The QotD today is “What's a saying or phrase that's never made sense to you?” There are plenty of sayings that at one time made no sense to me, but being as I am a painfully curious person by nature and prone to spending ridiculous amounts of time researching an obsession, I have always come to eventually understand even the most absurd colloquialisms. So what I’d like to do is
discuss get snarky about a few of the phrases that have wasted consumed a good deal of my time with painstaking analysis.
Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth
Not that I had this undying conviction that the mouth was the most attractive aspect of your typical pack animal, but I couldn’t figure out why anyone would care if my gaze happened to finally settle on that particular area of my new birthday pony (were I the sort of rosy-cheeked Stepford child to be given such harebrained gifts, of course). I mean, it’s my damned horse now, right? I can look at whatever part I want, can’t I? The mouth? Hell, maybe I want to scope out the butt! What do you think of that!?
Turns out that what this expression means is that you shouldn’t be concerned with the horse’s value (i.e. the quality of its teeth) if the horse was bestowed upon you as a gift. In other words, if someone gives present, you shouldn’t go nitpicking its qualities. Be nice if they’d have just said that instead of tossing out some random equine metaphor.
Don’t Throw Out the Baby with the Bath Water
Sure, I knew it was an expression as old as the hills and thus came from a time before man figured out how to put a drain in the bottom of the bathtub. But why would anyone voluntarily throw a baby out? Well, because they stink and they’re loud and they’re selfish and they’ll bite and urinate on you without provocation or remorse, that’s why! But still, no one deliberately throws a baby out. That tends to be frowned upon by the community and qualifies one for a life in prison. So why build an entire expression around an idea so ludicrous?
In short, the answer is that humans are disgusting and illogical creatures.
The longer version is that back in the day, entire families would share a single bath. The water would be drawn and Father, being the hardest-working (yeah, sure) and being the man (the eternal trump card), would take his bath first. Next, Mother would take her bath followed by the children in descending order of age*. By virtue of this remarkably silly method, the baby would be bathed last. Considering that an entire family of dusty-ass pioneers had just deposited all their bodily grime into the tub, the water at this point probably looked like the puddle at the bottom of the neglected swimming pool at the Hourly Rates Motel. The implication, then, is that the water is so dirty that you forget the baby is in there and just toss the entire works out into the yard.
Again, it would have been so much clearer (to non-yokels) if they would have just said, “Don’t dismiss the valid points of the issue just because of irrelevant information.”
You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It Too
See, the confusion lies in the fact that to most of us “having” a piece of cake and “eating” a piece of cake are the same thing. This idiom apparently comes from a time when people forewent consuming frosted desserts in favor of the more popular pastime of keeping them in glass boxes on the mantel.
Have you seen the new cake by Chef Pierre?
Why, yes. I have a piece in my curio next to my slice of vintage Antoinette Angel Food.
*groan* I was foolish and ate mine! I could just kick myself!
Yes, well, that will certainly make it difficult for you to get tickets to Der Fledermaus this weekend.
Put simply: if you eat it, you don't have it anymore. Once again, we see how it is simpler to just say what you mean.
It means to have sex, evidently without bothering to remove your footwear first. It really only makes literal sense to cowboys and lipstick lesbian porn stars. It’s fun to toss out in casual conversation, though.
*Some accounts specify that all the males got to bathe before the females.