The Write Way
27 March 2009
Have You Ever Wondered ...?
In my misspent youth, my friends and I used to practically live at the beach. But until I was deemed old enough and responsible enough to go to the beach with friends, I used to go swimming with my dad.
He was a proficient body surfer, and I can still see him diving under waves as he made his way out through the breakers, then judging the right time to hurl himself onto the wave, arms outstretched with hands linked until he got in the perfect position, then he'd swing his arms in by his side to ride in to the shore. He'd stand up in the shallows, shake the water from his face, hitch up his shorts and turn back to do it all again ... Even when he was well into his seventies, he had the same style.
I was never quite able to master the art of body surfing, so Dad bought me a rubber surf-plane so I could at least surf alongside him, and he could keep an eye on me and be there to fish me out when a dumper upended me into the sand.
But once I started High School, most trips to the beach were with friends. Even though we were only 12 at the time, this was the Safe 60s, and while it pains me to admit it in these days of Wild Young Things, we were a sensible lot who could all be trusted to do the right thing. We'd been raised close to water, and we all had a healthy respect for its mean side as well as a strong affection for its delights.
We knew not to go off into the sand hills around North Cronulla and Wanda Beach. (Although we were actually at the beach the same day two girls were murdered in the Wanda sand hills, so maybe it wasn't quite as safe as I remember! Source)
However, we had no desire to venture far from the beach itself ... Why would we when the beach was where all the boys with their sun-bleached hair, surfboards and shy smiles paraded back and forth in front of us?
In those halcyon days when ultra-violet ray was just a term in our science text-book, we spent the summer holidays engaging in our Quest for a Tan. Not for us the haphazard tan that resulted in sock-lines around your ankles when you played tennis on sunny days, nor the lop-sided colour that resulted from lying on your stomach, engrossed in a book, nor even the faintly erotic strap lines that you could get if you were lucky enough to convince your mum that a) 12 was old enough for a bikini and b) you did, too have something to fill it out ... Here! See?
No, my girlfriends and I approached the whole thing very methodically. Someone had read an article that claimed the best tans were gradual, and from this we concluded that we needed to time our sun-baking. So we'd lie on our backs, keeping a close eye on the time and exactly 20 minutes later, we'd all roll over onto our stomachs for the next 20 minutes. And each time we turned, we'd baste ourselves liberally with coconut oil or sometimes olive oil.
In those days Down Under, olive oil wasn't used for cooking (unless it was in the kitchens of New Australians), and could only be purchased from the chemist for "medicinal purposes," so it wasn't as if we'd nipped into the kitchen on our way out of the house and nicked a jar of cooking oil.
This system proved so successful that we were the envy of more pallid pals, and we all had glowing tans and sun-streaked hair for many years.
But now we're paying the price, and when we chat on the phone these days, we swap horror stories about our visits to have skin spots zapped with dry ice or more sinister lesions excised by mad-eyed doctors wielding scalpels and wistfully dreaming of MASH-style surgery.
However, never one to hand over control of my life to others, I've discovered there are always ways to deal with life's little irritations and this is why, if you were to drop by unexpectedly at the moment and we were to do one of those European-style three-kiss greetings, the first thing you'd notice would be the subtle aroma of bananas. Not from a freshly-baked batch of banana muffins cooling on the bench, but from the pieces of banana peel I have plastered all over my exposed busty substances (or at least, the bits that used to be exposed during our sun-baking days).
I read an article somewhere in my travels about using banana peel as a poultice for damaged skin and thought it was worth a try ... anything is better than that dry ice!
But as I was busily cutting and pasting, I began to ponder how? when? and mostly why? people discover these things. Well, all right, perhaps I can see the process if it were just the banana itself (I'm thinking along the lines of chocolate sauce, honey, whipped cream ... I've read about that sort of thing ... ) it's the banana peel that causes my brow to furrow of its own accord.
And since you know the convoluted connections in my tiny brain well enough by now, you won't be surprised that my next thought was of some of those other things that people apply to their personages ...
I remember seeing one of those Believe it or Not-type shows some years ago where the subject was a chappy who could make irons (as in the sort you iron your clothes with) stick to his face. Now can you even get close to imagining how he found out he had this particular "talent"?
Wife enters, carrying ironing board, clothes basket and electric iron ...
Husband (obviously not the sharpest knife in the drawer): "What are you doing, Cheryl?"
Wife: "I'm ironing your shirts for work, Darl."
