The glorious English language is full of phrases, and the most amusing are the idioms. Most laugh at idiots and the stupid shit they do, while others laugh at the stupid shit they say. Here are a few idioms I enjoy.
Off to the Side
This phrase means to move aside to speak with someone. But the side is never defined. Is it the left side, or the right side? Nobody knows, we just know it’s off.
Someone often pulls you off to the side for something you’ve done wrong, and they want to keep you from getting embarrassed when they criticize you. Don’t be fooled, folks. When someone pulls you off to the side they’re doing it to save themselves from being embarrassed. Not you.
What about when you pull someone off to the side, and want to tell them a little secret, only to have that person shout over your shoulder to the whole party. “Hey, everyone, Jack says he has a crush on Melody and wants to dress up in whips and chains with her!” Your heart drops, it sinks, and you think, “Holy, shit! I can’t believe everyone knows that now!”
That’s one way of looking at it. But, there are more uses for the phrase. Off to the side can be used in sports, like when the cameraman should be standing off to the side instead of blocking the wide receiver in the last play of the Superbowl.
Or how about when someone says they’ll do you a favor, but then brushes it off to the side? Doesn’t that make you feel awful? They’ve violated your trust, let you down, put your friendship off to the side. Well, you won’t be asking any favors from him for a while.
In happens to actors when their hair is parted off to the side. Completely ruins their character.
What about when you’re decorating a cake, and the icing droops off to the side? What if it’s a wedding cake? You don’t want that to be messed up. Then again, you shouldn’t have any complaints if the icing on the cake is crooked and the bride and groom are cross-eyed.
Mum’s the word
When someone tells you, Mum’s the word, they don’t want you to reveal a secret. Okay, first of all, it’s not a secret if more than one person knows, so that’s out the window. Second, who decided Mum was the word? Is my mother going to force me to reveal a secret? And if I don’t, who is she going to make me cry to to tell her? Seems to me, Mum isn’t the best choice of a word to describe a secret.
You can learn a fine lesson from the CIA: they don’t use any words about their secrets. In fact, the CIA doesn’t even say no comment, because they’re smart: they ignore it all together.
But let’s be generous here. Why does it have to be Mum? Who’s idea was it to use a word that meant mother to keep a secret from people? The last person I’d ever find myself lying to is my mother.
Let’s suppose for a moment we use a different word. Hmm… how about, Dad? Why not Dad’s the word? Dad doesn’t want to know about all the shit his kids do. Dad doesn’t care; he’s too busy working, and when he comes home, the last thing he wants to here is how you banged the neighbor’s daughter, lit the rug on fire, smashed the mailbox, and had a swat team come over about a stinkbomb. If Dad’s the word, Mum will just go to him, and he’ll speak up about anything. First words he’ll say: I’m sorry.
But let’s move on here, and pick another word. Why not… pumpernickel? “Pumpernickel’s the word.” It’s a long word, people have to think about it, and throws them off. “Hey, Billy, what did that boy just whisper in your ear?” “Pumpernickel!” Gets them every time.
Or, how about a word that doesn’t exist? Like, Goshibulodooky. If someone asked you to reveal a secret, and you say, Goshibulodooky!, they’ll wonder what that word means. It deflects them from even thinking about the secret. Then, you go into a lengthy explanation about tour aunt’s best friend’s sister’s cousin’s nephew uncle’s great grandfather’s tailor’s shoe maker’s great grandson’s little brother, told you it’s a microscopic organism in the intermediate subatomic layers of the atmosphere. They’ll think you’re way too fucking smart and leave you alone. Problem solved.
Crossed the Line
Oh, here’s one of my favorites. When someone does something so horribly wrong, they have crossed the line. But where’s the line? Nobody ever defines the line. How are we supposed to not cross the line if we don’t know where it is? And second, whoever said we crossed the line?
You can’t cross the line by going over it; you cross a line by drawing a line through another line, thus resulting in a cross, and now — and now — you have two lines. Doesn’t that mean when you cross a line with your line that their line has crossed your line? We’ve been double-crossed!
Well, which line did I cross? Your line, my line, someone else’s line? I didn’t know we had lines here and there to be crossed in the first place. Can someone please draw these lines so we can stop crossing them?
And this phrase only comes after you’ve crossed the line. It only happens after the fact; post de facto. Isn’t it illegal to punish someone after the fact? And, to avoid punishment, to avoid being told we’ve crossed the line, we have to draw the line in the sand. But what if you’re not standing on any sand? What if you’re standing in a puddle of water? You draw a line, and poof, it vanishes in the ripples. Now you got lines going everywhere and everyone in the puddle is crossing the line!
Suppose you can’t draw; suppose your drawing skills are that of a one year old and your lines are squiggles. What then? Are the lines just wherever they’re at? I think, before you start telling people they’ve crossed the line, you need to draw the line. In fact, they teach kids to color within the lines. What a great way of teaching them to not cross the line. That’ll whip them into shape as little slaves for the rest of their lives.
What if I don’t want a line? What if I want to say you’ve crossed the circle? It would cover more space, wouldn’t it? It would be easy for someone to know when they’ve crossed the circle instead of the line. A line has to be directly in front and perpendicular to your feet, while a circle is all around. Take one step in any direction and you’ve crossed the line. Rectangles and triangles work, too, but circle beats them all.
Another stupid thing people say. He’s got the upper hand. It’s related to playing poker, when one player has the advantage over others. Well, if he has the upper hand, what’s he doing with his other hand? What’s he hiding? Did his other hand cross a line, and thus it had to be brushed off to the side? Mum’s the word on that one.
‘Till the Fat Lady Sings
The phrase means something won’t be over until something happens. Supposedly it comes from a fat lady singing at the end of the opera. I don’t know about you, but many of the fat ladies I’ve met don’t exactly have the most pleasant voices. You ever meet those women who shop with their five kids, still wearing their nightgown and hair curlers, pushing two shopping carts, balancing an infant in one arm, and a cigarette in another? Their voice is hoarse and scratchy. I think if you waited for her to sing you’d find yourself wishing you left sooner.
And why is it always a fat lady? Why not a fat man? Sometimes that happens in opera, too, but suppose we used something else. Suppose we had a fat ostrich sing. Suppose we had a fat ostrich in heat and tied him to the stage with six lady ostriches prancing around. Suppose he had a really bad temper. Seems like it would make for a grand finale.
We could have the fat lady do something else, such as, It ain’t over ’till the fat lady shoots herself on stage and they close the curtains to cover it up. You’d be surprised at how few people would know it was real. In fact, she’d get a pretty big round of applause while her corpse is being dragged off stage. Then, when everyone is about to leave the theater, the host walks out on stage, and tells them it wasn’t part of the show, and the singer has really died. That would make a lot of people feel like a real dick.
Finally, I’ll close with the idiom, by chance. This phrase means something will happen purely out of randomness; nobody will decide to make it happen. And the phrase is versatile.
First, something can happen by chance. You didn’t expect it, you wanted it to happen, but in the back of your mind, you knew that you couldn’t make it happen. By chance, it will happen, or it won’t. But it’s just a chance. You take your chances.
Second, it can be used when someone asks you something. “Excuse me, by chance, do you have the time?” “Why, yes, I do have the time. It’s exactly five minutes past your last chance for me to tell you the time. Maybe next time.” Can’t miss that chance.
Or, how about this. “If by chance she does want to go out with me, will you give her my number, Dave?” “Sure, Jack, I’ll give her your number. What was that… 5-5-5 you don’t stand a chance?”
Don’t wait ’till the fat lady sings, because, by chance you don’t mum the word, you may lose the upper hand and cross the line.