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Flower Child (and Language Musings) - cellophane
the story of an invisible girl
Flower Child (and Language Musings)

Flower Child
I am wearing a flower in my hair today at work. (It's artificial.) I'm hoping it will be cute enough, or at least eye-catching enough, to distract everyone from the pants I selected. Elastic-waisted and odd-fitting, they aren't very attractive. But today I'm feeling too bloated and uncomfortable to fit into my nicer clothes!

My weight has been gradually creeping its way upwards for a little while now, plus it is simply a very bloated time of the month for me. Between those two facts, I feel huge, and none of the pants I like feel comfortable right now. Yuck. On the other hand, I really do like my flower hairclip, so that's helping some.

I was musing about metaphors yesterday, and how they so rarely make sense anymore. For example, I was thinking to myself that I was "bleeding like a stuck pig". Then I thought to myself, why would I say such a thing? I have never seen a pig bleed. Do they bleed more than other creatures? How did that ever become an expression, and what does it mean?

Then it occurred to me on further reflection that actually the phrase might be "squealing like a stuck pig." That makes a little more sense, and it also sounds familiar. I am aware that pigs squeal a lot, and I bet they squeal more when stuck. Hmm...but stuck with what? Is the pig being fitted for a garment, and did the seamstress stick the poor thing with one of her pins?

Or maybe I still have the expression completely wrong. I don't know, and that's the problem. Why do we use these expressions that mean nothing to us? I've never seen molasses move in January, I'm not familiar with the sticking of pigs, nobody has any idea how hot OR cold it is in hell, and I have never seen a chicken run around with its head cut off.

We shouldn't be allowed to use expressions we're not familiar with. Half the time we mess them up -- like my pig example. I'm still not sure what expressions are appropriate with pigs. Also, people change the expression into meaninglessness when they don't know what they are actually describing. So in the hell example, people think that any obscenity can be freely substituted: "It's hotter than fuck." People, that doesn't mean anything! Or how many times have I heard somebody say, "We were running around with our heads off." Your heads were firmly attached; that's not the point of the expression! The whole point is that it's a simile, which means it is supposed to include "like" or "as".

And perhaps that's where the whole misuse of the word "like" came from. It's because most people today have no idea what any of these metaphors mean or how to use them. So we give up halfway through the simile, unable to come up with an apt comparison, and we end up saying something along the lines of, "I was bleeding like, a lot."

Now the word "like" has evolved into its own eerie power, sneaking its way into spoken language everywhere, and it's become dreadfully overused. I find that I can barely stop myself from using it in every other sentence! It's like, really hard....

On that note, I think I'll take a walk. I'm feeling antsier than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
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c0nsumer From: c0nsumer Date: January 13th, 2005 06:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
It has to do with when you place a pig in a barrel, and then stick it with a long knife in order to kill it for slaughter. The pig is immobilized and cannot struggle, but will kick and squeel until it dies.

Then again, if you cut it's throat it will just gurgle.
nishar From: nishar Date: January 13th, 2005 09:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I always thought that expression came from the old days when people hunted wild boar with spears. I learned something new today. :D
eviljohn From: eviljohn Date: January 13th, 2005 07:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
The etymology of words and phrases can be fun to read about. Most of these types of phases can be answered just by doing a google search (now you know how I spend my free time). Here's one that I've found useful: http://www.wordorigins.org/ .
renniekins From: renniekins Date: January 13th, 2005 11:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
ooh, cool site -- thanks!
xtatic1 From: xtatic1 Date: January 13th, 2005 07:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
I have never seen a chicken run around with its head cut off

I have. It's funny and disturbing and gross - the body yaws around, spurting blood from the place where the head used to be. Yick!
xtatic1 From: xtatic1 Date: January 13th, 2005 07:15 pm (UTC) (Link)

Bleed like a stuck pig - FYI

The throat of a pig set for slaughter is cut or opened with a sharp spike or knife.   Because the cut severs the jugular vein, the pig bleeds rapidly.   See the related phrase "kick the bucket". 

Thanks to Kensmark
hannunvaakuna From: hannunvaakuna Date: January 13th, 2005 07:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
i often wonder if "bleeding like a stuck pig" is kosher.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: January 13th, 2005 07:45 pm (UTC) (Link)
y'know you're right, it probably isn't! I wonder what Jewish people are allowed to bleed like.

(Just read some fun Jewish funeral facts today too!)
hannunvaakuna From: hannunvaakuna Date: January 13th, 2005 07:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
well i certainly have had moments where i felt like it was stuck pig season... though i'm not kosher, so i dunno if that makes a difference or not?
retepsnave From: retepsnave Date: January 13th, 2005 07:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
reminds me of something I heard on NPR this morning...

(the discussion on 'expressions'... not on clothing or the cute flower in your hair... ;-)

guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: January 13th, 2005 08:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Similes are a tricky thing, aren't they? They get me as nervous as a whore in church.

I like the flower very much.
bjorng From: bjorng Date: January 13th, 2005 08:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Expressions like that, even when they are dated and/or obscure, are important parts of the culture. When they get mangled (deliberately or unintentionally) they can effectively define a new culture. (Maybe you've seen this phenomenon at cons?)

Once you have an idea what the expressions mean, it makes you part of the in-group. And that's cool. When you learn enough of them, you're part of a culture and can use a convenient shorthand for expressing both your intent and your connectedness with fellow speakers.

I've noticed as an erstwhile outsider that these cultural expressions (metaphors, figures of speech, and whatnot) are pretty important. Any kind of group that's together long enough will have their own set of these. I continue to learn American ones. (Nowadays, I'm adding "southern" expressions to my vocabulary, though I don't expect I'm fixin' to use them soon. ;) Meanwhile, I still don't know enough Swedish expressions to get by in that language. (Would you have guessed that Swedes use "blue-eyed" to mean "naive", when 90% of Swedes have blue eyes?)

The "like" problem may or may not be related to similes. That's an interesting idea; I don't think I've heard that one before.

And yes, I think etymology is fun! (So is entomology, but *that* bugs some people. ;)
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