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11 July 2017 @ 06:40 am
Today’s misleading British phrase: Tory MP has the whip withdrawn.
Elenbarathi: Knowledgeelenbarathi on July 12th, 2017 05:49 pm (UTC)
Hmmm... another surreal little instance in which I realize that my mother had a habit of inventing polite euphemisms for objectionable common (back in the day) phrases, and I've gone most of my life not knowing that they were euphemisms.

I was in college when I learned that the common idiom for hard haggling was not to 'chew you down', and past 40 before I found out that 'beggar-rich' hadn't originally referred to beggars. Now I discover that the phrase is not, as I'd always believed, 'a spider in the woodpile'. Sheesh, how many more of these did she make up?
El Coyote Gordo: buckysupergee on July 12th, 2017 06:43 pm (UTC)
Eeeny meeny miney mo. What do you catch by the toe? In my family it was a tiger.
Elenbarathi: Knowledgeelenbarathi on July 12th, 2017 08:51 pm (UTC)
In mine too - I didn't hear the offensive version till I was an adult.

To my mind, my mother's versions make a lot more sense than the offensive originals. Trying to get someone to lower his price, you chew him down, bite by bite, right? Give a beggar of any color a big chunk of cash, and he'll probably be broke again next day with nothing to show for it. And what's hiding in the woodpile, waiting to run up over your face as you carry a big armful of logs in? it might have been escaping slaves once, long ago, but it's definitely spiders now.

Catching a tiger by the toe doesn't really make sense, but it does both alliterate and rhyme, which is what counts. There's no particularly good part by which to catch a tiger: either catch the whole tiger at once, or leave the beast alone.

'Eeeny feeeny finey fail,
Catch a tiger by the tail,
Cry for help will not avail,
Eeeny feeeny finey fail.'