Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow. senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. (Just remember I'm looking through my prism which may or may not be the full story.) Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Pardon my French and other Colorful Euphemisms

 

My husband used the euphemism I have to go see a man about a horse when he needed to use the restroom and we were in ‘polite society’ which is another euphemism meaning in today’s world we were out in public but in ye olden days the phrase polite society had more to do with having a so-called superior set of standards for behavior brought to them compliments of their wealth and breeding. As a man, for example, you’d never think of even whispering the word ‘sex’ to others of your social standing but forcing sex on a lowly housemaid was a different ball of wax. Though I suppose that example would be more along the lines of a dichotomy? Either way, there was a time when you could use the term ‘a different ball of wax’ and everyone knew you were talking about two things that might seem the same but were completely dissimilar. But I was shocked to learn that in today’s world you have to be more careful throwing the term ball of wax around. 

The urban dictionary is claiming a ‘ball of wax’ refers to the crud that builds up under a man’s balls when he hasn't bathed in a few days. I could have gone on playing the euphemisms game all day long if not for that bit of information. For one thing, I didn’t know that crud built up there and two, now that I do I can’t help wondering if there is a euphemism for the crud that builds up under a woman’s breasts when she’s doing manual labor in the hot sun. I spent the summer one year working on my husband’s asphalt paving and patching crew and I learned all about sweating my balls off which is another idiom my husband often used and in case you’re dumber than a box of rocks that means it was hotter than Hades. Side note: Does this whole paragraph remind you of belly button lint? Or is it just me?

I love idioms and euphemisms but they’re supposed to be a lazy man's verbiage. Still I don’t care. I don’t think I could talk without them and it’s common for me to edit one or two out of posts I'm working on because I do try to follow the rules of good writing---well, except for posts like this when I’m in a silly mood and I want to play with words, maybe make you smile or remind you of a phrase someone from you past was fond of saying. It's fascinating that word usage can sometimes remain the same for centuries and other times words can completely flip in its meaning. I’m over the moon for internet websites devoted to doing deep dives into where and when certain sayings and word usage started.

Shakespeare coined a lot of our English phrases like the green-eyed monster and wear your heart on your sleeve that both came from Othella. Love is blind and in a pickle both debuted in The Tempest. It’s all Greek to me appeared in Julius Caesar and a wild goose chase is from Romeo and Juliet. A method to his madness is something that reminds me of my mom and it’s from Hamlet which was written in 1602. 1602. I had to write that again so you’d know It’s not a typo.

Disney is probably the most comparable we have today to Shakespeare in terms of influencing a large market to use catchy phrases from their prolific bodies of work. And we’ll have to wait around a few hundred years to see it lines from Disney films endure the test of time. But I predict little girls who grew up singing Let it go with Elsa from Frozen will be be using that phrase as a coping tool their entire lives and passing it onto their grandchildren. But in our world things come and go in our media at a faster pace than in Shakespeare’s time and catchy phrases don’t have as long to peculate and take roots in society before another shiny new penny comes along to replace it. Did you know, by the way, that the Shiny Penny Syndrome is a real thing? It refers to when we get distracted by the newest whatever---the latest technology, a flirty party girl. Something that keeps us from sticking to our goals as in, “You won’t get far in life if you’re always chasing shiny new pennies, son." 

Back to my husband: I used to think it was a family idiom he was using about the horse. He was raised on a farm and they had work horses but the see-a-man-about-a-horse euphemism dates back to at least 1866 when it first appeared in print. In 1939 it was heard in a NBC radio program and during prohibition it was commonly used when a man was going to the back room of a super club to have a drink of bootleg booze. As euphemisms for using the bathroom go, I’ve always been grateful my husband didn’t use take a piss which I’ve noticed lately is showing up on TV---the phrase, not the action itself---and I hate that P word more than the other P word. Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go powder my nose. ©

57 comments:

  1. You sure did make me smile! I still remember many of the family sayings from years ago. Thanks for the stroll down memory lane, Jean. Hope your ccc has not been hit by the latest covid. It's making a comeback in our area.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our sister campus has two cases right now and I'm saw more masks again when I went to the grocery store. But so far we haven't been asked to wear them again in our public areas. Fingers crossed xxxx

      Delete
  2. I often sing "Let it go" when thoughts are on the spin cycle in my brain. And other horse idioms - that's like shutting the barn door after the horses have already got out; don't put the cart before the horse.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lots of horse idioms, aren't there. I like how you use 'Let it go.' I need to try that when I get an obsessives thought stuck in my head.

      Delete
  3. I have heard or used most of those. Who knew I was so literate in Shakespere?
    Yikes, is that really true about "ball of wax?" Think I need to remove that from my phrase bank.
    I have heard many a man refer to the bathroom as a "man about a horse." I had one guy get original and say he was going to "check my plumbing". I had often referred to it as "need to use the sand box." We certainly are cautious about saying we need to pee:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the urban dictionary does list 'a ball of wax' as I described. But other places list 'the whole ball of wax' the way most of us remember it. Now, if a young person snickers at us using that term we'll know why.

