Many of you have mailed me
– or called me on the phone – or come by my office with old-timey phrases.
All of them are interesting and fun.
One of the more interesting
that I had never heard before was the use of the phrase "plime blank" to
mean exactly or precisely.
Where did something like
that come from? It turns out that it likely began from the old nautical
term that designated when a ship was fully loaded. There is still today a
mark called the "Plimsol Line" that marks the water level on the side of
the ship. When there is so much weight in the ship that the line is
blanked out, it means the ship is fully loaded. That’s where our old-timey
phrase of "plime blank" came from!
Lots of folks used to farm
in our area. We have many expressions and sayings that come from the work
that was done in the fields such as, "In the short rows." That meant when
the job was almost done.
If a job was really
difficult, folks said, "It was a rough row to hoe."
If a person was working
really, really hard, he was said to be "Picking two rows at the time."
Around here, if someone
fell into the Okapilco, he was said to have "Wet his pipe, matches and
Long ago when itinerant
artists traveled the country roads painting portraits, they charged by the
body part painted. There were no cameras and one’s image was either
sculpted or painted.
For example, there are
paintings of George Washington showing him standing behind a desk with one
arm behind his back while others showed both legs and both arms.
Prices were not charged by
how many people in a painting, but by how many limbs were to be painted.
There were separate charges
for feet, legs, arms, hands…which is where we get our expression today,
"OK, but it will cost you an arm and a leg!"
Guns were expensive. Most
common folk went to the gunsmith and purchased whatever part of the gun
they could afford at the time…accumulating parts until a complete firearm
could be assembled. You won’t, I don’t think, be surprised to learn that
is where our expression, "Lock, stock and barrel," comes from.
One of my personal
favorites is – when someone is smiling BIG – he or she is said to be
"Grinning like a mule eating briars through a barbed wire fence."
Of course, barbed wire was
pronounced "bob war."
When something happened
that was totally unexpected and hard to believe, the comment was often,
"If that don’t beat a hog a’flying!"
It is a shame that
"sopping" has gone out of fashion! My grandma always "sopped" her gravy
with her biscuit. For those who don’t know, the old-timers would take
their biscuit and "sop" up the delicious drippings in your plate when the
meat was finished. In the days when food was hard to come by, it was
expected that you would not waste anything and was in no way considered
Most of us, at one time or
another, have said, "Let’s get our bearings."
What a strange phrase to
use meaning, "Let’s find out where we are…"
It’s not so strange when
you think that the phrase comes from The Bear Constellation which points
to the North Star…that beacon that has guided man from the beginnings of
We’ll do a few of these
next week too.