Saturday, July 26, 2008

Country Sayings

After having heard a young kid puzzle over the saying “alike as two P’s in IPOD” -- for obvious reasons it didn’t make sense to her -- I decided that as a public service I would help the younger generation with some of the simple, old country phrases that have no physical equivalent in their world.

The first example doesn’t concern digitial typography at all, and is in fact “two peas in a pod”, a reference to the similarities of the little round green things of salad bar and potpie fame, when they are harvested from the little green cocoons that they grow in. It looks like a green banana, but smaller, and is attached to a vine that looks like a tangled ball of yarn. Around here, they are planted “when the ground becomes dry enough to work”, which is supposed to be February but often is June. Each individual pea grows into its own vine full of new podded peas, which have to be plucked, opened, and the peas removed for cooking -- this half hour or more of work is balanced by the fact that the bag didn’t cost $1.59 to buy. (Although, if you factor in the time spent protecting those suckers from snow, wind and birds, not to mention fertilizer and chiropractic visits, the savings doesn’t appear to be that great). For those of you young’uns who doubt me, you probably can take one of the frozen peas from the bag and plant it amongst your mother‘s houseplants (if it hasn’t been treated w/radiation - excuse me, “cold pasturization“) and discover the truth for yourself. It will take longer than downloading your favorite album, so be prepared to check back with the clay pot from time to time.

“to separate the wheat from the chaff” - this is not about finicky breakfast eaters separating “the wheat from decaf”, but refers to the process of taking the very tiny wheat seeds off the long stalks it grows on and then sorting it out from all the inedible stuff… and by extension, to separate out the important stuff from the b*llsh*t. Frankly, if I had to go through that much work for my Wonder Bread, I would have stuck to meat and potatoes. I believe that the related verb “to chaff” has to do with the rubbing/scratching process that frees the grain - though how they transferred it to itchy skin is not an image to be contemplated for long. After the wheat seeds, or berries as they are called (in yet another humorous country technique to utterly confuse the rube), are removed from the plant, they must be dried, then ground up via a big stone wheel (or, nowadays, some gigantic metal factory machine) to become the flour that some people use to make the bread that magically appears on your grocery shelf in colored plastic bags. (The process of harvesting the plastic berries and pounding them into flat sheets is another story entirely).

“who let the cat out of the bag?” - this may have referred to the ancient custom of killing extra cats by dumping bags of them into the main river… any cat that escaped that fate would be a very mad cat indeed, and something to be reckoned with. The secret nowadays revealed in these situations end up with the proverbial sh*t hitting the fan -- another country saying that has to do with the foolishness of combining modern cooling equipment with old farming chores… mucking out the barn is sweaty work and no trying to get around it.

“One bad apple spoils the whole bunch” - this was pre-wax, and even pre-pesticides, when farmers noticed a basket of apples with a brown one spoiled faster. Now we have nothing to worry about - at the price we’re paying, those apples are irradiated, pesticided, individually wrapped and labelled -- I have had a couple of those keep in my fridge for months, thus proving there was nothing alive in them to deteriorate. That crunch isn’t natural - it’s injected plastics.

making bacon” - I’m not gonna touch this one, though I expect with the passion of the media for off-color phrases, this one has been kept in the vernacular even unto the present generation.

“what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” - An old “fair is fair” line, which loses its meaning if one doesn’t know that goose is female, gander is male (as in “take a gander at that pair of legs!”) - I have yet to find out what natural circumstance was actually slanted toward the women, since generally the guys had all the plusses back then.

“Money doesn’t grow on trees” - I have seen the totally incredulity on young faces when some grandmother makes this remark in public. You’d have thought they were ready to call for the van with the straight jackets! Well, duh!! they are thinking. But listen up, youngster - once upon a time, most of the things we had in our lives grew on trees, shrubs or vines… it was a symbol of the abundance of Life that you had enough fruit and nut trees, berry bushes and then the whole panoply of vegetable plants that sprouted the food you ate. Children grew up with the ease of picking their breakfast and lunches (and if they were handy at milking, could even grab a quick drink!) with little or no effort on their part, and therefore when they started being too free with money, their parents began to lecture them about how much harder it was to get money than just about anything else… now, I suppose, the new saying is “Money just doesn’t pour out of a machine”… although to see the way the parental units are frantically pulling handles at the casinos, I’m not sure if anyone believes that anymore. And soon it will all be on a chip, or embedded under our skin, and you youngsters will be explaining to future generations (if any) that “money” was a concept of pretending bits of paper and metal were actually worth something, so that people could transfer enough of their credit to get into the museums to see the dioramas of ancient things like trees, cats, geese and apples… sigh… this is most likely why ancient civilazations left their elderly on mountaintops to die… when granny started cackling “In my days, youngster…“ one too many times… just just tie me in a bag and throw me in a river…

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