This morning, I sat down at the Bistro with my dearest Mary, and our granddaughter Haylee. The waitress served me a large cup of steaming hot black coffee. Just the way I like it. But the coffee cup was the size of Lake Michigan. I thought to myself… “Oh, my. I will never get to the bottom of this.” And then I chuckled.
I’m not sure where the origin of that phrase lies, but I am sure it is a good one. Perhaps it was born under the same circumstances as mine this morning. As it turns out, I did not get anywhere near the bottom of that cup. Albeit, I had consumed way too much coffee, prior to my date with my pals.
Here’s the deal. I get a little caught up with words. I frequently wonder where so many of those phrases originated. Sometimes, I get just a teeny bit out-of-control when I am “caught up” with finding the origin.
Like the other day. I overheard someone telling someone how completely awesome they were. To which I said to myself… “Holy smackeroonies. That guy is really trying to butter her up.” To butter someone up. Like toast. I mean. Where did that come from? Well, as it turns out, this was a customary religious act in ancient India. The devout worshipers would throw butter balls. Right at the statues of their gods. They threw these butter balls to seek favor and forgiveness. Now. This seems a little odd to me. All the way around. I mean, who has butter balls just lying around for the gods. Do they have to pre-scoop them, or did they go to the ancient grocery stores, and buy butter ball in bulk. And what about turkeys? Does this have something to do with Butterballs? How close is India to Turkey? And what were the gods to think of all of this?
Later, that same day, someone asked me a question. I was thinking about my answer, so I did not respond immediately. To which they said, “What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?” Of course, on the surface, this makes no sense. There were no cats around. Certainly none near my mouth. So looking into the origin, I found that “cat got your tongue” came from the English Navy. They used a little device called a “Cat-o’-nine-tails” — a nasty little whip for flogging. And…. the pain was so severe from these beatings… that it caused the victim to stay quiet for a long time. That is one explanation. The other goes back a lot further. All the way to ancient Egypt. If someone lied, or committed blasphemy… the person’s tongue was cut out and fed to the cats. I have to know more about this. Are cats crazy for human tongue? I thought they were all about tuna. Or is it just Egyptian cats that like tongue? More pointedly, which cats were selected to eat the tongue. Did they have a special group of tongue-eaters? No matter how you look at this…. it is gross.
The world of word origins can be quite the thing. If you are bothered by my preoccupation with this, you could turn a blind eye. Or perhaps we could just bury the hatchet. But whatever you do, please don’t give me the cold shoulder. Let your hair down. Maybe I am barking up the wrong tree… and you have caught me red-handed. But it is what I do. Because. Sometimes, I guess … I am just mad as a hatter.
All kidding aside. I am glad you are here. The truth is… I think you are the bee’s knees, and the cat’s meow. As good as gold.
And. I sure am glad… we finally got to the bottom of this.
“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
― Rudyard Kipling
“I like good strong words that mean something…”
― Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
“Don’t gobblefunk around with words.”
― Roald Dahl, The BFG