You know darn well what that fly’s been

There are so many expressions out there that make no sense once you start to think about them.

There are so many expressions out there that make no sense once you start to think about them.

Sure, you can attract more flies with honey than vinegar.

But why would you want to? Flies are annoying. People are always saying, “Don’t let that fly land in the potato salad, you don’t know where it’s been.” What they really mean is they know exactly where that fly has been, which is why they don’t want it in the potato salad.

Taking candy from a baby is not easy. They have surprisingly tight fists and can scream very loud. If finding yourself between a grizzly and her cubs concerns you, then finding yourself surrounded by a park full of mothers after being caught sticky handed stealing a baby’s candy should terrify you.

Speaking of sticky handed, why would you even want candy after a baby has had it? They may be cute, but they drool. And worse. And how about the expression “slept like a baby”? What is that about? You ask someone how they slept and they grin and say, “Great! I slept like a baby.” If you slept like a baby wouldn’t that mean you woke up screaming every four hours?

Easy as pie; obviously an expression that originated from some smug Suzy Homemaker back in the ’50s who was trying to make her sisters feel inferior. Making pie isn’t that easy. Oh, maybe if you buy a pair of frozen crusts and just open a can of filling. Making a pie from scratch is not trouble-free. Those crusts are tricky. They stick to the rolling pin, rip in half when you try to lift them into the pan and all kinds of frustrating things. And have you ever made cherry filling from scratch? It’s the pits.

I have one of those books that tell you the origins of various expressions and clichés. Some are kind of interesting, like how an acre came to be used as a measurement of land. An acre — 4,840 square yards — was simply the amount of land one average team of oxen could plough in a day.

We live in an age of acronyms. LOL for laugh out loud, KFC for Kentucky Fried Chicken, DINK for double income no kids. BTW (by the way) You can recognize dinks by their stain-free clothes, relaxed demeanour and the fact they own their own home

One of the oldest and most commonly used acronyms has to be “OK” It dates back to the U.S. presidential election in 1840 when democratic candidate Martin Van Buren hailed from “Old Kinderhook” a Hudson Valley village. His supporters formed a group in New York City cal led “The Democratic O.K. Club” and repeatedly yelled out “OK” as a sort of battle cry to break up meetings of the opposition. OK became associated with Van Buren being the right choice. Or would that be the left choice? Regardless, this acronym for Old Kinderhook soon spread beyond the political arena, sweeping across the western world to indicate general approval.

Not all expressions — acronyms or otherwise — have enjoyed the same longevity as OK For instance, my expression and cliché book explains why we refer to our pocket watches as turnips. Turnips!

“Excuse me sir, but do you have the time?”

“Just a second, let me check my turnip.”

The origin to what was once apparently a common moniker came from the Mother Goose rhyme “if wishes were horses beggars would ride; if turnips were watches I’d wear one by my side.”

So there you have it. The answer to a question you would never have asked. Aren’t you glad you took the time to read this?

The Alaska Highway News in Fort St John, B.C. has always carried the subtitle “the only newspaper to give a tinker’s dam about the North Peace.” Thanks to my new book, I finally know what a tinker’s dam is.

When a tinker was preparing a vessel for soldering he would make a small dam out of clay to keep the solder from spreading. When he was finished and the solder had hardened he would throw away the dam.

Since the dam was something you threw away, a tinker’s dam came to be known as anything that was insignificant or worthless. Now if I just knew what a tinker was, I’d be completely enlightened.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from the Peace River country. You can visit her online at

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