Saturday, September 23, 2006

Sans Fairy Ann

Yesterday while I was working on my new text piece Thom reminded me of one of my favorite people. Miclosch Smolnar. Michlosh Smolnar, according to his Lithuanian relatives, is the little man who lives in our skull. "Miclosch Smolnar sick upstairs," he says, in his grandfathers' mush mouthed accent.

Speaking of which, I was reading about the detainee protection act this morning and wanted to make sure I knew what a dog's breakfast was. I looked it up and got lost in a dictionary of phrases, which confirmed that the dog's breakfast was, in fact, a mess, but that the dog's dinner is what you are when you're all dressed up.

And if you take me to dinner and you have short arms and long pockets, then I guess I'm paying. And if the meal is bad enough we might say it is Sweet Fanny Adams. In which case we could do the technicolor yawn, and leave Sweet Fanny Adams for a tip.

Fanny Adams was a darling young lady who was murdered and chopped up in 1867. Sailors used her name to talk about their horrible meals, and everyone else used it to mean nothing, in the sense of nothing in ones' pockets. If you mean that something means nothing, you can say Sans Fairy Ann, which is a corruption of "c'est ne fait rien."

If you're sick of being a monkey's uncle, you might try these other expressions of amazement: "I'll go to the foot of our stairs", "strike me pink", "stone the crows" or "if that don't take the rag off the bush."

If you just want to get out of this backwater, this middle of nowhere, this back of beyond, and you're sure you're going someplace better, you can say 23 skidoo. There are lots of theories about how that phrase came about, but here's my favorite.

"23-skidoo" came from an expression that construction workers used while building the Flatiron Building on 23rd Street in N.Y.C. 23rd Street is one of the wider streets in New York that is like an uninterrupted wind-tunnel between the East and Hudson Rivers. Frequently, when one is walking north or south on the avenues and comes to such an intersection, they can experience a sudden blast of wind as soon as they pass the wall of a corner building. Apparently, when the workers sat on the sidewalk to eat their lunches, they would watch women's skirts blow up from the sudden gusts."

The phrase dictionary also has a list of funny minced oaths, which we know as Flanderisms, and mondegreens, which are misheard lyrics. Like "The ants are my friend, they're blowing in the wind..." and "The girl with colitis goes by..."

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