, twcenter.net
François l’Olonnais from “De Americaensche Zeerovers” by and attributed to Unknown, book by Alexandre Olivier Exquemelin – The Library of Congress presents The Buccaneers of America, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=134350
Smith & Wesson Model 3 display image by and accredited to Rama – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=448083
Zulfiqar (split-bladed sword) from the Mughal period in India by and attributed to Royroydeb – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38680744
Bass Reeves photo with pistol image by and accredited to the NRA/American Rifleman, Fair Use – Bass Reeves American Rifleman article
Bass Reeves by Unknown, Fair Use – http://digital.library.okstate.edu/ENCYCLOPEDIA/entries/R/RE020.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27904696
Richard the Lionheart in Battle image – Fair use, Public Domain, Image
Honda Tadakatsu by and accredited to 不明。 unknown – 良玄寺所蔵品。現在は千葉県立中央博物館大多喜城分館にある。, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3397023
William Wallace Longsword by and attributed to Glenn J. Mason from Edinburgh, Scotland – 00022.jpg, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3534808

Waiting for Fermentation

I live in Rose Hill, NC; which is home to the largest winery in the South. Seriously. In my small town, we have an award winning winery that produces one of Martha Stewart’s favorite wines. I think that we as residents take for granted the scope of how big that the winery actually is. I think that we as consumers and residents as a whole don’t think about the items that we use. Let’s just take for instance, the wine that is produced around the world (sparkling wine, table wine, vermouth, white wine, red wine, whatever)…I don’t really think any of us think about the steps that it takes to get the grape hanging on the vine to the bottle that sits on the grocery store shelf.

According to the Wine Institute’s Preliminary research, United States residents alone consume an average of 949 million gallons of wine per year which equates to a total of 2.94 gallons of wine per resident; and with an average of 3.3 pounds of grapes going in to the creation of one bottle of wine, I can understand why I see so many fields of grapevines. The Duplin Winery has a tank capacity of over 1.7 million gallons of wine and sells over 450,000 cases of wine per year. The sweet cloying of wine lies thick in the air and the ambrosial aroma sticks to your skin as you walk among the towering tanks that house the wine whose creators are waiting for the cold fermentation process to produce a proper result.

The grapevines that I pass on a daily basis yield grapes that are used in the creation of a luscious liquid that is delivered to thirsty patrons around the world. The grape’s juice is squeezed from the fruit and transferred to the tanks whose behemoth bellies house the sweet muscadine juice until a time that the aluminum leviathan creatures will entrust its created bestowal upon the bottlers. The wine-makers carefully monitor the process and from the ‘terminus a quo’ of the spheroidal fruits to the transfiguration of the a delicious wine. The journey of the berry’s menial genesis into something so complex amazes me but with science a little bit of love…anything can happen.

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Sometimes the structure of a photo is naturally layered

IMG_2975Sometimes photos just come into being as if God himself shuffles things artistically into place for our enjoyment. Sometimes the different layers that compose the structure of a photo, through happenstance, we witness the perfect blend of foreground and background and use of negative space. Sometimes, its the background that God has painted. Sometimes its a freshly plowed field. Sometimes its a formation of geese flying over at the perfect time. Sometimes the cat-o-nine tails and over laying branches from a nearby tree fall perfectly in place. Sometimes its the summer’s sun setting behind low lying clouds. And sometimes, just sometimes, despite being critical of yourself for taking ‘random photos’ you just need to stop and take that picture because you know that what you are seeing is beautiful. Sometimes…

Visceral Corner

IMG_2999.JPGA couple of years ago, we found out that they were making a movie in my sleepy little home town of Rose Hill, NC. The movie that they were using part of our town for was the third Iron Man movie. Robert_Downey_Jr-2008.jpegRobert Downey Jr. and the Marvel cinematic universe moseyed into our little corner of North Carolina. The prop people turned the downtown area *which was very minimal* into a quaint little Tennessee town. Forgot to mention that they changed the state to Tennessee but kept the town name. Nevertheless, there are glimpses that we can notice in our every day lives in Rose Hill since the movie makers left town. One specific part that casts itself casually into my periphery every time that I pass it is a converted store front. The store never existed in our town but every time that I see it, I wish that it would have. I see that that the store would have sold comics and other things to fuel adolescent hobbies.  Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so alone in my comic collecting if the store had existed back then. Maybe I’d be the owner of it by now. All I know is the visceral longing for something that never was. The only thing that I do know is that the exterior facade of a store that never was still resides on Church St. in Rose Hill, NC.


