Ever hear an idiom out of context and have no idea what it means or meant? That happened to me tonight.

“So’s your old man”. I learned that this is a mild rejoinder to an insult. It means literally, “So’s your father”, but it is just an all-purpose mild insult along the lines of, “Yo Mama”, but less hostile. As an example, A- “You’re an idiot”. B- “So’s your old man”.

This seems to be an out of style idiom. It’s never heard except in old movies.

Some idioms within a language are peculiar to a geographic region. Years ago I watched an Australian movie, “Lantana”. In most of the U.S. lantana is a seasonal plant. We had it in our yard as a woody stemmed shrub that died back to the ground in winter and then came back in the spring as new growth. It didn’t come back the year after the polar vortex spun off the polar region and we had temperatures down near 0 degrees, Fahrenheit. I understand that in South Florida it doesn’t die back.

The plant doesn’t die back in the north of Australia and grows in dense interlacing thickets that are difficult to get through. A really knotty problem or insoluble problem is described as a “real lantana.” It’s the mess that Robert Burns alluded to in the line, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

Some wonderful idioms in one language don’t translate well. Have you ever been unexpectedly verbally abused and were so shocked that you could think of no rejoinder until later? In French that thought is referred to as l’esprit de l'escaller. Literally it means the inspiration or wit on the staircase; the staircase being where it occurred to you at the end of the evening as you were going to your room.

I have a friend who went through a long patch of poverty who shopped in thrift stores for her wardrobe. She came to some afternoon affair at a mutual friend's home with a nice top, a fox stole, and a frayed hem denim skirt and boots that matched nothing.. A mutual friend who has no tact blurted out, “you look great from the waist up. You look like hell from the waist down. My friend was dumbstruck. She is still waiting for l’esprit de l’escalier.

Where is all of this going? Nowhere except to say that idioms are tricky. They can sum up in a few words a meaning that would otherwise require a conversation to convey.

The current impasse between Congress and the President that has resulted in a partial shutdown of government has been described as “a Mexican standoff”. As I understand that idiom it is a standoff in which neither side can afford to give ground in any way because by doing so they may be destroyed. Without arguing the merits of the arguments, that seems a little extreme in this case.

Thinking about all of this I somehow imagined a post-Trump country with El Presidente putting together his Presidential Library.  I imagined it containing only one book; the only one he has ever read: "The Dictator's Handbook, why bad behavior is almost always good politics."

Views: 93

Comment by Rodney Roe on December 26, 2018 at 4:31am

We drove thirty minutes and had Chinese with friends yesterday and Trump's name never came up once.  It was a marvelous Christmas dinner.

Comment by Rodney Roe on December 26, 2018 at 5:13am
I had conversations with both daughters yesterday. They were different, of course. I said to the older daughter that the worst horror of the Trump debacle is the knowledge that his base makes up 30% of the population. Her rejoinder was, "Dad, until recently public execution was considered entertainment. We haven't changed. We're still just monkeys in fancy clothes."
Comment by Rodney Roe on December 26, 2018 at 5:13am
I had conversations with both daughters yesterday. They were different, of course. I said to the older daughter that the worst horror of the Trump debacle is the knowledge that his base makes up 30% of the population. Her rejoinder was, "Dad, until recently public execution was considered entertainment. We haven't changed. We're still just monkeys in fancy clothes."
Comment by Ron Powell on December 26, 2018 at 6:27am

'Trump Library' is an oxymoron.

A single book cannot constitute a library....

A 'Mexican standoff' involves three parties.

'Stalemate' is the better term for two parties who cannot conclude a confrontation with a decisive move or winning strategy....

Comment by Rodney Roe on December 26, 2018 at 7:30am

Mexican Standoff:

n : a situation in which no one can emerge as a clear winner. A poor man's Mutally Assured Destruction
That dude had a gun pointed to my head but I had a knife in his gut -- we were in a Mexican Standoff.
by Loogoo Maloogoo September 24, 2003
Comment by Tom Cordle on December 26, 2018 at 12:06pm

I grew up with a lot of idioms, thanks to my mother's side of the family – "He's got nice hair, too bad he's foolish" doesn't exactly qualify as idiomatic, since no translation is required. "I don't know whether to shit or go blind" is another of the same sort. 

Speaking of shit, I once had the good fortune to ski in Austria and spent the second week hanging with our bus driver Berndt, whose English was worse than my German. We did manage to find a little common ground on some idiomatic expressions, though. A couple I recall were virtually the same in meaning and expression – "built like a brick shithouse", most often used to describe an anatomically attractive woman, and "shithead", which in German is "scheiß im kopf". Don't ask me how I learned one is not suppose to use that expression in polite company.

Enquiring minds thought you'd like to know ......

Comment by Tom Cordle on December 26, 2018 at 12:08pm

Mexican Standoff – best example ever was the graveyard scene at the end of the movie The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Comment by Rodney Roe on December 26, 2018 at 12:46pm

One great grandfather's first language was German.  Consequently, my dad and his brother and sisters picked up a lot.  The downside was that he understood the names the German women were calling him as the American troops moved through the German countryside on the route to Berlin.  The name you mention, Tom, was one of them.  That and Sheisshund.

It is interesting that even Koko the Gorilla, who was never taught any slurs, signed to the woman who taught her to sign that she was a "green shit" over some disagreement.  Scatalogical slurs seem to be inherent in primates.

Comment by Ron Powell on December 26, 2018 at 1:36pm
A Mexican standoff is a confrontation amongst three or more parties in which no strategy exists that allows any party to achieve victory. As a result, all participants need to maintain the strategic tension, which remains unresolved until some outside event makes it possible to resolve it. Wikipedia

Three men pointing guns at one another in an apparent Mexican standoff...

Comment by Ron Powell on December 26, 2018 at 9:32pm
@TC; "Mexican Standoff – best example ever was the graveyard scene at the end of the movie The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly."

Not quite so:


The Hollywood drama is there, but not the reality...

Eastwood knew that one of the guns wasn't loaded....

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