I was almost supernaturally compelled to write to Grant and Martha, the hosts of A Way With Words, after I heard a listener who spoke Swahili call in to ask why people say “slept like a log” because, obviously, logs don’t sleep much. He was calling as much to find out the origin of the phrase as he was to let Grant and Martha know he’d heard the same phrase in Swahili, an expression so full of lee-lee-loo-loos that it sounded like a lyric from a Paul Simon song.
Almost immediately, the expression sometimes used to describe snoring, “sawing logs,” popped into my head. My brain makes random connections like that so often now that I can hardly speak a coherent thought any more. And I’m pretty sure that’s all it was, a random thought, so I fought down the urge to write to them and went back to half-listening to the show, half-reading the paper. Other than the mention of logs, the two phrases are probably so unrelated it wouldn’t even make sense to point it out.
I felt the same compelling urge yesterday when I was reading a biography of Harry Truman and just about jumped out of my chair when Truman was quoted as saying, “I know every one of these 50 fellows. There isn’t one of them has enough sense to pound sand in a rat hole.” I’d heard lots of people use the phrase “go pound sand” as a way of telling them to get lost or take a flying leap.
This was not a phrase I thought I would ever get Grant or Martha to talk about on their show, however, because the way I’d heard it used it didn’t end with “rat hole” but an entirely other kind of hole. In the military, where I’d first heard the phrase, “go pound sand” was a substitute for a much more emphatic phrase urging you to seek carnal knowledge with yourself. Grant and Martha will occasionally explore military jargon, but I’ve never heard them consider the more colorful language of the martial arts, and so far as I knew the version I’d heard was the original.
Truman’s version, though, predates the phrase I heard. What’s more, he was not a man known to sanitize his language when he was riled up, and on the occasion he used “pound sand in a rat hole” he was up for re-election and everyone in the country, including everyone on his staff, and his wife, and his daughter, were doubtful he would win. The fifty fellows he was talking about were fifty political writers commissioned by Newsweek magazine to speculate who would win the election, and every one of them said Dewey would win, and Truman would lose. Under the circumstances, if Truman knew the grungier version I knew, I think he would have used it.
But he didn’t, and when my brain made the random connection between “sleeping like a log” and “sawing logs” I was reminded about finding the phrase “pounding sand in a rat hole” and the possible connection with the phrase I’d heard. See what I mean about the convoluted way my brain wanders amongst the verbal undergrowth? It’s a wonder anyone understands what I’m saying. Or maybe they don’t, and I don’t realize it only because I’m off in my own little world. If so, please don’t try to lead me out; I’m actually quite happy here.
Anyway, I keep forgetting how this thing called the internet can sometimes find an answer to questions like this, and sure enough, when I googled “pound sand” I got this from the Urban Dictionary:
The origin of the expression go pound sand is from a longer expression, not to know (have enough sense to) pound sand down a rathole. Filling rat holes with sand is menial work, and telling someone to pound sand down a hole is like telling them to go fly a kite. The expression dates to at least 1912 and is common in the midwestern United States
WordOrigins.org cited a 1912 publication called Dialect Notes that quoted the phrase, “He wouldn’t know enough to pound sand in a rat-hole; so don’t get him.” And none other than William Safire, while attempting to track down the same phrase in a column for The New York Times, cited the Dictionary of American Regional English:
DARE asked Americans across the nation how they would end the sentence “He hasn’t sense enough to. . . .” Among the most colorful answers were “to pour water [or sand] out of a boot with directions on the heel and the toes cut;” “to lap salt and drool;” “to pack guts to a hog;” to tie his own shoelaces;” and “to find his rear end with both hands and a road map. By far the most frequent was “to come in out of the rain,” with “to pound sand down a rat hole” finishing a strong second.
He also noted that the phrase has morphed from the original meaning that described someone with no sense, to describing something that was a waste of time, the connection with the phrase as I originally heard it in the military. The wheel comes around, the circle is complete, and I can now sleep soundly without that one waking me up in the middle of the night any longer.
Pound Sand |
11:26 am CDT
| Tags: language
I came within seconds of buying another old typewriter I found at the thrift store today. Not the one in the picture. That one was way too expensive. They were asking so much that I got the feeling it would still be there next week at a greatly reduced price, even though I don’t know jack about Woodstock typewriters. Maybe they’re worth their weight in gold even when they’re rusty and pieces of them are missing, and I just passed up a small fortune. Wouldn’t be the first time. Happens to me every day, as a matter of fact.
