My Week 187: Things I Say That No One Understands

I’m currently navigating myself through the 7 circles of hell, also known as Mississauga, and I think I’m at about 5 and a half, so I’ve moved on from wrathful to just damned sullen. Here’s a little something to make you giggle.

Wednesday: I have a lot of sayings that apparently no one else understands.

So a while ago, I was talking with some colleagues about the similarities between two pieces of writing that we were looking at. I happened to remark, “It’s probably just a coincidence—you know, a million monkeys and a million typewriters, right?” Everyone looked puzzled and a little confused, so I clarified—“If you give a million monkeys each a typewriter….?” In retrospect, this was NOT a clarification, and everyone continued to look at me with confusion. I tried again.

Me: If you give a million monkeys a million typewriters, eventually one of them will write the bible. You’ve heard that saying before, right?
Colleague: Why would a monkey write a bible?
Me: No, it’s a saying. It’s the idea that random events can happen if you have enough time—and monkeys. So eventually, after hammering away, one of the monkeys might just randomly hit the right keys to recreate the words in the bible…sorry, it’s just a saying. I’m not implying that the person who wrote this, or the bible, is a monkey…

At that point, I started to get panicky, because I want my colleagues to think that I’m at least a little bit mentally competent, and I was starting to sound kind of like a crazy monkey-lady, which is like a crazy cat-lady, but with monkeys. Obviously. Then it occurred to me that I have a lot of strange sayings that I expect other people to understand, but a lot of the time (I’ve come to realize) they DON’T.

Once when I was still teaching, I was discussing Hamlet with my students. It was the scene where Ophelia, Hamlet’s girlfriend, gives him back all the ‘remembrances’ he’s given her, under the direction of her father. Hamlet freaks out, tells her to get to a nunnery, and curses her out, even though he loves her. So I said, “That Hamlet—talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face, right?” The kids were like, “Why would Hamlet cut off his nose? What does that mean?” So I went into this lengthy explanation of how if you’re mad at your face and you cut off your own nose just to piss off your face (I didn’t say piss, of course, but something innocuous like ‘tick’), then all you’ve done is wreck your own face, because you’re mad at yourself, and now you’ve made yourself more unhappy—AND noseless. I said, “Come on—none of you have EVER heard that expression? No one’s parents or grandparents have EVER used that expression?” To which one student replied, “My grandparents aren’t that old.” Ouch. Wow, really? Because I’ve inherited a lot of my weird sayings from my family, over the course of many years. Here are a few of my favourites, and I’ll be honest—even I’m not sure exactly what they mean.

1) “If ‘ifs’ and ‘ands’ were pots and pans, there’d be no need for tinkers.”

I have, after many years, interpreted this to mean that if you go to the Lagostina store a lot, you put pot-repair people out of business. This saying has numerous applications because it sounds very charming and clever, and it makes people think twice before they wish they had more pots.

2)“If hell was in Yoker, you’d get over for a penny.”

Where the hell IS Yoker? Plus, I would think that going to hell wouldn’t cost a measly penny—it would cost your ETERNAL SOUL. That one, I don’t even begin to understand. My dad knows what it means, mostly because I think he made it up. Or one of his Scottish ancestors did, when he was drunk on Scotch at a bar in Yoker.

3) “You’re such a dog in the manger.”

This is a very unusual saying, and I don’t know where it comes from (Ken), but it refers to a dog that doesn’t really want to BE in the manger (which is like a cattle stall), but he stays in there only because he doesn’t want the cow to enjoy the manger. Ken grew up on a dairy farm, so I imagine this happened a lot, with people constantly chasing dogs out of cattle stalls and whatnot. In human terms, this would be like a person who has called dibs on the long spot on the sectional couch, then won’t give it up to someone else, even if they’re really uncomfortable after watching the first 5 episodes of “Stranger Things Season Two.” Of course, I would NEVER do that.

4) “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

No they wouldn’t. From what I’ve seen of the local panhandlers in my neighbourhood, if wishes were horses, beggars would sell them for a hot meal and a warm bed. What would a panhandler do in downtown Toronto with a horse? First, they would have to feed their horses, and most of them don’t have enough money to feed themselves. This would most likely result in people sitting on sidewalks with signs that said, “Help me feed my horse.” Would you feel sorry for someone with a sign like that? My favourite homeless guy, who sits outside of Loblaws, has an adorable little terrier named Onyx, but he’s smart enough to keep a bag of dog treats next to his sleeping bag as a way to engage people. When someone says, “What a cute dog,” he asks if they would like to give Onyx a treat. Then people feel so sorry that Onyx is homeless too that they give him money to help feed the dog. And it works. Over the last 2 weeks, I must have given him at least 10 dollars, and one day he remarked that he had just run out of treats for Onyx, so I bought him a bag when I went into Loblaws. He was very grateful and blessed me, which was nice, all things considered. I can’t see that happening with a horse though. I definitely wouldn’t buy a bag of apples for a homeless guy’s horse. Even if he was my favourite panhandler like Francis (that’s not actually his name, but it’s what I call him in my head). I have a least favourite panhandler too—he’s the guy at the entrance to the Gardiner Expressway who has a sign with the Macdonald’s logo on it that says “Hungry and not lovin’ it”. While the sign is clever, he isn’t—he runs in and out of traffic with the sign and a coffee cup, banging on windows, and almost causing car crashes. A lot of panhandlers try to brand themselves with signs like “Can’t work, brain injury, please help”, or “Give a nickel for a kid in a pickle”, but Francis is more subtle—he doesn’t have a sign. He just sits wrapped in a sleeping bag, with a ball cap in front of him, and then he just smiles at everyone and says “hello” in a very pleasant way that makes you WANT to give him money. I’ll bet if he had one wish, it wouldn’t be for a horse, it would be for world peace, because that’s the kind of guy Francis is. I think.

5)“What you lose on the roundabout, you save on the swings.”

I love this saying. It basically means the same as “6 of one, half a dozen of the other”, so essentially, everything balances out. But it makes me think of carnivals, and that puts me in a festive mood. Of course, it could also refer to people with inner ear disorders, like Ken. Once, we went to a carnival in New Hamburg and I convinced him to go on the Tilt-A-Whirl. So we paid “for the roundabout”. Then he got so sick and dizzy that he couldn’t go on any more rides. I had to half-carry him home because he could barely walk. Except we didn’t really “save on the swings” because we had already bought tickets for some other rides, and ended up giving them away to random people because Ken was like, “Ooh, I feel like throwing up. Ooh, please take me home.” So technically, we lost on the roundabout AND the swings because Ken was a big baby. A big, nauseated baby.

I asked K what kind of sayings I use that she thinks are weird, and this was the conversation:
K: Well, you say f*ck a lot.
Me: That’s not a saying, that’s a swear word.
K: But I tell my friends, “Like my mom always says, ‘F*ck.”
Me: *laughs hysterically*

When she read this, she got upset and said I was making her sound like she talked with an English accent. I don’t know how that’s even possible, but I encourage all of you to imagine that she DID say all that with an English accent. And speaking of English accents, I leave you with this saying, in the immortal words of Oscar Wilde: “I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying”.