American Idiom

February 9, 2010


“Love, do I talk entirely in obscure English idioms?” asked The Mushroom after a day at playgroup.

My Dad was sitting on the sofa, clearly trying to think of an obscure English idiom to use in reply, but was far too tired from spending the day trying to persuade his pupils that saying ‘Hitler was a great leader’ is not the same as saying, ‘I love, Hitler, me. I think he was great.’

My Dad has a bit of a problem with some of his pupils insomuch as they take everything he says literally, and pretty much everything my Dad says is sarcastic. So far, the main beliefs held about him by his pupils are:

1. That he wants to be a table.

2. That the character of ‘Maverick’ in ‘Top Gun’ was based on him.

3. That the character of Hans Solo was also based on him.

4. That when he has a load of essays due in, he gets so excited he can’t sleep.

5. That he loves Adolf Hitler.

Now, not even Kev From The Haworth, who collects Nazi memorabilia, has some suspect tattoos and probably votes BNP actually loves Adolf Hitler. Okay, maybe Kev From The Haworth isn’t the best example as on second thoughts perhaps he does love him a bit, but in general, as a rule, people think Adolf Hitler was a bit nasty. Wikipedia is certainly quite harsh about him.

“Yeah.” he sighed. “Why?”

“Because people kept looking at me blankly, and then asking me what I meant.”

“What did you say?”

“Much of a muchness.”

“And?”

“Swings and roundabouts.”

“Anything else?”

“I think I referred to someone as ‘spitting feathers’. Oh, and a little boy was being silly and I said he would be hoisted by his own petard. And I think I might have used ‘all talk and no trousers’. And ‘plain as a pikestaff’. Oh, and the use of Lysol spray to clean the playroom was good cos an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure.”

“Love, were you auditioning for a role as a teacher on ‘Grange Hill’? Did you refer to anyone as ‘my boy’?”

If the people at playgroup are anything like my Dad’s pupils, they will, thus, think The Mushroom was talking about someone who likes to eat birds whilst going on fairground rides, half naked, talking a lot. The other idioms she used would just have sounded like nonsense. Seriously, what does ‘much of a muchness’ even mean? And who uses it? If it doesn’t mean anything, why say it? Is it just a filler, like talking about the weather (a short conversation here. ‘It’s frigging freezing.’, ‘Yes, yes it is.’  The End)?  The thing is, The Mushroom uses them all the time. In fact, she uses bits of idioms, often followed by ‘et cetera’, (‘Oooh, well, when the scales fall, et cetera…’, ‘OOh, you know, beard the lion, etc…’, ‘Ooh, well, run it up the flagpole et cetera, eh?’ – and these are all taken from one overheard Skype conversation between The Mushroom and her mother, who possibly uses even more idioms than she does. It’s like a secret code which only the two of them understand. I’ve also just realised that perhaps The Mushroom is also excessive in her use of the sound ‘Oooh!’, but she doesn’t get out much, so I’m not going to judge). I’m sure speaking like this would be grand if you were, shall we say, a minor character in ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’, like one of those country wenches or something but, if you’re a Canadian playgroup supervisor, it might leave you stumped.

Whilst my Dad’s pupils may commit the crime of being too literal, The Mushroom commits the crime of never, ever simply saying what she means. I don’t know if this is a human thing, or an English thing, or a lady human thing, or an English lady human thing or, indeed, if it is just The Mushroom.

“Can I get away with this?” she asks my Dad, emerging from the bedroom wearing a pair of leggings purchased via the wonder that is Ebay.

My Dad looks trapped. “In what way, ‘get away with’?”

She glares.

“It’s a simple enough question. Can I get away with this?”

My Dad takes a deep breath. “If you mean, ‘Can I get away with this, or do I look fat?’, then the answer is yes, you can get away with it and no, you do not look fat. If you, however, mean, ‘Can I get away with this, or do I look like Max Wall?’, then the answer is no, you cannot get away with it, and yes, you do look like Max Wall.” He breathes out. “Okay?”

Women are odd. The Mushroom is totally okay with this, even though, in a wonderfully English, roundabout way, my Dad just said that the new leggings make her look like a tit. He didn’t, however, say she looked fat, so that’s all fine then.

Can I just add that, from a furry mammal’s perspective, leggings are one of the oddest sartorial choices a person can make. The only thing odder is high heels. I have noticed that The Mushroom hasn’t put on a pair of high heels since she got here, and I suspect this is because she, too, checked Wikipedia and is wearing flat shoes so she can run when she sees a cougar. High heels make the person wearing them stick their bottom out at an unatural angle and then totter. It makes them look a bit like they want a poo. Perhaps this is the point, and I have missed this aspect of the human mating ritual.

On an entirely different note, Fluffy Usurper has double jointed back legs. Freak.

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4 Responses to “American Idiom”

  1. face said

    There isn’t a woman on earth who *doesn’t* look like Max Wall when wearing leggings. I remember my dad telling me that was exactly what I looked like, although this criticism is unlikely to result in any sartorial improvement when one is about 18 and convinced that parents just know NOTHING. Tch.

  2. face said

    Yup. Black everything, in fact, because they haven’t yet invented anything darker.

  3. Granny Janey said

    That Max Wall, he could stick his arse out just fine thanks, even without high heels! With or without leggings! Specially in the early years.

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