Blindsided

Everywhere we turn we find merchants hawking their “stuff,” politicians pushing their agendas, and the Media exploiting one and all. There’s always someone trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

Though the American public has been often been confused with a flock of hyperthyroid sheep, the wool in this expression is of a different sort — a slang term for “hair” — synonymous with the powdered wigs worn by gentlemen several centuries ago. The most powerful ones with the most elaborate hairstyles, of course, constituting our first bigwigs.

larry-paros-funny-etymology-37

It was once no simple task for a bigwig to take an innocent stroll down a city street, with young hooligans lurking around every corner. As a malicious act, a joke, or for purpose of thievery, they’d often pull the wig (the wool) down over said gentleman’s eyes, enabling them to make off with his purse in the process.

This was similar to hoodwinking a person. To do so was to literally cover his eyes with a hood or other material to obscure his vision. Figuratively, it came to mean blindfolding someone mentally in order to prevent him from seeing the truth.

Another cover-up in the news? Details at eleven.

Potty Talk for Donald and His Disciples

trump-larry-paros

A brief history of the schlong and the bathroom as they relate to Donald Trump and his most recent comments.

Trump recently made linguistic history, first, mocking Hillary for a “disgusting” bathroom trip she made during Saturday night’s debate, and describing Barack Obama as having “schlonged” her in the 2008 primaries: “She was favored to win and she got schlonged,” he said.

Part deux was about Hillary’s sojourn in the bathroom. Remarking on Clinton’s late return to the podium after her visit there during a commercial break at this weekend’s Democratic debate, Trump said, “I know where she went. It’s disgusting. I don’t want to talk about it. It’s disgusting.”

First, as to having been “schlanged,” Mr. Trump, alas, knows not of what he speaks. He is clearly unfamiliar with bawdy language, especially those words based in Yiddish.

As a public service, we offer a crash course on the topic.

There are many good ways of describing Trump in Yiddish. The best would be as a “schmuck” or a”putz.” Trump, however, had to take things a step further with the schlang. The Donald, after all, does fancy things which are big, and you can’t go much larger than the Yiddish schlang (also schlange and schlong) from the German schlange for “snake.”

In Portnoy’s Complaint (1967), the title character reminisced about his father’s: “His schlang brings to mind the firehoses along the corridors at school. Schlang: the word somehow captures exactly the brutishness, the meatiness that I admire so, the sheer mindless, weighty and unselfconscious dangle of that living piece of hose through which he passes water as thick and strong as rope…” Now who does that bring to mind, hmmm?

The Donald, however, made linguistic history in the process, going where none have gone before. We have no recorded usage of the schlang as a verb before his utterances. When asked afterwards, what he meant by schlanged,” he said that what he meant was that she “had been beaten badly.”

A more definitive reading of the word, however, would be that she got f**ked over by Barrack Obama. That is, after all, the life purpose of the schhlang.

As to his description of Clinton’s going to the bathroom as “disgusting,” Donald was apparently unaware that it’s a somewhat universal function. More importantly, it’s also quite the presidential thing to do. President John Quincy Adams laid the foundations of American foreign policy. He also installed the first toilet into the White House, making Quincy (early19thC) a household word.

First names for the toilet have also flourished over the centuries, including Jakes and Johns. H.L. Mencken pointed out how Johnnie was the vogue for college girls back in the twenties, with George and Fred having their moments as well.

Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, however, was not about to take any such s**t. When the manufacturer of portable toilets came out with the new “Here’s Johnny” line, Carson responded by suing for 1.1 million dollars in damages, claiming use of the phrase by the toilet company constituted a trademark infringement, unfair competition, and a violation of Carson’s rights of publicity and privacy. In a landmark decision, the Court ruled in favor of the manufacturer–leaving Johnny open to a lifetime of public abuse. When reporters sought out his reaction, Carson allegedly responded, “Its never fun being dumped on.”

Given the history of the nomenclature of the bathroom, and Trump’s description of its use as “disgusting,” it seems only appropriate to offer “Donald” up as a new name to replace the John thus lending it the requisite dignity.

Let’s take things even a step further, extending it to the process itself. A favorite activity of Kinky Friedman, Western singer and mystery writer extraordinaire, was to “take a Nixon.” This opens the door to myriad possibilities such as having to ” Dump your Enron stock” Or “Evacuate a Taliban.”

Better yet, next time you have such a need, just “Play your trump card. “Consider it your patriotic doody to do so.

Skeptics should simply relieve themselves of their doubts. Void where prohibited by law.

