I may well be mixing my metaphors, but I feel nervous blogging again.
I have had a truly lovely summer with my family, filled with festivals, trips in the camper van and long days in the sun. The garden is developing nicely and we had a great crop of runner beans, tomatoes, chillies and strawberries.
Now the autumn closes in around us and we draw our curtains earlier. I have been enjoying listening to No Such Thing As A Fish podcast as I run or as I carry out my household tasks. It made me think about some phrases we use without thinking about it, some terribly English things to say.
- Above Board. This hails from card playing. If your hands are ‘above the board’ or above the table, you cannot be playing tricks or concealing cards. In a contemporary sense we might say ‘everything this company does is above board and will remain so’, meaning that the company’s dealings are legitimate. The first ‘a’ is pronounced as the schwa sound, so sounds like uh–buhv-bawrd.
- Bee’s knees. I love this phrase. Today it means something utterly brilliant, although if we think about it, bee’s knees must be incredibly tiny, if indeed they even have them! Apparently these phrases were all the rage in the 1920s, especially in America and this one has hung around longer. Other, slightly more bizarre examples include flea’s eyebrows and canary’s tusks! Think abut the deliciously long ‘ee’ sound in both of these words and lean on it, following the ‘ee’ with the buzzing ‘s’ sound, as opposed to the hissing ‘s’.
- Beat about the bush. This is all about avoiding the issue. This time of year beaters are everywhere in rural areas. They beat the undergrowth with sticks and make all the wildfowl fly into the air. Then the people with the guns can shoot them in the air. So the beaters never get the satisfaction of shooting, hence the term, they don’t complete the task. Synonyms include prevaricate, quibble, hedge, stall and shilly-shally.
How many more do you know?