Images:

Robert Downey Jr Iron Man promotional Image by and attributed to Edgar Meritano – Publicada en wikipedia, author sent original by email, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4008669

Toby’s Hobby Shop Photo credit to Chris Brown. 2017.

Just in the Nick of Time: A History of Interesting Idioms and Colloquial Phrases – Part 7

Sometimes the idioms or colloquial phrases that we use in our every day language sound completely ludicrous, but much to our surprise they have very real and amazingly explainable origins. Today we will look into origins and meanings of some of the silliest sounding idioms and colloquial phrases that have pretty unbelievable origins. Today we will look at: Cry crocodile tears, Grandfathered in, What in tarnation, Blowing smoke up your a**, Brand spanking new, and Throwing a hissy fit. 



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Cry crocodile tears” – 

Origin: There is an ancient myth that alludes to crocodiles crying while they devour their prey. This allusion is partially due to the fact that the crocodile has a lachrymal gland which produces ‘tears’ that lubricates their eyes just like humans do. The animal does not however show remorse while it is devouring a deer or even a human…so they do not cry as a result of an emotion. There have been stories about this crying myth for many centuries but the first printed references to this myth is found in French reports as far back as 1230. In The Voyage and Travail of Sir John Maundeville, (circa 1400) the writer says that “…there are many crocodiles – these serpents slay men, and then, weeping, eat them…). This is a direct reference to the myth but in the 16th century; Edmund Grindal, the Archbishop of York and Canterbury, used the phrase as it commonly used by saying that: “I begin to fear, lest his humility…be a counterfit humility, and his tears crocodile tears.” So it would appear that the scientific realization that the tears of a crocodile are insincere and thus the phrase made its way across the ocean and has continued on throughout the years.

Meaning: Putting on an insincere show of sorrow.



Grandfathered in” – 

Origin: In the Southern states of the United States, the term ‘grandfathered in’ is used frequently, but if they were to have used it in the late 1800s…it would have had a completely different meaning. The dictionary states that a grandfather clause is ‘a portion of a statute that provides that the law is not applicable in certain circumstances due to preexisting facts’ and the specific grandfather clauses which popularized this phrase were the use of clauses that were originally intended to prevent Blacks from voting. These provisions were adopted by the constitutions of some states and were sought to interfere with an individual’s right to vote by setting forth difficult requirements. The common requirements were ownership of a large amount of land or the ability to read and write portions of the state and/or federal constitutions. The name grandfather clause arose from the exception that was made for veterans of the Civil War. If the veterans were qualified to vote prior to 1866, their descendants were also qualified. This literally, in effect, mean that if a person’s grandfather could vote…then so could they. This of course was created to benefit white Americans and to keep black Americans from voting. Thankfully this was found to be unconstitutional later and Despite the extremely negative past, the phrase has continues to be heard (specifically when your cell phone company wants to tell you about some program that you were grandfathered into).

Meaning: a clause exempting certain classes of people or things from the requirements of a piece of legislation affecting their previous rights, privileges, or practices.


What in tarnation?” – 

Origin: “What in tarnation” was one of those colloquial sayings that was even too country for my family. The euphemistic expression gained popularity in the 18th and 19th century throughout America as a replacement certain four letter explanations which would offend the Puritan ears of that time period. The phrase is similar to the “what in Sam Hill” which strangely enough was NOT named after a guy named Sam Hill. While we do not really know who in the Sam Hill that Sam Hill was or why that saying gained popularity; we do know that ‘tarnation’ is a euphemism that is a modification of the word ‘darn’ation which is a cleaned up version of the word ‘damnation’. The root of the word ‘tarnation’ is a derivative of the word ‘tarnal’ which means ‘eternal’. So…how would the religious invocation of ‘eternity’ be used as a curse? At some point, someone in a moment of high emotion took the word tarnal and joined it together with damnation to say ‘you eternal enemy’. Maybe? Sounds logical to me.

Meaning: Euphemism for the word ‘damnation’.


