From the Desk of Don Slinger Issue 51

Summer 2004 CSANews Issue 51  |  Posted date : May 10, 2007.Back to list

Hi Folks!

In March, while Beth and I were visiting a friend near Kitchener, Ontario, an article in a local paper, Grand River Life caught my eye. I craned my neck to read it but Jean handed it to me to peruse later.

It is a tongue-in-cheek article which I enjoyed immensely. I’m passing it on to you. It’s entitled “Keeping an eye on body language (Heads up).”

When it comes to figures of speech, the English language gives us a full body workout.

That is, almost every part of the body can figure into a figure of speech.

Take the eye. I’m keeping my eye on you. Would you keep your eye out for the sales? Keep your eye on the ball. Would you eyeball this tax form? That guy at the bar is giving you the eye.

Non-English speakers, encountering such expressions for the first time, must be amazed that we can give someone our eye.

Then there are the feet. You put your best foot forward. No one puts their best arm forward, or their best hand forward. It’s always the best foot.

And which foot, exactly, is the better foot? Because you can fail by getting off on the wrong foot or succeed by having one foot in the door, so we should identify which is the correct foot to put forward, hold with or get in the door, and which is the foot to get off on.

You might presume that the wrong foot is the left foot, since a bad dancer has two of them. I wonder if someone with two right feet would be any better at dancing. Perhaps the clue is which foot the person puts in his mouth, or which is “the one foot in the grave.”

You can have a toehold on something, or you can test something by getting your toes wet, even if no water is involved. A person can be well-heeled or round-heeled, and the ability to dance is unimportant in either case.

As for legs, no one ever actually pulls your leg in the telling of a joke, and no one is ever actually on “their last legs.” If someone was in a hurry, to have them “shake a leg” would slow them down. For me, “getting a leg up” on the competition always summons images of dogs and fire hydrants, and maybe that’s where it comes from.

The belly gets its due. You can belly up to the bar, and then “belly ache” about whatever you’ve had a “bellyful” of.
Your shoulder is put to the wheel. And that’s a wagon wheel, not a grinding wheel, which is what you put your nose to. But why not put your back to the wagon wheel? You put your back “into it,” but no one ever says what “it” is.

You have to shoulder responsibility. You might carry the weight of the world on your shoulders, but someone very big has the whole world in his hands.

No one actually lends you a hand. If you ask someone to “give me a hand,” that person has to commit their entire body to the task, probably putting their back into it. Next time someone asks you to lend them a hand by running an errand, make them ask you to lend them a foot.

When you’re a success, they’ve “got to hand it to you” or “give the man a hand.” But when you “put your hands together” aren’t you praying?

The parts of the hand account for more figures of speech than the parts of the foot – a witness will “finger” the perpetrator, a student “knuckles down” to her studies, a rival “won’t lift a finger” to help unless he “knuckles under,” a domineering person might have you “under his thumb” and a lazy person has to "pull his thumb out of his butt.”

Finally, we reach the head, and some questions. What is the point of a head start, since the rest of the body has to “start” before the head can go anywhere? And what is it about being “head over heels” in love, since you are normally head over heels anyway? Now, if you were heels over head, that would be something.
Someone might give lip service, or have to endure tongue-wagging. They might bite off more than they can chew, but they can succeed if they have a good head on their shoulders and get that head out of the clouds.

As long as they don’t stick their neck out, be too cheeky or stick their nose where it doesn’t belong, and keep their chin up and their ear to the ground, they’ll be head and shoulders above the rest.

Now, can you get your head around all that?

Now doesn’t that boggle your mind? I hope that you enjoyed it as much as we did! Thanks to Lynn Haddrall, editor-in-chief of The Record (of Waterloo Region), for permission to reprint this Bill Bean article.

Final note: It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession in the world. Since I have been fighting with politicians during the past 14 months about our work pension cuts, I have concluded that this profession can’t be separated from the oldest profession.

God bless!