The one I very nearly bought was a Royal upright that looked as though it dated from the 1940′s. I would normally look up the serial number to pin down the exact year, but it had a prefix I couldn’t find in the data bases I usually check so I’m just guessing. It was well-used and dirty but the keyboard action was smooth, none of the keys stuck and it didn’t appear to be missing any parts. The key caps were the old style with glass tops and chrome rings that compel crazy people cut them off and make jewelry out of them, and were even more unusual for being flattened on the side nearest to the typist. Most interestingly, the machine had a key set I’d never seen before: several of the keys had mathematical symbols on them.
I didn’t have my camera with me when I found it, dammit, so after lunch I took a ride back to the store so I could get a few snapshots. When I told My Darling B I was going back to the thrift store to take some photos of an old typewriter I found there, she asked, “You’re not going to buy it?” I told her I already spent almost all my lunch money so all I could afford to do was take pictures, whereupon she offered me thirty dollars of her own money so I could add it to my collection. I didn’t take it, but it warmed the cockles of my heart to know she would chip in so I could clutter Our Humble O’Bode with yet another old typewriter.
The Keys to Love |
6:36 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, hobby, play, typewriters
I was served notice by the book police this week, nothing truly criminal but every bit as determined as a real-life summons. I opened the envelope that came to our mailbox from the Monona Public Library with no small amount of trepidation. They’re so strapped for cash they don’t mail anything unless they’re about to get medieval on your heinie. They won’t send actual jackbooted goons to your door, but they will refuse to check out books to you ever again, a punishment an order of magnitude worse than being hauled away in chains. The notice they sent me turned out to be a charge for a lost book, titled The Greatest Show on Earth, that I was pretty sure I never checked out. (I’ll bet they hear that one a lot.)
I was very, very wrong, though. I had the book, I just didn’t realize it. The title made me think of Barnum & Bailey’s, or something else literally circus-like, but it was nothing of the sort. Well, not to me. It was a book about evolution, which I don’t find circus-like but, it turns out, there are many who do. In either case, I’d checked it out about two months ago and it skipped my mind entirely because, even before I’d finished it, My Darling B started reading it too and it ended up in amongst the gaggle of books at her bedside. She emerged from our room holding it triumphantly over her head while I puzzled over the notice. If I heard her right, I think it may have ended up under the bed, but either way it was well-camouflaged, if not completely out of sight, and that’s how I didn’t know I still had it.
While we were on the hunt for that, I ran across another library book that was at least a month overdue, so I logged on to my on-line library profile to make sure I didn’t have any others checked out that I’d forgotten about, and found what do you know – I had. Once again, I went back on the hunt, but before I did that, I updated my e-mail address so when the library sent messages asking me pretty please to bring their books back, I would actually see them more often than once in a coon’s age. Do coons really get very old? They don’t look grumpy enough to be old.
Book ‘em, Danno |
8:43 am CDT
| Tags: books
Picking me up after work this evening, My Darling B advised me that for dinner we could go have pizza at Roman Candle or go have pizza at Mickey’s. Hobson’s Choice, in other words. We ended up at Mickey’s, largely because we didn’t have to double back through traffic to get there.
Both of us were ravenously hungry and each ate half a sixteen-inch pizza without stopping. B paid for it later with a bloated tummy and begged me to hold her hand while she walked around the block. I agreed, because I’ll agree to practically anything so long as I can hold on to some part of her for even a little while.
Eating half a pizza didn’t bother me much because … well, I don’t know why. I didn’t skip breakfast or lunch, but by supper time I was hungry enough to eat the asshole out of a dead rhinoceros. And thank you, Ron Howard, for giving us the best simile ever uttered by a major movie star. Is that a simile or a metaphor? Does it even matter? Not in this case.
Hobson’s Choice |
8:29 pm CDT
Category: entertainment, food & drink, movies, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants
| Tags: Apollo 13, Mickey's Tavern, Roman Candle
I never thought about the zombie apocalypse in this way before, but I think Alessandra Stanley may be on to something:
All it really takes to outrun a zombie is a car. Also, a bullet to the head will stop one cold. And that may explain why so many men prefer zombies to vampires: zombie stories pivot on men’s two favorite things: fast cars and guns. Better yet, zombies almost never talk. Vampires, especially of late, are mostly a female obsession. Works like “Twilight” and “True Blood” suggest that the best way to defeat a vampire is to make him fall so in love that he resists the urge to bite. And that’s a powerful, if naïve, female fantasy: a mate so besotted he gives up his most primal cravings for the woman he loves.
Vampires are imbued with romance. Zombies are not. (Zombies are from Mars, vampires are from Venus.)
Stanley wrote this cogent thesis in a review of AMC television’s The Walking Dead In today’s New York Times.