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 “Blowing smoke up your a**” – 

Origin: You’re probably hoping that this figure of speech is not based on anything but I hate to break it to you; its based on a real thing. The figure of speech, which now a days mostly means that you are a insincerely complimenting someone in order to ‘inflate’ the ego of the person being flattered; but back in the 1700s, doctors would quite literally blow smoke up your butt. Believe it or not, it was a regular medical procedure that was used, among many things, to resuscitate people who were otherwise presumed to be dead. It was in fact such a commonly used procedure for drowning victims that ‘smoke blowing equipment’ hung along the River Thames. This equipment was donated so kindly by the Royal Humane Society. Yeah let that sink in. SO….people would keep the ‘smoke blowing equipment’ near swimming holes, much like we keep defibrillators at gyms, hospitals, etc. So….how did it work? Well I’m glad you asked. Smoke was blown up the person’s butt by inserting a tube that was connected to a fumigator which bellowed the smoke into the rectum when compressed. They thought that the nicotine in the tobacco stimulated the heartbeat and that the rectum was a quicker way into the body…than lets say…the nose or mouth. The use of tobacco didn’t just start in the 1700s (early Greeks and Native Americans were using smoke enemas to treat people and animals); but thankfully, over the decades to come, scientists realized that nicotine was toxic to the cardiac system and ‘blowing smoke up someone’s butt’ became a thing of the past.

Meaning: A mostly insincere compliment to boost the ego of the recipient.


Brand Spanking New” – 

Origin: Mostly every single human being on this planet has experienced the origin of this idiom. It happens right after the birth of a baby usually calls for a slight slap on the hind end of the baby to get it to cry…thusly causing the baby to take its first breaths and to stimulate the baby. The practice is not necessarily used anymore but it is a wildly known practice. The other part of this idiom is the use of the word ‘brand’. Most of us think of ‘brand’ as a brand of jeans or our favorite brand of soda but since at least 950 AD, to brand something meant to ‘make an indelible mark of ownership. This practice was usually the name (you get it now) of the person that owned the livestock that received the ‘mark’. So if something if ‘brand new’ then that something has a fresh branding while if something is ‘brand spanking new’…well that means that it is so new that it is baby spanking new.

Meaning: Something that is entirely new.


Throwing a hissy fit” –

Origin: The origin of the idiom or colloquial phrase ‘throwing a hissy fit’ quite literally has two direct links. The term originated during the mid 20th century in the United States and is an expression alluding to someone hissing and spluttering their words during a temper tantrum…or it is just a contraction of the word hysterical. And hysterical is definitely what you are when you are ‘throwing a hissy fit’.

Meaning: A temperamental outburst or tantrum.


 

Images:
Tears of a Crocodile by and accredited to Sankalp Ranjan – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49511935
A 1776 drawing of a tobacco smoke enema device by Unknown – Medical textbook published in Berne, Switzerland, 1776. Reproduced in André Holenstein (Ed.): Berns goldene Zeit, p.76 [ISBN 978-3-7272-1281-9], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5290890

Just in the Nick of Time: A History of Interesting Idioms and Colloquial Phrases – Part 6

Today’s journey into the heart of idiom country will find us in the South. And by South, I do mean the deep South. Most of the colloquial phrases that we will discuss today are phrases that we associate with people from the South. You will hear these exaggerated phrases in movies and TV shows where the person portrayed is from the South. You’ll also hear these colloquial sayings if you hang around your Southern grandmother for any extended period of time. Today we will explore the origins of: Close but no cigar, Break the ice, Finer than frog hair, Lord willing and/As long as the creek don’t rise, Bleed like a stuck pig, and Slicker than whale snot/slicker than snot on a door knob.



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Close but no cigar” – 

Origin: You’ve probably heard someone say ‘close but no cigar’ or its variant ‘nice try, but no cigar’ from your Uncle if you’re from the American South or perhaps from anyone else from around the world after the popularization of the phrase. The origin of the phrase is not defined to one specific place and time but in the mid-20th century; fairgrounds, bars, and stores had nickle games that gave out cigars as prizes. The phrase was put in print in Sayre and Twist’s script of the 1935 film of Annie Oakley: “Close, Colonel, but no cigar!” After this it appeared more and more in US newspapers and other publications; causing an increase in popularity throughout the world.

Meaning: Not reaching the successful outcome and thus will get nothing for your efforts.



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“Break the ice” – 

Origin: The earliest meaning of the idiom “break the ice” was ‘to forge a path for others to follow’, but the significance of the idiom lies on the water. Well water covered in ice to be more precise. In polar expeditions, there would be a lead boat that was equipped with strengthened hulls and more powerful engines that were used to ‘break the ice’ so that the other boats could follow behind. The term ‘ice-breaker’ began to be a socially used term in regards to initiating conversations with strangers and was even used by Mark Twain in Life on Mississippi: “They closed up the inundation with a few words – having used it, evidently, as a mere ice-breaker and acquaintanceship-breeder – then they dropped into business.” Thank God that Sir Thomas North ‘broke the ice’ in 1579 when he (the first known person to use the term in writing) says in his translation of Plutarch’s Lives on the noble Grecians and Romanes, “To be the first to break the Ice of the Enterprize.” Better yet when Samual Butler used it in Hudibras (1678), “…(a)t last broke silence, and the ice” and popularized the term as it used now.

