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Saturday, July 13, 2013

Etymology and Excuses

The following discovered on an etymological search amused me:

I AM very glad to welcome back Dr Wordsmith, our regular linguistic physician at our language clinics. If you have any problems with the English language, bring them to Dr Wordsmith's surgery, and I am sure he will suggest a solution, or send you away with a flea in your ear, depending on his mood at the time. All yours, Doc!

Dear Dr Wordsmith, It had never occurred to me before, but it's a curious expression, "To send someone away with a flea in their ear." What does it mean? How did it get to mean what it means?

Dr Wordsmith writes: After many years foraging in the linguistic jungle, I have come to the 
conclusion that of all the time-wasting activities available to man, speculating about the origin of proverbial phrases is the most wasteful. Every time I hear phrases such as "Not by a long chalk", "A bit of how's your father" or "All my eye and Betty Martin", my heart sinks because I know that some bright-eyed little fellow is going to stick his head out of the grass like a rabbit demanding to be shot, and ask if I know the origin. Well, I could put on a knowledgeable air and say that it probably comes from the fact that when we give someone a box on the ear, it leaves his ear ringing, which sounds as if he has got a flea in his ear. But I don't.

Dear Dr Wordsmith, Does this mean you don't know?

Dr Wordsmith writes: And don't care...

Now after reading the above, I realized that I'd never even heard the phrase, "All my eye and Betty Martin." If you are interested and don't require a definitive answer, The Language Log expounds on the origin of the phrase which means that something is "all (or what) nonsense." I intend to incorporate it next time I hear something preposterous. Which won't take long.

By the way, I was unfamiliar with "A bit of how's your father" as well and just researched it; ahem... if you know the phrase "a bit of slap and tickle" then you've got it. Euphemisms! At which point, I can now say, "All my eye and Betty Martin!"

I've been busy working on my eccentric figures.  And reading, of course, but not finishing the review drafts that are in progress.  

 This one isn't finished yet.

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