May 2016


No matter where you are – at work, in a restaurant, in a store or even at home – you’ll here old sayings and adages used with relative frequency.

The fact that they’re a common part of life is without question, but where they originate is seldom known. Here’s a look at some of them and where they might have come from.

  • Lowball

When negotiating a price on a home, car or other item, a buyer might offer an amount considered to be this by the seller in an attempt to get a really good deal.

The saying probably stems from a version of draw poker in which the player having the lowest-ranking hand wins the pot. Basically, the winner of a hand “lowballed” everyone.

  • The worm has turned

    Doug Davison

       Doug Davison

Pretty well known to mean a reversal of fortune (whether from good to bad or bad to good), the expression was first used to convey the notion that even the meekest of creatures will retaliate or get revenge if pushed too far.

The phrase was first appeared in a renowned writer’s work in the mid-1500s, and was famously used by William Shakespeare in one of his plays.

  • Tickled pink

This phrase not surprisingly refers to the fact that when some people are highly excited, their skin literally changes color – just like when they blush. It more or less amounts to becoming so pleased that the blood vessels dilate, more blood flows close to the skin and the person appears redder than usual.

  • Off the schneid

When you hear this phrase, you probably understand the user is referring to the ending of a losing or bad luck streak or the replacement of a series of negatives occurrences with something positive.

“Schneid” is actually short for “schneider,” a term originally used in the card game, gin, meaning to prevent an opponent from scoring points. “Schneider” came from German, where it means, “tailor.” The original gin-related meaning was that if you were “schneidered,” you were “cut” (as if by a tailor) from contention in the game.

Schneider first appeared card-playing jargon in the late 1800s.

  • Wazzoo

When someone thinks they have too much of something, they might say they have it “out the wazzoo.”

If someone doesn’t like something, they might say it’s a “pain in the wazzoo.”

There’s “up the” versions and other versions, too.

Somewhat expectedly, the term began a long time ago as slang for the part of the body you sit on (according to the Oxford English Dictionary).

  • Posh

Easily recognizable as meaning elegant, fancy or upscale, the term goes back to the day when wealthy passengers on ships traveling between England and India would have “POSH” written by their bookings, standing for “port out, starboard home.” That way they were housed in the more desirable cabins on the shady side of the ship, both on the way east and on the return trip west.

  • Snazzy

Speaking of posh, if something is that it might also be this.

The first documented use of the word was in 1901 in a New Zealand magazine in an article about George H. Snazelle, a famous English singer, entertainer and actor. He, of course, was referred to as “Snazzy,” and the rest (as they say, whoever “they” are) is history.

  • Hunky dory

Certainly we all know this phrase means OK, nice, satisfactory and the like.

While its existence isn’t even close to clandestine or complicated, its origins are. But it could well be that it’s a combination of slang from multiple cultures.

The “hunky” part might be from a mid-1800s term, “hunkey” (meaning satisfactory), which probably came from a New York City street game slang word, “hunk” (meaning “in a safe position”).

The “dory” part might have begun with “Honcho Dori,” a street in Yokohama, Japan, where sailors would go to enjoy themselves.

  • Cop

This term that obviously refers to a law enforcement officer is actually an acronym for “constable on patrol.”

  • Bobby

A constable on patrol in England might be referred to in this manner.

That began with Robert (Bobby) Peel, a British politician who was prime minister in in the 1830s and 1840s.

  • Son of a gun

We’ve all heard someone blurt out this phrase when they’re surprised, or maybe annoyed.

It might have begun centuries ago when the British Navy allowed women on ships, even though there were supposedly rules against the practice. If a boy was born on board to uncertain paternity, he was listed in the ship’s log simply as “son of a gun” (i.e., military man).

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted online at www.houstonherald.com. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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At one time or another, most Americans have heard of archaic laws that are on the books in given states (sometimes after dozens of decades) despite not making any sense.

Here is a list of such laws that are actually official (although perhaps not strictly enforced) along with their unofficial counterparts (added by your local fish wrap correspondent). As usual, there’s no particular order involved.

  • Nebraska

Official: Fishing for whales is illegal.

Unofficial: Harpooning politicians is illegal.

  • Kansas

Official: Shooting a rabbit from a motorboat is illegal.

Unofficial: Shooting a motorboat while hunting rabbits is illegal.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

  • Georgia

Official: Keeping and ice cream cone in your back pocket on a Sunday is illegal.

Unofficial: With a permit, keeping an ice cream cone in your back pocket is legal Monday through Saturday.

  • Hawaii

Official: Serving customers a milkshake with non-dairy milk without warning them is illegal.

Unofficial: Warning customers you’re going to serve them a milkshake with non-dairy milk in it, then telling them they’re actually going to get a milkshake with real milk in it, and then serving them a root beer float is illegal – unless it’s made with non-dairy ice cream.