Follow Larry Paros @
insomanywords.net

Take words with Larry @
twitter.com/wordswithlarry
facebook.com/wordswithlarry
pinterest.com/wordswithlarry

More fun with words by Larry
bawdylanguage.com

What’s Noose with You?

larry-paros-funny-etymology-36

Life often leaves you on the ropes, “at the brink of collapse,” or “on the verge of defeat.” Like a boxer whose back is up against them, your only option is to swing back wildly. Some, however, know how to turn the situation to their own advantage, like Mohammed Ali and his famed rope-a-dope.

    Like a rigger on a 19th century clipper ship, he knew the ropes — “had a fully detailed understanding of what he was doing.” A ship’s ropes composed a complex system of lines which controlled the sails. Knowing the ropes meant you understood how to operate them properly.

That failing, you might find yourself at the end of your rope, “at the limit of your resources, abilities, or endurance,” putting you in a situation similar to a tied up animal whose tether restricts its movement.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this brings us closer to the bitter end. The bitt or bitter of a ship was a timber crosspiece or other strong piece of wood or iron projecting above deck for securing lines, cables, and chains belayed around it.

When you reach the bitter end, you are literally at the end of your rope. Hang in there gang!

Righting Things

larry-paros-funny-etymology-35

If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” That’s a good question first raised in the 1950s and later popularized by Bert Lance, President Carter’s Director of the Office of Management and Budget, in 1977 speaking of governmental reorganization.

A better question, however, might be: “If it’s broke, why bother fixing it at all?”  Sometimes it’s better to start anew—get a fresh perspective on the problem rather than go for the temporary fix.

Fix, after all, has primarily negative connotations. The word goes back to the Latin fixus, the past participle of figere, “to fasten.” Being emotionally attached to something makes it a fixture (c.1910.), causing us to take it for granted and not look at it with fresh eyes.  This invariably ends in a fixation, originally a chemical process of bonding, causing an undue preoccupation with the object of interest.

Emotionally distraught we need a fix (c.1930) to survive, a dose of something, another form of chemical bonding, especially but not necessarily a narcotic drug, as well as other compulsions that drive our actions. We fix sporting events and elections (c.1790), aiming for a prearranged outcome, especially through payment of a bribe. We fix up (c.1930s) our friends, setting them up on dates, an action which never fixes anything. Fixing our wagon (c.1800) allows them to get even with us.—this from the American frontier when a covered wagon contained all our worldly possessions.  Fixing it means messing with everything we deem precious and worthwhile.

There is only one positive dimension to it. Getting a fix on things (c.1920s) allows us to obtain a clear determination or understanding on matters of concern. In this case, it’s that there are no quick fixes. What gets us into a fix—a difficult or embarrassing position—is forgetting that and becoming too attached to things. Sometimes it’s best to just let go.

Pipe Up America

larry-paros-funny-etymology-34

What’s in the pipeline for the new Congress?  It looks from here like it’s the Keystone XL Pipeline. Things in the pipeline, are “in process,” like oil or natural gas, and there’s no topic of any greater concern before our august representatives.

With the clock ticking down on a final decision, it’s time for people to come together and oppose a project that would hasten the climate crisis, pave a pathway to pollution, and pose a major threat to public health.

The pipe as a musical instrument comes from the Latin pipare, “to chirp like a bird,” the plural pipes naming the vocal chords as well. On the high seas, the boatswain once used a high pitched pipe to signal the crew. Piping up was the call for all to assemble on deck. Piping down signaled lights out, all hands turn in. Today, when you pipe down you retreat to metaphorical quarters inside yourself,” by simply shutting up. It’s now time for the public to pipe up, to assemble and make its presence felt—by speaking out and asserting itself.

Don’t lose sight of who’s behind the project.  Remember, he who pays the piper calls the tune. In medieval times, when strolling musicians toured the countryside, the only payment they received came voluntarily from members of the audience. Whoever gave up a few coins had the right to choose the tune to be played. Everyone knows the influence brought to bear on them by these purveyors of energy. So too in corporate America— whoever puts up the money having the ultimate say over those who accept it.

Under closer examination, the argument that the pipeline will increase employment by creating new jobs turns out to be a fantasy of sorts, like something induced by the smoking of opium, reducing it all to a pipe dream.

We’re talking about a truly representative democracy asserting itself. Contemplate for a moment the virtues of that ideal against your own delusions. Or to put it more simply: “Put that in your pipe and smoke it!”