Tuesday, March 20, 2012

off the gravy train

When I was tucking the kids in one night last week, I kissed C's forehead and said goodnight.  He pulled his favorite stuffed animal (a mole, creatively named "Moley") from under the covers and said in Moley's voice, "What am I, chopped liver?"  So I kissed the disgusting stuffed mole that has been dragged through who knows what outside and around the house -- deciding that it was, at least, moderately less gross than actual chopped liver.

That night, Kathy had to take a client to a hockey game.  She is not a big fan of hockey games, but there are worse ways to spend a Thursday evening.  Except that Kathy forgot the tickets, and had to get off the train halfway into the city, and the babysitter had to drive to the random train station in the Bronx and meet her to hand off the tickets.  Then, because Kathy was at the hockey game, I was supposed to let the babysitter go at 7.  Except that I got stuck at work until 7:40, so she had to stay til 8.  Meh.  All of this is just a long way of getting to the point, which is that I told Kathy on the train the following morning, "Last night was such a debacle.  You should tell that client of yours if he doesn't give you a bunch of business, he's off the gravy train."

"My dad used to say that all the time," Kathy commented.  "Where did that expression even come from?"

Being around kids is such an interesting insight into how language and idioms develop.  C has no idea what chopped liver is, but he knows that "What am I, chopped liver?" means "What about me?"  Eventually, the words lose their original meaning, and develop into expressions that we say because our parents said them.  They become more and more synonymous with their metaphor, until they stop being metaphors at all, because what IS a gravy train, and who even eats chopped liver?


Does anyone else think it's a weird coincidence that Gravy Train is a dog food,
and chopped liver is also basically dog food? 

By the way. Going to college is a revelatory experience in this regard.  I thought that a perfectly normal response to, "Who, me?" was "No, Roy Clapp," because that's what my mom always said.  It turns out that this is not normal at all.  In fact, Roy Clapp was the dry cleaner in the town my mom grew up in.  This response, I later learned, was developed because my mom, as a child, said, "Who, me?" when asked to do a chore by her own mother.  My grandmother, who was picking up the dry cleaning at the time, sarcastically responded, "No, Roy Clapp."  And thus, a family idiom was born.

1 comment:

  1. like the rule of thumb... you can beat your wife with something as long as it's smaller than your thumb.