Husband (reinforcing our first impression): "Hang on a mo', Pet. Pass me the iron before you plug it in and let's just see if it will stick to my face ... (presses cold iron to his cheek and slowly removes his hand). Well, bugger me! Will you look at that? It does!"
Wife: "Love a duck!"
Now, Cheryl's heart-felt response to the discovery that the man she has chosen to link her life with is more than likely barking mad, is not a request for dinner, but rather an exclamation of surprise.
"Love a duck" (or sometimes "Lord love a duck!") is one of those odd expressions we call idioms (not to be confused with idiots, who are the people who first came up with them).
It can also express exasperation, as when a mother, after a long Saturday carting the kiddies around various sporting events, arrives home to hear hubbie, fresh from his game of golf or touch footy with the boys ask, "What's for dinner?"
"Love a duck!" muttered through gritted teeth.
Other idioms we met today include "not the sharpest knife in the drawer," which means not the brightest person around. There are numerous idiomatic expressions to describe someone who's a bit on the dim side: a sandwich short of a picnic; the lights are on but there's nobody home; a stubbie short of a six-pack; as nutty as a fruit-cake; mad as a two-bob watch ...
Recommend this page to other writers by clicking the Recommend it! button below, then see what pages others are recommending here.
Sigh ... all this says a great deal about the company we keep, doesn't it?
You'll find lots more idioms in this week's Little Something Extra.
dictionary.com explains that an idiom is "an expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements, as kick the bucket or hang one's head, or from the general grammatical rules of a language, as the table round for the round table, and that is not a constituent of a larger expression of like characteristics; a construction or expression of one language whose parts correspond to elements in another language but whose total structure or meaning is not matched in the same way in the second language; speech form or an expression of a given language that is peculiar to itself grammatically or cannot be understood from the individual meanings of its elements, as in keep tabs on." The word comes to us originally from the Greek idíōma meaning 'peculiarity, specific property.'
And here's a touching little tale that Marian (in Scotland) found:
An older, tired-looking dog
wandered into my yard. I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he
had a home and was well taken care of.
This week's quiz:
And a story that illustrates the value of the right words at the right time ...
Legend has it that a certain college philosophy professor asked one question on his final exam. He picked up a chair, put it on his desk and wrote on the board, "Using everything we have learned this semester, prove that this chair does not exist."
The students dug deep and wrote like crazy for the whole exam period, some of them churning out thirty pages of heady philosophical debate and logic.
But only one student earned an A and he wrote for only a few seconds. His paper read in full, "What chair?"
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Last week's quiz:
aerate, rhizome, epiphyte, biennial, node, arboretum, herbaceous, loam, topiary, scion
1. a plant with soft rather than woody tissues - HERBACEOUS
2. plant that usually only lives two years, normally producing flowers and seed the second year - BIENNIAL
3. rich soil composed of clay, sand, and organic matter - LOAM
4. loosening or puncturing the soil to increase water penetration - AERATE
5. modified plant stem which grows horizontally, under the surface of the soil - RHIZOME
6. method of pruning and training certain plants into formal shapes such as animals - TOPIARY
7. short length of stem, taken from one plant which is then grafted onto the rootstock of another plant - SCION
8. garden with a large collection of trees and shrubs cultivated for scientific or educational purposes - ARBORETUM
9. plant which grows on another plant but gets its nourishment from the air and rainfall. They do no damage to the host plant - EPIPHYTE
10. part of a stem from which a leaf or new branch starts to grow - NODE
The teacher came down with laryngitis on the day the class was going on a field trip to the zoo, and she didn't want to miss it, so she went to school in spite of having lost her voice.
The highlight of the visit to the
zoo was the time spent in the petting zoo. While she was petting a baby Shetland
Pony, the other teacher asked, "How are you feeling today?"
A Little Something Extra
Some Aussie idioms you may hear when you visit us here
More idioms for international users here
More idioms than you can poke a stick at here
Some idioms from our 'Murkin cousins here
The aptly named Idiom site here
Word of the week: Contumacious (adj) wilfully obstinate; stubbornly disobedient; perverse; stubborn; disobedient
Definitely not a word that could eve be applied to me or my friends!
It comes from the Latin contemnere 'to regard with contempt.'
Oxymoron of the week: Healthy tan (See? I have listened to all the Health Department ads!)
And a Latin idiom that you'll find in one form or another in just about every language:
Manus manum lavat
[MAH-noos MAH-noom LAH-waht]
(Washing one's hands)
Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)?
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Copyright Jennifer Stewart 2009
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Copyright 2009 Jennifer Stewart Write101.com