Zombie Dogs |
6:15 am CDT
| Tags: television, zombies
There are just two microwave ovens in the break room at work, and maybe two-dozen people, but unfortunately they all want to nuke their food at the same time. And we’ve only got forty-five minutes for lunch.
Just one microwave was humming when I walked in yesterday. Popping the door on the one that wasn’t humming, I found a small plastic dish filled with a goo-covered burrito that stopped bubbling minutes ago. Some people are bashful about touching other people’s food, but I’m not one of those people. I scooped the burrito out and placed it on top of the oven so I could nuke my hot dog.
While my nitrites were heating up, a burrito-eater came in to claim her lunch off the top of the microwave. “Is it hot enough?” I asked her. “I’ll let you have the microwave back if it’s not hot enough.”
“It’s definitely not hot enough,” she said, peeling the plastic cover off the top to let a cloud of steam escape. “Oh, it’s plenty warm, but it’s not nearly hot enough.” Shaking up a great big squeeze bottle of spicy sauce she grabbed from the fridge, she turned it over and splooied hot sauce all over it. “Therrrre we go,” she said, “now it’s hot enough.”
Hot sauce – for those times when nuclear radiation just doesn’t cut the mustard.
Hot Stuff |
9:09 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
| Tags: eating out, office work
Riding home from work yesterday afternoon, we listened to a conversation between Ben Merens and Todd Kolosso that had us hanging on every word. Tod Kolosso is the Democratic candidate for the 5th District seat in Wisconsin, and after Merens let him spout a bunch of the usual crap about being an ordinary average guy who just wants to clean up Washington, Merens asked him: “This campaign is basically just you, isn’t it?”
“No, no, I have a staff,” Kolosso answered nonchalantly. “It’s a small staff, to be sure, but we have a fairly dedicated number of people working for us.”
There was a pause so awkwardly long here that I thought maybe the signal had been cut, and then Merens asked Kolosso, “Are you sure?”
Kolosso choked on the water he was drinking at this point before managing to sputter, “Yes, I have a campaign manager, we have a – excuse me [coughs] – we have a series of volunteers. We have a person who’s running the media end of it … I’m sorry, I got some water …”
Merens: That’s okay, drink the water. The reason I ask that is because, in the last two days, I had a chance to talk to your campaign manager, Leah Horn, who’s on her way back to Colorado, saying she’s no longer with the campaign, that there is no staff to the campaign, and to the treasurer of the campaign, who said there’s no money to the campaign, and to the Federal Elections Commission, who say they’ve written you several letters that haven’t been answered, for filing grievances, and it sounds like this is a campaign in serious trouble … there was a discussion about how forthright you’d be with the electorate about this, and there were no answers given … so I guess I’d ask you again: It sounds like this is truly Todd Kolosso for congress, that there is nobody else.
Kolosso, bless his heart, soldiered on: “Well, as I said, we certainly have staff working for us. I mean, one was in the studio earlier today, obviously. As I said, there are dedicated volunteers still working. I think what you’ve touched on specifically is the issue we’ve had a big problem [with] which is fundraising …”
And here they lapsed into a long, boring discussion about the money Kolosso tried to raise for the campaign but couldn’t before Merens went back to the question of Kolosso’s campaign manager:
Merens: But you said you had a campaign manager. She told me as she was driving out of the state heading back to Colorado …
Kolosso: She’s visiting, she’s visiting Colorado.
Now Merens wasn’t having any of it: “No, she quit,” he said flatly. “She’s no longer with the campaign. She hasn’t been paid since this summer. She was very disappointed in how the campaign has been run, and she’s not coming back.” It reminded me of the parrot sketch from Monty Python, where the man returning the parrot to the store has finally had enough of the store owner’s excuses and verbally beats him into submission: “He’s not pining, he’s passed on! He’s a stiff! Bereft of life, he rests in peace. If you hadn’t nailed him to the perch he’d be pushing up daisies. This is an ex-parrot!”
Kolosso calmly answered him: “That’s the first I’ve heard of it.”
Merens: She didn’t seem to have any doubts when I asked her, because I asked her a couple of times. “You’re definitely leaving?” She said, “I’m gone.”
Kolosso: That’s interesting. That’s the first I heard of it. I knew she was visiting Colorado.
Merens: Okay. [pause] And what about your campaign treasurer? Vicki Mortensen said she also is now former …
Kolosso: Yeah, well, that’s a family issue. She’s a family member, so … we’ve had some internal family strife.
Merens: Her concern was that she has a reputation as a CPA that was being damaged by the way the funds were being handled by the campaign and that you weren’t forthright enough with the electorate and she said well if you don’t want to speak out about this I can’t be part of the campaign.”
