Sunday, 7 August 2016

Idiotic Idioms

By now most of us will have suffered the misfortune of having encountered at least of few minutes of Jeremy Kyle and heard him use a seemingly infinite string of dumb and gross cliches - full house; early doors; grow a pair, etc. As these phrases seem to be catching, I wondered just when these were first coined and whether there is any explanation as to the origins of this drivel?

EARLY DOORS - one I find particularly annoying as it is in almost constant use by football commentators and pundits. It is most often attributed to Ron Atkinson, better known as a manager than a player (and for very good reason), who may well have made it popular with others in the media but certainly did not invent the phrase. The earliest references come from the days of music hall, when the cheap seats were available on a first-come first-serve basis, unlike the better seats which would have seen less demand and possibly pre-booked. Hence the doors to the ticket office were effectively opened twice, firstly for the cheaper and unreserved seats and thus referring to something obtained or achieved 'early doors'.

GROW A PAIR - is something many find offensive for its obvious sexual overtones. However think about what the user is saying and how it is used. Invariably it is intended to end a debate or discussion, therefore should be seen as three words replacing "I most certainly do not agree with your statement but have neither the word power nor debating skills to put together a contradictory argument". Origins are hotly disputed but seems to be fairly recent and thus probably came from American English and, along with the similar phrase 'man up', could well have military origins.

FULL HOUSE - clearly comes from the term used in poker - for those unaware (like me) it refers to a hand with three of a kind and a pair - which apparently beats a flush but not four of a kind. In general parlance the phrase means 'everything, without exception' but this is hardly true of the poker hand or one would have thought four of a kind would be more of a 'full house'. Some think this began as 'full hand', while others suggest the pair represent the parents and the three of a kind the kids in a 'full house'.

NO-BRAINER - suggests this requires little mental agility to be understood. It comes from American English and is first seen in print in December 1959 in the strip cartoon The Berrys.

24-7 - another of my personal dislikes, so much so I multiplied the two numbers and always use '168 hours a week' - once did so to a barrister and he, baffled by the phrase, learned it was something I use to get ahead in any discussion even though it certainly has nothing whatsoever to do with the subject. Said barrister was so delighted by me throwing him he asked if he could use it in the courtroom whenever he could. The phrase 24-7 is said to have been coined by the US magazine Sports Illustrated when, in 1983, spoke of Jerry Reynolds describing his jump shot as a useful weapon at any time.

BAD HAIR DAY - although this first appeared in print in 1988, the phrase remained virtually unknown until four years later when heard in the film Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

BANG ON ABOUT - using 'bang' instead of 'exactly' originates around 1940 in America, although why and by whom is a puzzle.

BILLY NO MATES - not seen in print before 1996 when the Daily Mirror newspaper printed a report on the University Boat Race under the headline NICE LADS, SHAME ABOUT THE BOAT RACE included a biography on each rower, including the 21-year-old student of theology, standing 6ft 3ins and weighing in at 12st 11lbs, who's nickname is given as Billy No-Mates.

CHICK FLICK - a phrase not seen until the 1990s and probably first applied to the 1991 movie Thelma and Louise, itself promoted with the line "Someone said get a life .... they got a life".

GRASS UP - not used outside of the criminal fraternity until the 1990s, although first appearing in print in the 1930s. The term likely originates from 'snake in the grass', snakes seen as evil figures at least since the book of Genesis was first penned.

HAPPY AS LARRY - has been used to describe someone overjoyed since at least 1875. Its original use almost certainly came from Australia or New Zealand although just who Larry was remains uncertain. Either this refers to Australian boxer Larry Foley (1847-1917) who retired undefeated, at the age of 32, with his final purse amounting to a staggering £1,000. Hence he would have been smiling rather a lot. It is also suggested this came from an antipodean slang term larrikin speaking a 'a ruffian, hooligan' and enjoys a good lark.

HAVE NO TRUCK WITH - meaning 'to have nothing to do with' but originally used to mean the complete opposite, 'to do business with' in the 17th century. It comes from French troque meaning 'an exchange, a barter'.

OFF HIS OWN BAT - and never 'off his own back' which is simply a misheard version, this meaning 'on his own'. The first mention in print dates from 1742, when Thomas Waghorn wrote about cricketer Richard Newland the world's first truly great all-rounder known as 'the Slendon Man'. All the original comments regarding 'off his own bat' referred to a score of 40 runs or more.

SQUEAKY BUM TIME - this dumb phrase speaks of 'the tense final moments of a competition' and is first found in print on March 18th 2003 in the Daily Express Newspaper and a quote from Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson when attempting to play mind games with rivals Arsenal.

I looked up the origins of the name 'Kyle' and find this is a noun in Scotland defined as 'a narrow channel of water between two islands or between an island the mainland, a strait or sound'. Perhaps this last meaning of 'sound' could lead to the use of 'kyle' as a euphemism and defined as 'a sound, particularly one considered most irritating'.

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