      If someone said he was going to check my plumbing I would have through it a sexual term because to 'fix her plumbing' was a euphemism used for copulate in the '30s and '40s. I've heard the sandbox one before too, but I can't remember who used to say it.

      Delete
  4. Now with texting, people are shortening some of the phrases into acronyms and I often have to google the letters to find out what they are talking about! So your husband would have texted "IHTGSAMAAH!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I absolutely hate acronyms because I always have to look them up. LOL is the only one I use and understand at first glance.

      Delete
  5. Tried to leave a comment earlier and kept getting an error message, so thought I'd pop back in and see if your site is ok now. Fun post, many memories of people saying those things when I was younger.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've had trouble leaving comments on other people's blogs this morning too, Had to try twice to accomplish them. Thanks for trying a second time here!

      Delete
  6. I also hate the phrase "take a piss." I'm not sure why, but I find it far more vulgar than anything else.

    I taught Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" at least a hundred times. My students--some of them--would pick up on the idioms/adages and ask me if he thought of them first or if he got them from someone else. Some of them assumed that they all came from the Bible. LOL. Often, my Black students were unaware of the sayings completely, and this held true when I taught excerpts from Benjamin Franklin's "Almanack." Cultural differences show up in the classroom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll bet culture makes a difference in the classroom, do they still say the SATS are culturally bias in the questions they ask? I remember that being a thing.

      That's funny about assuming idioms all came from the Bible although there are a lot of them that did like 'ye of little faith', 'the blind leading the blind' and 'by the skin of your teeth'. I don't know Ben Franklin's Almanack, but I'm not surprised that a Founding Father's phrases have endured.

      Delete
    2. Don't give Ben Franklin too much credit. Most of the sayings in "Poor Richard's Almanack" were stolen from the Bible, Shakespeare, and other sources. He was just enterprising enough to put them all in one spot and make a little cash from it.

      The bias of the SAT continues to be a discussion and even legal issue. Certainly the bias is there because the scores continue to prove it exists over time. In my opinion standardized testing is a ridiculous measure of anything other than how well any individual responds to high-stakes testing, period. The word Standardized is enough to tell anyone volumes.

      Delete
    3. Taking SATs is something we didn't have to do when I went to college but I've often wanted to take in recent years.

      Delete
  7. Oh, I love these sayings and use them quite frequently! Considering today's politics, I find myself saying (too often) "Dumb as a box of rocks."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's one of my favorite sayings too. Until just now I didn't realize how long it's been around. A google search puts it at "1859, when it appeared in a publication called Chambers Edinburgh Journal of Popular Literature by William and Robert Chambers."

      Delete
    2. And there's also "Dumb as a bag of hammers."

      Delete
  8. Well, thanks for the heads up on ball of wax. EWWW. My DH has always said he needed to see a man about a dog. Same difference. My dad was famous for having excrement in most of his expressions, but we didn't realize it until one of my daughters decided to put together a list of grandpa's famous sayings. LOL.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh gosh, I'd forgot about seeing a man about a dog. Someone I know---can't remember who just now---used that expression a lot. Funny about your dad's favorite expressions. And you completely lost me with EWWW. Found EWW online meaning 'disgust' so I'm guessing you're extra disgusted? LOL

      Delete
    2. Yeah, that's gross. I've filed it under "things I don't want to visualize...ever." LOL

      Delete
  9. I've always been fascinated with how and why some mere Words become Taboo and considered Vulgarity or Offensive in other ways? I think it is likely the reason/definition we give to them which makes them Trigger objects... if a Word is meant to Offend or express a person's vulgarity, I can see why then it would be language most other people wouldn't appreciate hearing or would refrain from using. I swear a lot... it's not that I don't possess the actual discipline not to either... I'm not random with profanity either like some people are who inject it so often that it just seems more habitual than making a point... so I could actually NOT do it. But, sometimes I just WANT to swear, more as I age, which, I'm told could be an onset of some shit going on in the Aging Brain that probably should alarm me? *Bwahahahaha*

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Taboo words are different then euphemism and I've had to curb my sweating after living here. Not that I ever did swear in polite society but I'm worried that as I age I won't contain my swear words to when I'm alone or with a few chosen old friends.

      Euphemism for sex came about because older people are always trying to protect younger ears from understanding a conversation that they might be having that in age inappropriate. Euphemisms keep getting invented because kids keep figuring them out.

      Delete
    2. Oh dear, I worry that I will let loose with swear words more freely as I age, too! I dearly love to swear and have always considered my audience so as not to offend friends with tender sensibilities. I will need to apologize to everyone in advance if I ever live in a CCC!
      Nina

      Delete
    3. LOL I've caught myself in the middle of saying a couple swear words around here.