  • Oklahoma

Official: Wrestling with bears is not allowed.

Unofficial: Trying to stop a wrestling match between a person and a bear is also illegal. •Connecticut

Official: A pickle isn’t a pickle unless it bounces.

Unofficial: A basketball isn’t a basketball unless it’s pickled.

  • West Virginia

Official: Taking road kill home for dinner is illegal.

Unofficial: Taking road kill to your neighbor’s house for dinner is OK.

  • Nevada

Official: A man cannot buy drinks for more than three people at one time.

Unofficial: A woman cannot accept drinks from more than five men at a time.

  • South Dakota­­

Official: Sleeping in cheese factories is not allowed.

Unofficial: Sleeping with gouda in your ears or havarti between you toes is illegal.

  • Iowa

Official: One-armed piano players cannot charge for performances.

Unofficial: Pea-brained lawmakers can give themselves raises.

  • Montana

Official: Leaving a sheep in the cab of a pickup without a chaperone is against the law.

Unofficial: Taking a sheep to a dance without a chaperone is illegal.

  • Delaware

Official: Selling dog hair is illegal.

Unofficial: Unless the buyer is from New York.

  • New York

Official: Selling cat hair is illegal.

Unofficial: Unless the buyer is from Delaware.

  • North Dakota

Official: Selling beer and pretzels at the same time is not allowed.

Unofficial: It’s illegal not to eat pretzels while drinking beer.

  • New Mexico

Official: Idiots and insane people are not permitted to vote.

Unofficial: Idiots and insane people can legally run for office.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted online at www.houstonherald.com. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

What can you say about this presidential election year, other than it’s the craziest one ever?

I’d say it’s more of a “show” than any previous version, with characters who might belong more in a big top than the oval office.

So in keeping with the tone of the whole fiasco, I thought I’d have a little fun by comparing some of the presidential candidates (active and withdrawn) to “who they look like,” similar to the way it’s done with coaches and players on the popular ESPN Radio program, “The Dan Le Batard Show.” Candidates aren’t arranged in any order, not all are mentioned (and that’s not because of some sort of conspiracy) and there’s no intention of riling anyone up (although that could well happen anyway).

  • Bernie Sanders looks like high school math teacher who plays “Doc” in a drama department production of Back to the Future II.”

    Doug Davison

         Doug Davison

Or a scientist on a public TV show about space who shakes his finger at the camera and exclaims, “it’s poppycock that some of my colleagues took away Pluto’s status as a planet – and I’m going to show you why!”

  • Marco Rubio looks like a guy working in an department store electronics department wearing a blue shirt with a name tag on it who walks up to you holding an odd looking contraption and asks, “have you seen what this can do?” before introducing himself or saying anything else.

Or a man behind the window of a carnival pretzel trailer wearing a striped shirt and hat who asks if you want an extra pack of mustard.

  • Chris Christie looks like a guy who sells meat out of a cooler in the back of a small pickup who continues with his pitch on your driveway after you tell him you’re not interested because you don’t have a stand-alone freezer in the garage and there isn’t room in the freezer section of the fridge in your kitchen.

Or the guy who works at an outdoor products store who claps his hands and says, “so, I can definitely see you taking this home today!” as you sit in a five-figure UTV parked near the back of a dark showroom.

  • Carly Fiorina looks like a woman who does a bad “tribute to Celine Dion” show at a regional or state fair.

Or a flight attendant who says, “we only have Coke products” (drawing out the “only” and putting heavy emphasis on the “s” in products) when you ask for a Pepsi.

  • Ted Cruz looks like the guy who plays the hermit-like, slow-talking villain in a B-movie about teenagers exploring an abandoned mine town.

Or the guy who greets you at the entrance to a clown museum and says, “anyone who doesn’t like clowns doesn’t like America.”

  • Ben Carson looks like the guy inside an airport garage payment booth who says, “fye dollaz,” in a low monotone voice without making eye contact with you.

Or a guy driving a tram in the parking lot of a major theme park who keeps saying, “we’re glad you’re here, where every day is a beautiful day.”

  • Hillary Clinton looks like the woman behind the checkout counter at a liquor superstore who asks if you found “everything you needed.”

Or the woman sitting next to you on the subway who wants to know all about every dog you’ve owned in your life.

  • John Kasich looks like a college basketball coach who loosens his tie half way through the first quarter and yells “so it’s going to be like this again?” at the nearest referee.

Or a financial adviser who smiles and assures you “the same thing won’t happen this time.”

  • Donald Trump looks like a guy who would reminisce about his trip to Namibia while selling crystal jewelry on a TV shopping network.

Or a traveling representative of a hair products company who keeps saying, “just look what it’s done for me.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted online at www.houstonherald.com. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.