Meaning: To remove the tension at the opening of a party, once first entering a room, etc.



Finer than frog hair” –

Origin: The idiom ‘finer than/fine as frog hair’ is about as country as you can get. It was one of my late grandfather’s favorite sayings. The idiom dates back to before the mid 19th century and was first in print in C. Davis’s Diary of 1865 in an entry where it is said, “I have a better flow of spirits this morning, and, in fact, feel as fine as frog’s hair, as Potso used to say.” Of course this is merely an ironic reference because…frog’s don’t have hair.

Meaning: Something that is extremely fine; delicate, slender.



“Lord willing and the creek don’t rise” – 

Origins: The origin for the idiom “as long as the creek don’t rise” or “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise” seems like it should be an open and shut case but like most things, we’ll need to let the proverbial wheel roll around a couple more turns until we find the leak. You would think that it is a simplistic reference to the fact that you will be able to do something as long as the water doesn’t rise up and block the bridge that you would have to travel back through; but we would be wrong in thinking this. The idiom has two possible origins. One more complicated than the other. The more complicated is in reference to a quote from Benjamin Hawkins (a Georgia native that lived in the United States during the American Revolution). Hawkins response to the President’s plea for him to return to the capitol was supposedly that he would return “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise”. The significance of this supposed statement is that he was supposedly not referencing a specific body of water but was referencing the Creek Indian nation participating in an uprising in that specific part of the country in which he was acting as Superintendent of the Tribes of the Ohio River. There is no proof that he actually said this but it sounds like a spectacularly exciting explanation of the idiom but more than likely the origin is relatively simplistic. The idiom gained popularity in the Appalachian mountains of the United States where occasional and unpredictably rainfall could leave one rural neighborhood or home inaccessible on many occasions.  I’m guessing that the saying was meant to sound something like “I’ll see you next week; as long as the good Lord is willing, and as long as we don’t have an immense amount of rainfall that washes away the bridge or path that connects these two areas” but by dialects ended up sounding something like “Lort willin’ an’ th’ crick don’ rise”.

Meaning: An expression in reference to something happening as long as unforeseen events don’t take place.



“Bleed like a stuck pig” – 

Origin: The idiom “bleed like a stuck pig” has one of the most cut and dry (no pun intended) origins of all. It is literally a reference to the fact that when you cut the throat of a pig set for slaughter with an extremely sharp knife, the cut severs the main arteries (the jugular vein) that disperse blood throughout the body; thus causing the pig to bleed out rapidly.

Meaning: To bleed heavily.



Bottle_of_whale_oil

“Slicker than whale snot/slicker than snot on a door knob” – 

Origin: This is another one of those colloquial idioms that do not have a definite origin but is immensely popular in the South of the United States. The two variations are both used but have different, equally disturbing meanings. The first variation “slicker than whale snot” is more than likely in reference to the greasy consistency of whale blubber oil (which was used to make oil for lamps, soap and margarine before the banning of whaling). The second variation, “slicker than snot on a door knob” is literally a quite nauseating way of comparing how ‘slick’ something is to ‘human snot’ being on a solid object. I uh….I am not to fond of that one. Blah.

Meaning: Comparison between a slick surface and that of snot/whale oil to express the extent of the slickness.



Images:

Feautred Image – Square Deal Dice Popper Cigar Vintage Gaming machine image courtesy of ChadsCoinOp.com – http://www.chadscoinop.com/picgallery/Square%20Deal%20Dice%20Popper.html
Pilot Boat near Helsinki image by and accredited to Sean Biehle from Cincinnati, OH, USA – Ice Breaker, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4646130
Bottle of Whale Oil photo by and accredited to Chris Linardos – http://www.flickr.com/photos/chris-linardos/5386324261/, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23623619

 

Just in the Nick of Time: A History of Interesting Idioms and Colloquial Phrases – Part 5

We have reached the halfway point in our ten part series where we investigate the history behind some of the most interesting idioms and those clever colloquial phrases that we all use but never take the time to find out what they really mean. Some of my favorites from the series so far have been “Mad as a Hatter” (from Part 1), “Down in the Dumps” (from Part 2), “Cat got your Tongue” (from Part 3), and “Quitting Cold Turkey” (from Part 4). Today’s six idioms/phrases will have a central theme. Today we will discuss: “Go the whole nine yards“, “Raining cats and dogs“, “Face the Music“, “Madder than a wet sitting hen“, “Now you’re cooking with Peanut Oil“, and “What in tarnation“.