      Delete
  10. I love learning how and why some phrases stick. There is always a history! Bill Bryson (one of my favorite authors) wrote a whole book explaining ... don't throw the baby out with the bathwater ....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just looked that one up and it grossed me out to think the tiniest person in the entire family would be the last one to get a bath from the community bath water. Thanks for sharing. I've heard it a lot over the years but never new where the saying came from.

      Delete
  11. When we lived out in the country sometimes my husband had to pee when we were working out in "the back 40" and he would turn away and say "I have to water the lizard." I always envied the convenience of that option. And maybe it's just a typo, but it should be "Hotter than Hades," the Greek name for the underworld which, I imagine, would be pretty hot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Definitely a typo. Thanks for giving me a heads up so I can correct it. I laughed out loud at the water the lizard. Very creative.

      Delete
  12. Thanks for another enjoyable read! I laughed out loud and honestly will never think of a ball of wax again without feeling slightly nauseated. I tried to think of some euphemisms but fell short. I've never been the sharpest pencil in the box. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love the brightest bulb in the box which I think is slightly smarter than the sharpest pencil in the box.

      Delete
    2. And definitely better than not playing with a full deck. Or being two sandwiches short of a picnic.

      Delete
    3. Never heard the two sandwiches short of a picnic. I love that!

      Delete
  13. This is fun. I haven't heard many of these euphemisms in years. I remember my dad talking about "taking the shoe leather express" when referring to walking somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am SO going to use that 'taking the shoe leather express phrase.' I love it!

      Delete
  14. Talking about idioms got me thinking about how they're different in other languages. I had a friend in my Zumba class who was from Spain who tolerated my practicing my limited Spanish on her. When I told her I was "sweating like a pig" she said in Spain they say "sweating like a chicken", which I thought was funny because as far as I know, chickens don't sweat. But that's idioms for you. She also said in Spain they don't say "slept like a log" but say instead "slept like a Lirón " which is known as a dormouse to us. There are really cute videos on Youtube of a dormouse snoring away in the palm of someone's hand. Like the dormouse in Disney's "Alice in Wonderland."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What fun. Thanks for sharing. By the way, the last couple of times I've tried to leave comments on your blog the system wouldn't let me. I've heard others say the same about mine. I couldn't even click the 'like' feature on yours.

      Delete
    2. It's a conspiracy! I'm being "canceled!" Yeah, Wordpress can be glitchy sometimes. Thanks for trying anyway!

      Delete
  15. I love idioms and euphemisms too and use them fairly often. In fact I think I taught "I have to go see a man about a horse" to my husband and we both use it now. I listen to a show on NPR called A Way With Words that often delves into to history of various sayings, especially those that are regional.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like a show I'd enjoy. Just a few days ago I was with a group of women out on our plaza and I said I had to go pee and would be right back. The minute the words were out of my mouth I wished I could have recalled them. I got some strange looks and it dawned on me that I was being too blunt in a group I don't know all that well.

      Delete
  16. My dad saw a lot of horses in his time, and I've powdered my nose a time or two. There have to be other idioms that were current when I was growing up, but I can't think of any just now -- except for 'unmentionables,' which always were to be hung between the sheets and towels on the clothesline.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We had a clothesline in our attic for our unmentionables. What funny memories get triggered in the blogs.

      Delete
    2. Great topic! When something my mom wanted to do didn't get the desired response, she always said, "that went over like a lead balloon" or "that went over like a turd in a punch bowl," both of which went over my head when I was a kid!

      Delete
    3. Heard the first before but not the 'turd' one. LOL

      Delete
  17. Another thought...if you watch British TV (or have a kid living there) you pretty quickly hear "taking the piss" which has a completely different meaning there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now you're going to have to explain that one. I can't imagine what other meaning it could have.

      Delete
  18. How about "That went over like a fart in church."

    ReplyDelete
  19. If you were charged £5 for a cup of coffee and you thought that was too much or outrageous you would say 'you're taking the piss aren't you'. Not an expression I really like but one of many here in the UK. Usually if someone needs the toilet we just say we are popping to the loo.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Who would have thought two English speaking countries could use slang so differently. Fun comparing.

      Delete
  20. I guess you don't "go to the little girls room" anymore. I always heard "I have to see a man about a dog." No horses for me.

    What were the stores in that old play on words about "You go to (the store's name) and ------ and I'll go to (store's name) and s--t."?

    This is a bit different bit about words, but I think you might appreciate it. Ramana wrote about "aplomb" on May 14th. (he's on my blogroll)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to know a guy who always said, "I need to go to the little boy's room" and I hated hearing that out of a grown man's mouth...just remembered that.

      I don't even know what an 'aplomb" is so I'll be looking that post up. Thanks!

      Delete
    2. Fun word play. My husband is famous for trying to use these euphemisms and getting them all mixed up! LOL

      Delete
  21. Wow. I didn't know that about the phrases from Shakespeare. How interesting.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for taking the time to comment. If you are using ANONYMOUS please identify yourself by your first name as you might not be the only one. Comments containing links from spammers will not be published. All comments are moderated which means I might not see yours right away to publish through for public viewing as I don't sit at my computer 24/7.