On Sayings

Spending a few years living among people from another country has made me look at many things afresh; it’s not possible to take quite so much for granted when you’re surrounded by people who talk, act, think, and believe differently to you.

Or, at least, that’s how it should be.

And sure, there’s probably many deeply philosophical things I should be thinking about here, concerning the profound differences between my home country and my new home, but I prefer to keep things safely superficial. Or at least linguistical. Which apparently is a word.

So here, for my edification, if not yours, are my favorite phrases that Americans have used – at least once – within my earshot.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop

According to 5 seconds of research on Google, this made-in-America phrase arose from tenement living in New York City. With thin walls and floors, every noise from the neighbors above and across could be heard – including the noise of the people who lived above getting ready for bed. And so, the first shoe being taken off and dropped to the floor would then be expected to be followed by the noise of the second shoe. And this somehow became extended via some social poetry to meaning that dread of knowing that one bad thing has happened and now something else must inevitably follow.

That dog don’t (or won’t) hunt

I don’t remember exactly where it was when I heard this said – and I’ve only heard it once. I do recall that it was in a small general store somewhere outside Austin. And the gentleman who uttered it did so good naturedly and entirely without irony – and he had the finest old-guy Texan accent I have ever heard. It means, if you’re unsure, that’s not going to happen or that’s not going to work. How we get to that from dog hunting, I don’t know, but I’m pleased at least one person did.

We don’t call 911

I don’t know if this is limited to Texas but it’s definitely 100% Texan. Mostly, I’ve seen this phrase on objects and signs accompanied with a very clear picture of a large rifle or crossed pistols. I’ve seen variations on signs on fences of farms. The meaning is pretty clear…and suitably threatening.

Chewing me out and Blowing me off

To English ears (or maybe just mine), there is an overwhelming delight of double-entendre in the sentence “I blew her off so she took me into a quiet room and chewed me out.” It’s a cultural thing.

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