“I’m going to tan your hide if you don’t…”
“You’re going to what — tan my what — I don’t have a hide… What in the world are you talking about?”
Taking the common literal meaning of the words “tan your hide” it should mean brown a hide, but what in the world is a hide? I know hide means to conceal, and there is a hide of an animal, but I am no animal — or maybe I am. We are homo sapiens, and through the years we were set apart from the animal kingdom because we can reason. Better yet, looking at the word “homo sapiens” it means wise man or defining it better — it comes from 18th century Latin and “homo” means earthly being, human, or man (both genders) and “sapiens” mean wise, so we homo sapiens are wise humans. So why in the world do we say one thing and mean another? Getting back to “tan your hide”…
Long ago and probably in some parts of the world today, we tanned hides. That is after killing an animal (the other kind, like a buffalo or deer), skinning it, gutting it, and removing the hair from the skin with a sort of acidic compound, you tanned the skin — you beat the skin — to make a piece of leather for a jacket, pants, outer layer of a house (think of the American Indian’s teepee tent). Today, you can also tan hides, but mostly they are done by those “Mother Earth” types. And then there is the taxidermist, who can skin the animal while not removing the guts, and then mount the animal for the hunter to display.
Believe me, on the whole, we do not kill and skin the homo sapiens when we “tan the hide” but we do spank, beat, use a switch or a belt of a person’s bottom. Shoot, when I went to school, I remember the Dean of Boys had a paddle in his office, and I knew many a boy who had that paddle used on his be-hind! Is it wrong or illegal to “tan a hide” — well, according to law guides, discipline in the home is not wrong as long as it is not abuse. In schools, that’s another matter. There are 31 states where it is illegal to use corporal punishment on a student, and 19 states where it is okay — most of those states are in the Southern portion of our country, but Indiana and Wyoming and Texas are included.
So, why don’t we just say “I’m going to give your a spanking…a whupping” instead of “tan your hide” which has a hidden meaning. Well, we’re Americans, and we have a bunch of those idioms we use in our every day language. And sometimes what we say is not exactly what we mean. Sometimes, when we say, “tan your hide” it is used as a wake-up call for someone to straighten up. It’s like an idle threat, but not exactly because this is used as a call for fear to do the “right” thing or there will be severe consequences. When someone says they are going to “spank” someone, it is usually carried out immediately. But when we say “I’m going to tan your hide if I ever catch your smoking…drinking alcohol…driving recklessly…” it means you better not, or there will be consequences.
True, there are always exceptions to the rules, but usually people do not skin another human’s skin (unless if you are Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lamb) or they do not inflict abuse while paddling their child’s be-hind or school disciplinarians do not harm someone to leave a mark —- I hope, I hope, I hope.
And in between time, if you ever hear someone is going “To Tan your Hide” listen because the next time there may be a switch involved.