And then Kolosso went back to explaining his lack of funds before Merens went to a commercial break.
Kolosso is running against the enormously powerful Jim Sensenbrenner, who will never ever be dislodged from his seat, not even by the Angel of Death, without the use of the biggest bulldozer on the planet, so it’s no small wonder Kolosso was the best the Democratic party had to offer in opposition to him.
Politics usually makes me feel like I’ve got fleas, but every once in a while we’re blessed with a moment like this and then it all seems almost worth it.
Here’s the link to the audio. The good stuff, when Merens asks, “Are you sure?” doesn’t start until 9:21.
Vote For Todd |
6:46 pm CDT
| Tags: politics
I have to tell you I’m still happy to be employed, but I think I sit on this job more than I have on any other job I’ve ever held before. It sounds like a strange observation to make, but at one point this afternoon I felt as if I was literally putting down roots and quickly jumped out of my seat, swatting at my butt, the way I would if I were waking from a nightmare.
Other desk jobs I’ve had required me to get up and go do work somewhere else every once in a while, but at this job pretty much all my work is within just a foot or two of my desk. I rarely have to get up to go anywhere, and on the few occasions that I do, I travel about three feet, grab the files I need, then go another three feet and sit right back down. On a pedometer, it probably wouldn’t even register.
And my breaks are so short I barely have time to get out the door to stretch my legs and get some fresh air before I have to be pecking at my keyboard like an obediently trained chicken again. At lunch I have enough time to walk all the way around the block if I move at a fast trot and go straight back to work as soon as I can.
Seriously, my butt hurts, I sit so much. Yes, I would like some cheese with my whine, thank you.
Sit On It |
6:52 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, damn kids!, office work, work
A guy I’d never met before stopped by my desk at work to ask me if I wanted to participate in a chili cook-off. I didn’t want to, so I told him that my cooking skills stopped somewhere between making toast and scrambling eggs, which wasn’t too far from the truth.
He chuckled and said, “That must be why you’re so skinny!”
I smacked myself in the forehead and answered, “Yeah! It never occurred to me, but I’ll bet that’s right!” Then I winked and, poking my index finger in his belly I said, “You appear to be one hell of a good cook, though!”
Or not. I get this a lot, but I’ve never had the nerve to return fire, dammit.
Pilsbury doughboy |
10:22 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
| Tags: creepy social developments, office work
Tim came over last night and we all watched Iron Man 2, which was plenty of fun even though we had a few criticisms of it. “There wasn’t enough robot-shooting,” for instance, Tim pointed out, while My Darling B thought it was “practically all robot-shooting.” You can’t please everyone.
B also was confused about what Scarlett Johansson was doing in the movie and, simultaneously, she knew exactly what she was there for. “Is she supposed to be some kind of super-villain?”
“She’s a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent,” both Tim and I pointed out to B.
“She’s an excuse to get Scarlett Johansson in a skin-tight catsuit,” B shot back, dead on target.
I wondered why Mickey Rourke didn’t get shot in the head in the big fight at the end of the movie. He’s got a suit of armor so impregnable that even Tony Stark’s Iron Man blasters can’t harm him, so what does he do when he faces off for the final battle? He flips back his face mask so Tony can get a good look at his ugly mug, and stands there gloating so long that anybody, even a novice who’d never pulled a trigger before, could have blown his face right off with a scattergun loaded with bird shot. But Tony just stands there, waiting for the bad guy to make the first move. New Rule: Good guys who do this should lose. It’s tough love, but movie directors really have to stop doing this.
And the guys who write movie dialog really have to stop making the characters deliver lines as obvious and cumbersome as, “What ho! The bright white light on the villain’s chest has turned red and begun a frenzied blinking! Methinks the evildoer’s power system has been overloaded and soon may self-destruct! I say old pal, we had better remove ourselves to a distant location before we’re blown to kingdom come, toot sweet!” Yeah, couldn’t figure that out myself.
Why do the bad guys even have anything as obvious as red blinky lights on their booby-traps? Seems like a tactical error to me. If I were the bad guy, or writing about a bad guy, and I needed a last-ditch way to kill the good guy, I’d have all the lights on my suit / ship / killing machine fade and go dark, because playing dead makes sense. Too subtle for the action hero crowd though, apparently. Second of all: Death to any writer who dares to put words so obvious into the mouths of their characters, instead of a simple stage direction along the lines of, “Iron Man sees red blinky light, rockets the hell out of there as fast as he can,” I think most people could figure it out from there.
Otherwise, it was a fun movie, not as good as the first one but what the hell. We had fun poking holes in it, if nothing else.
Iron Man 2 |
11:40 am CDT
| Tags: movies