Sunday, November 23, 2014

Familiar Phrases

When I've had too much to eat or have had "an elegant sufficiency" as my mother used to like me to say, I say instead: 

"I'm up to Dolly's wax".  

This is a phrase borrowed from my maternal grandfather.  It refers to the junction between the dolly's neck and the rest of her body - where the wax began and ended so to speak.  I think the heads were made of wax and the bodies made of china or some such.  Someone correct me or agree with me for goodness sake.

I'm a bit of a bower-bird, truth be known, when it comes to language and turns of phrase.  After I've worked with someone for a while I tend to adopt their mannerisms or parts of speech, if they take my fancy.  

A boss I worked with many years ago at the ABC had some great turns of phrase - they were Cockney in origin I think - 

"Shall we hit the frog and toad?" 

he used to say to me cheerfully.   

For those unfamiliar with this lingo, it means, shall we hit the road or get going.  

I must confess that in Queensland some of us do like to hit cane toads when we can - old bufo marinus does get out of control and has caused our canine friends no end of worry and expense to their owners.

Another phrase of his I really liked was:

 "Better than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick"


"flat out like a lizard drinking"

So colourful and right on the money.  Oops there's another turn of phrase.

Another boss taught me not to tell Porkie Pies or Lies.  Or be a Nancy No Friends.  She also taught me that some things are Easy Peasy Lemon Squeezy.  But not everything.

When someone was particularly good, my mother would reward them with the phrase: 

"Your blood's worth bottling!"  

I have continued the tradition, to the consternation of many, I might add.  

Try looking for bottles of blood on Flickr, I dare you.

Mary N Crawford's blood was certainly worth bottling, being the rare blood type Lu (a-b-).

Particular regions have their own quaint phrases and when I moved to Queensland I learned to say "port" instead of "suitcase".  I learned that a "session" referred to a time when the pub would be open.  I learned that what I thought were "frankfurts" or cocktail sausages were really "cheerios".  I learned that what I called a "sloppy joe" in Canberra days was really a sweater or a pullover or a windcheater.

Because I spent a lot of time in my youth in Sydney, I always use the phrase

 "Busy as Pitt Street on a Friday night" 

This is very confusing for those who grew up in Brisbane, thinking it was Queen Street. And is even more confusing for those who don't realize that shops weren't always open every night of the week.

I love the irony of some my English friends turn of phrase e.g. the latest movie was "deeply boring".

I love the lilt of my Scottish friend's turn of phrase when she adds "so they are" onto statements of importance such as:

 "All men are bastards, so they are"

Sometimes as I get older and my brain more addled (I need more RAM), I mix my metaphors e.g. "She could talk the iron leg off a donkey!". By the way, I love that you can put "confused donkey" into Flickr and get a result!

I reflect on the turns of phrase that will fade into the past with advances in technology.  I used to have a friend who was a bit old fashioned and insisted on calling cars "motor cars".  My grandmother referred to the movies as "the pictures".  Some people still call DVDs videos.

Each profession or trade has its own lingo.  I've learned what "weeding" is in library-land (deleting of out of date/manky items) and I've learned about "partial returns" (that's when you forget to put the DVD back in the case or bring back the box of lego missing 5 of the 130 pieces).  Sometimes I get a bit confused and refer to them as "impartial returns" - I think that's because the software system refers to this kind of issue as "incomplete" so I mix my terms and end up with "impartial", if you know what I mean.

Well, I suppose I'd better get moving.  Robbie has to go back to the "salt-mine" today.  I'd better look sharp or the day will be over before I know it.

What are your favourite turns of phrase and where have they come from?


crgalvin said...

I think like many of us you may have a few kangaroos loose in the top paddock, but my father's reaction to anything unusual or out of his range of experiences was 'Well, stone the crows'. I can't recall when or why I started to use the phrase 'Stop acting like a pork chop' but I suspect it was some time when the children were small.

Alex Daw said...

Oh yes, I do love that "carrying on like a pork chop" phrase. I wonder where on earth that came from?