 

“Go the whole nine yards” – 

Origin: What should have been one of the easiest ones to answer, the colloquial American phrase “go the whole nine yards” has been described by Yale’s librarian Fred Shapiro as “the most prominent etymological riddle of our time”. The most commonly offered explanation for the phrase was that the gun belts used on aircraft machine guns were nine yards long; thusly why someone would say ‘give them the whole nine yards’. Sadly the phrase predates World War II and the standard belt for guns used in World War I was ‘seven yards’. Another explanation is that it is a unit of fabric measurement because skeins of fabric were routinely sold in lengths of nine (or some other multiple of three yards). In an article in the New Albany Daily Ledger in Indiana, an article called “The Judge’s Big Shirt” uses the phrase to describe a woman making three shirts; instead of three “she has put the whole nine yards into one shirt!” This phrase was used for the next 7 years in that same newspaper. Whether this or the measurement of the unfurled square-rigged sails of full-rigged sailing ships…no one knows.

Meaning: Everything, the whole lot; or when used as an adjective, “all the way”.



“Raining Cats and Dogs” – 

Origin: There is no definitive origin for the phrase “it’s raining cats and dogs” but just because the precise origin is not known….doesn’t mean that we can’t speculate. The phrase’s origin can definitely be traced to the 17th century, and we definitely know that there has never been any reports of cats and dogs falling from the sky during a storm (despite the occasional frog or fish that has been swept up into a cyclone and thusly brought back down to earth during the storm). More than likely the source of the saying is in dead animals and other debris being washed up into the streets after a heavy rain. Another proposed story could be cats being seen falling past a window after slipping off of a roof during a heavy rain storm. Either of these scenarios could be a grand possibility but there is no definitive way of knowing. Either way its a fun phrase in which we can also have fun speculating the origin.

Meaning: Heavy falling rainstorm.



“Face the Music” – 

Origin: With imagery so concise, you would think that there would be a definitive answer as to what the origin of the phrase “Face the Music” would be, but alas there is not. There are three equally interesting, plausible possibilities that could definitely be within the realm of possibility. The first possibility is that the phrase is based on a tradition of disgraced officers being ‘drummed out’ of their regiment. This would be a ceremony where the drummers would play while the officer was stripped of his title and then he would have to ‘face the music’ as he walked away. The second theory is that it was a theatrical term that meant that actors who were asked to ‘face the music’, were asked to quite literally face the orchestra pit while on stage. The third and slightly more interesting theory is that while during a performance

Meaning: Face the consequences of your action’s.



“Madder than a wet sitting hen”

Origin: If you or your grandma is from the Southeastern part of the United States then you’ve probably heard her or someone else say “I’m madder than a wet sitting hen”. Though there is no exact origin or written proof, the complex metaphor that describes someone who is raging mad is said to have originated in the Appalachian mountains. This phrase derived from the fact that hen’s become quite agitated if and when they get wet. I’m not sure how long it took someone to come to that conclusion but I would hate to be on the receiving end of that upset chicken.

Meaning: Phrase used to express the intensity of someone’s anger.



“Now you’re cooking with peanut oil” – 

Origin: An idiom that has since been made popular by the Duck Dynasty Robertson family patriarch; but the phrase has been around in one form or another, for many years. In the American South, the phrase has taken many forms: “Now we’re cooking with gas”, “now we’re cooking with Crisco”, and many others but the phrase’s definite origin is not necessary a definitely one. The only thing that we know is that the phrase works due to the high smoke point of peanut oil and is used in higher temperature cooking.

Meaning: A colloquial way of showing approval.



“What in Tarnation?” – 

Origin: This idiom, like the central theme of all of these idioms from this post, do not have definite origins. As for United States ‘Southerners’ this specific saying has been around for as long as they can remember. The term ‘tarnation’ originated in the late 1700s as a euphemism for the less offensive ‘damnation’. In the 1700s, the phrase “what in tarnation” would have been something similar to a slightly offensive phrase used currently: ‘what the hell?’. So whether its to replace ‘damnation’ or ‘plainly asking ‘what in the place where you are damned’….either way, I’d rather not visit Tarnation.

Meaning: An idiom used as a rhetorical question that literally means ‘what in damnation?’.



 

Featured Image: Textile Market in Karachi, Pakistan image by and accredited to Steve Evans from Bangalore, India – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=394539