Category Archives: figurative expression

Buckle Up Buttercup

Are you ready for the ride of your life? If so, “Buckle up Buttercup” because I’m taking you for a ride you won’t forget. Now, the ride may not have anything to do with a car or the car buckles — they may be involved —  but when we buckle up Buttercup,  it will be the ride of your life — you know, going together on a journey that will be memorable. Sometimes, as life changes with me, I say those words to myself because I have no clue what is going to happen, knowing I am embarking on a journey I have never traveled before. So hang on, it’s going to be a ride that is sometimes bumpy, sometimes smooth, but definitely a ride, Buttercup.

buttercup-841225_1920 (1)But why Buttercup? I searched the web as far as I could go, and I never found why Buttercup was the name of choice, but it is used as a term of endearment.

Funny that this flower/weed is used in the context as a term of endearment because the inedible plant can be toxic to dogs and cats, can lead to serious problems for grazing animals, such as cattle and horses, sheep and pigs; and for humans, well, let’s just say that the plant tastes so bad that there is little chance of being poisoned.

Buttercup is also said with the saying, Pucker up Buttercup and Suck it up Buttercup. I tell ya, Buttercup gets around. And I sure would like to know how the buckle up, pucker up and suck it up all names Buttercup!

Take Pucker up Buttercup — you may remember this line in the 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when Ed Rooney said to Grace, Pucker up Buttercup. Well, I don’t think Grace appreciated the innuendo, but he did say pucker up — wanna kiss? Buttercup, put those lips together and get ready for a big smacker.

In my book, buckle up and pucker up is better than suck it up. Don’t you just hate it when you meet that whiner? During World War I there was Captain Williams, company commander of the 5th Marines, who was at a battle in France when someone asked him to retreat. His response, “Retreat? Hell, we just got here! Suck it up Buttercup.” Sadly to say, he never made it through the battle, but his words have lived on. Keep going and stop your whining. Words to live by.

All in all, I may buckle up Buttercup, may even pucker up a few times, and know suck it up more than not during the course of this lifetime, but oh! what a ride!!! Don’t you just love life and what it brings? As I said, what a ride…

Until next week…have a great one…

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An Albatross Around the Neck

diomedea_exulans_in_flight_-_se_tasmania

This picture was taken by JJ Harrison (JJHarrison89@facebook.com) and obtained through commons.wikimedia.org

An albatross is a large-winged web-footed bird noted for gliding over the waters.

Originally, the word is derived from the Spanish and Portugese word “alcatraz” and it means pelican.

If I have an albatross around my neck, I certainly do not carry this large bird around my neck. So, what does it mean? Figuratively, albatross means something that hinders or handicaps your ability to do something. When I carry an albatross around my neck it means that I wear something that will stop me from succeeding at my endeavor. No. Not really because once again the neck is used figuratively. We carry nothing around our neck, but we do carry burdens that are hard to get rid of.

Think of debt, maybe the student loan. It is huge and there is no end in sight of when it will be paid off. It is an albatross around my neck.How in the world can I buy a new car or a house with that much debt? Or being in a bad relationship with no signs of it getting better is an albatross around my neck. The relationship continues to cause problems. It’s an albatross — something that almost seems like a curse to deal with. Will it ever go away?

alcatraz_island_photo_d_ramey_logan

Photo taken by D Ramey Logan and obtained through commons.wikimedia.org

What I think is interesting about the origin of this word is “alcatraz.” Off San Francisco’s coast in California there stands a large prison on a rock that is named alcatraz. Although it was only a prison for 30 years, it is widely known because of its remoteness of being surrounded by water (and I have heard shark infested waters) where the most troublesome prisoners were taken to spend their days. It is said that no one escaped from this island prison. The word definitely fits the description of being such a burden that it is considered a curse.

This is one of those idioms that is not commonly used, but upon occasion, I do hear the phrase. But, no, there are no birds around anyone’s neck. As with some of our idioms, it is very hard to figure out what is really meant, so when you hear about the albatross, it means bearing a burden where there is little hope of having it resolved soon.

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Call a Spade a Spade

I hesitated to write about this figurative expression/idiom, but decided to as people who are not familiar with the English language and phrases/idioms we use in this country may come across this expression and use it, not knowing it has a dual meaning where one is understood in a derogatory sense. I feel it should be addressed and understood.

Originally, this phrase was translated from the 1st Century writing of the Greek scholar Plutarch titled Moralia, which loosely translates as Morals or Manners. (Keep this in mind as I explain.) Moralia was first translated from Greek around 1542, and the Stephanus edition came out in 1572 where the essays were divided into 14 books. Just to name a few of the essays: On the Education of Children, On Vice and Virtue, On Brotherly Love, and On Evil and Hate. There is a total of 78 essays of this sort.

When the translation took place, the translator, Nicolas Udall, replaced the original “trough” and “fig” with “spade”. Ah, how and why words change through the years continues!

shovel-clip-art-26429From then — 16th century — to the 1920s, the phrase “call a spade a spade” meant to speak frankly, tell it like it is.

This is the only meaning I knew of the idiom. I never knew it could have a sinister meaning until I started investigating this idiom. My family is not in the business of using derogatory remarks nor hurting people, so the use of this phrase in a derogatory sense was never taught to me.

And I have used the term for years when I knew someone who was blunt in explanation, who pulled no punches in speaking the truth, who said things as they really are. I like those people. There are no guessing about what that person means while telling what they like or dislike. My parents had one neighbor who spoke this way, and I always characterized her by saying she called a spade a spade. I knew exactly what she meant.

Now, fast forward to the 1920s, to the Harlem Renaissance, and now “spade” became a code word for the black person. It first appeared in Claude McKay’s 1928 novel, Home to Harlem. Okay, McKay now has expanded the shovel/spade to refer to a skin color. And in so doing, the word “spade” became offensive, which in turn is the phrase, “call a spade a spade”.

I am not in the business of hurting anyone’s feelings, so anyone who is trying to learn our language with all its idioms and double meanings, I strongly suggest to scratch this idiom off your list. Do not use. Me. I know I will double check my writing to not have this idiom included in my writing unless if it is doubly clear that it refers to someone speaking frankly, telling it like it is. And that is easier to do on paper than with oral words.

Now, back to Plutarch’s Moralia. I believe I have Plutarch in my library and I need to read what he said all those years ago. Isn’t it ironic that in the beginning he wrote about Brotherly Love and On Evil and Hate, and somehow through his words and through the years the trough, shovel has evolved into a derogatory phrase that covers (or not) Brotherly Love, Evil and Hate?

A lot to chew on…

 

 

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