In the news this week, I heard the phrase “that’s throwing good money after bad” used in criticism of Government spending on immigration measures.
I can’t remember the last time I heard that idiom.
But then many idioms are passing into the shadows. The old sayings are like rock ’n’ roll songs – they had their time at the top of the charts, but now only the old know the words.
When did you last have more of something than you could shake a stick at? When did you last hear of a rule or a law that had a coach and horses driven through it? When were you last under the cosh?
Perhaps you still say such things? If so, these idioms have aged with you. They are living on borrowed time. When we Baby Boomers shuffle off this mortal coil our antiquated figures of speech will shuffle with us. Each generation invents its own codes.
Let’s get down to brass tacks, do you remember these: All your ducks in a row. Bright as a button. Skinny Malinky long legs. Goody two-shoes. Have no truck with. These idioms used to be all the rage but now they are yesterday’s men. Try running them up the flagpole to see if anyone salutes.
It is undeniable that, for many of the idioms I’ve listed, Elvis has left the building. They might have put on a pine overcoat. And you might think I am off my chump. Or perhaps you don’t give a tinker’s cuss about any of this.
Mind you, some old idioms were never very well defined. I’d always thought Adam’s Ale was water, but a friend claims Adam’s Ale is milk. Similarly, I never quite worked out if it is “talking nineteen to the dozen”, or ten to the dozen, or twenty to the dozen. And is a messy thing a dog’s dinner or a dog’s breakfast?
To wander into questionable territory, as a child I vividly recall my confusion over the idiom “all fur coat and no knickers”. I surmised it must be to do with keeping warm. Perhaps you didn’t need other clothes if you had a fur coat?
My experience of such coats was, admittedly, limited. But I reckoned they must be fairly cosy as I’d seen Russian soldiers wearing them on The World At War. And it looked awfully cold on the Eastern Front (wherever that was, towards Arbroath I imagined).
But, annoyingly, the question of whether the Russians owned knickers wasn’t covered in the documentary. It remained a matter of youthful puzzlement for some years.
I later remember seeing Elizabeth Taylor on TV in a luxurious mink and thinking surely to goodness she must be fully possessed of knickers. She had everything! I considered asking my mother’s opinion, but she was rarely tolerant of speculation about women and their undergarment arrangements so decided against it.
I knew what spelled big trouble.
Word of the week
A larder or pantry. EG: “I say, Jeeves. Fetch me the butter from the spence would you old chap.”
Read the latest Oh my word! every Saturday in The Courier. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org