A Far Cry

yellingI’ll tell ya, Mr. Smith’s lawn is a far cry from mine.

No, this far cry has nothing to do with someone yelling over a distance where someone could also say it is within shouting distance. Originally, in the 16th century, a “far cry” had to do with the measure of the land, and the villagers would measure the distance as “within a cry” of the houses or villages. Fast forward to the 18th century, and now a “far cry” meant it was too far away to be heard. Today, I have never heard a “far cry” as a distance too long to be heard or not heard. We may use inside or outside of “shouting distance” when we need to get a message across by the use of our vocal cords. But, that is uncommon to use with technology so readily available in today’s society.

In the beginning of our nation, we also had “town criers” — those were the people who would go through the streets announcing the happenings of the day. (Remember, many people could not read the newspaper or town postings at that time in history, so there was a need for a “town crier”.)

Still, none of these definitions have anything to do with how we commonly use “far cry” today.

Back to the first statement. “…Mr. Smith’s lawn is a far cry from mine.” What I really meant was Mr. Smith’s lawn is very different from mine.” The statement does not tell us much about the differences in the lawn, but it does give emphasis to the differences of the lawn. For instance, my lawn may be well manicured with few ornaments around the bushes. Knowing this about my lawn, when I see Mr. Smith’s lawn with the many ornaments, that is a far cry from my minimalist lawn.

The English language is spoken in more countries than in the United States, and when you visit one of those countries, the English there is a far cry from what is used in the United States. Take England or Australia, for instance — there, petrol is our gas; lift is our elevator; biscuits is our cookies. Similar, but not the same. Even though we understand the language the word meanings are a far cry from what we know in the United States.

Shoot, for that matter, we can go to parts of our country, and the language’s accents are sometimes a far cry when we visit the different regions or meet people from the various regions. I still have a hard time understanding people who are from the Boston area with their accent vs. my Midwestern nasal sound. I have to stop and listen to people who are from the South when they have a heavy Southern drawl.

Funny story about a heavy Southern drawl. Al was a steel structure roofer, and when he was young when the weather turned bad in the Midwest, he would go South or West for work. One winter, he spent his time in the South, and he became friendly with the town’s people, but he couldn’t quite figure out what they were saying half the time. He had one conversation with a man who kept talking about Earl. Someone needed to change Earl, someone needed to go get Earl, someone needed to put Earl away. He just couldn’t figure out who Earl was, so he finally broke down and asked the man who Earl was. The man responded “Earl, you know, what you put in your car. Earl. Ya gotta change the Earl every 3000 miles.” Al finally understood. It wasn’t about another man at all, it was oil the man was talking about! And that is how our accents work. They sure are a far cry from region to region.

We use “far cry” frequently in our conversations. “Our world is such a far cry from yesterday due to technology…This new math is a far cry from how I learned to add and subtract…Cars today are a far cry from yesterday, and tomorrow’s cars will be a far cry from the cars we know today…” There are so many aspects of our lives that are so different from before…believe me, I do not need to be a far cry from civilization to know that civilization is a far cry from yesterday. Or is it?

Have a great weekend…


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