Thursday, November 24, 2011

Talking the Talk: "Never encircle a prince on a hill"

Here are some "British" sayings. Idioms. Proverbs. Something.

[Note: at first I googled for "English" proverbs. Because that's what I wanted to post about. The results came back 90% American. I guess "English" is a language to google and not a country or a people. I had to google "British proverbs" to get google to give me some English proverbs. Note the clear racism here, Adullamite.]

Anyway, first I will give the idiom or saying and then I will tell you what I think it means. Finally, I may give you what it actually means. Or you may give me the correct answer in a comment.

[Note to visitors: you don't have to comment about this stuff; you can comment about frozen pumpkins if you want to. Or Moravia. That's it, tell us where Moravia is. Just thank you for coming.]

If I do decide to give the correct answers at the bottom of this post, I promise not to mention 1887 PM Robert Salisbury.

1. "Bob's your uncle."

This means your father has a brother named Robert.

2. "Keep your pecker up."

This is traditionally what the English say when they feed pigeons in the park.

3. "Big girl's blouse."

A comment made by old men on a park bench about passing lasses: "Oi mate, she has to wear a big girl's blouse, eh?" And then they both chortle.

4. "Burning the candle at both ends."

Needs more light than a candle gives off.

5. "His eyes are bigger than his belly."

The bloke has humongous eyes.

6. "Sleep tight."

Go to sleep drunk.

7. "Gordon Bennett."

Beats me.

8. "Stone the crows."

Beats me.

9. "Talk the hind legs off a donkey."

This probably means he talks a lot.

10. "Do you want a brew?"

This means, "Do you want a beer?"

11. "As queer a a nine bob note."

This means nothing.

12. "Popped his clogs."

Stunned his mullet? (It sounded Australian, but Australian for croak is cork it, no? Maybe "cark it.")

13. There was only 12 and I always need 13 for my lists, so I will put one down here that I already know: "Bugger this for a game of soldiers."

It means (roughly) to lure a group of manly military personnel into a gay bar.

[Final note: I've decided not to put the real meanings down here after all.]


  1. The capital of Moravia is Brno. Almost frozen, don't you think?

  2. 13? Gosh. No wonder your pumpkins are freezing.

  3. The Bren Gun was the standard light machine-gun of british and commonwealth forces from the late 1930s onward, and later versions saw service as late as the gulf war. Some units probably still have them.
    Its name derives from Brno, the capital city of Moravia, where the gun was designed,and Enfield in England, where the guns were made in large numbers by the BSA factory.

    Moravians of the Czech Unity of Brethren seeking a home away from religious persecution founded, in 1744, the Fulneck Moravian Settlement in Yorkshire.
    Benjamin Latrobe, 'father of American architecture' was born in Fulneck, of parents of Moravian descent. Probably the most familiar piece of Latrobe's work is the portico on the White House.

    11. Bent, not queer, "As bent as a nine-bob note".

    Pumpkin: the offspring of a pump. Must be kept from freezing. the traditional way is by eviscerating the said creature, and placeng a lit candle, burning at one end only, within the scooped out body cavity.

    "My candle burns at both ends
    It will not last the night
    But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends —
    It gives a lovely light!"
    Edna St Vincent Millay.

  4. 7. Gordon Bennett

    In 1877 at a New Year's party held by his fiancee's father, he got so "rat arsed" or "of his face" (drunk) that he mistook the fireplace for a urinal and pissed in front of his hosts and their guests. It is believed to be a true story but has never been properly verified.

    Now when some one commits a "faux pas" his name is uttered. It's a bit like saying "Not another one!"

  5. I always thought Gordon Bennett was just a replacement for seomthing like God Almighty. Growing up in the north of England, it wasn't something I heard too often though.

  6. Gordon Bennet is worthy of a historical post all of his own. He was the owner of the New York Herald, and a millionaire, a drunk, and a playboy who lived lavishly.
    Also a veteran of America's civil war.
    He was also the man who sent Henry Morton Stanley to seek out Dr Livingstone, in an epic expedition into unexplored Africa, and then funded Stanley's further expeditions across Africa.

    His pissing in the fireplace in front of his fiancee, her family, and their guests, after arriving extremely late and extremely drunk, is pretty well documented, followed, as it was, by the fiancee's brother threatening to horsewhip him. (His father, Gordon Bennet senior, was no stranger to horsewhipping, he horsewhipped a rival newspaper proprietor).
    Bennet challenged his prospective brother-in-law to a duel, in which neither sustained any bullet-wound.
    After this scandal, pretty much nobody in American high society cared or dared to be seen in his company. As a result, he exiled himself to Paris, and continued to run his New York paper from there. He was very involved in the development of transatlantic tegeraph and telephone cables, and co-founded a marine cable-laying company.
    He was very interested in the new technologies of the automobile, and of flying machines. His paper offered cash prizes for balloonists flying the furthest distance from a common launch site, this race is still the premier competititive hot-air balloon event (
    Gordon Bennett also sponsored Yacht, car, and airplane races, and offered prizes for record breaking flights.

  7. They say, those who say these things, that Gordon Bennett is an example of a minced oath. It was likely it started to be used in place of "gor blimey", which was itself a replacement for "God blind me".

  8. @Sheila - I will take your word for the capital of Moravia because I don't know that much about Quebec. You are the postcards expert. They only thing I know for sure about Moravia is that it is shaped like a nut.

    @A. - I always set my things at 13. It seems a good average. :)

    @Soubriquet - I know nothing of guns since I am a pacifist, though I have owned a .303 Enfield which was stolen, though I still have a magazine full of big ol' bear rounds they left on the shelf next to it, and, though I have heard of the Boy Scouts of America, I didn't know they were founded by Moravians. I had heard it was John Wilkes Booth, another Civil War veteran of sorts. Or maybe Booth (Boothe?) was the one that did the Salvation Army (I think they use Enfields, too.)

    Thank you for telling me who was to blame for that godawful portico. I keep waiting for that giant wrought iron lamp to fall on somebody's head, don't you? Or perhaps that is on the back porch and not on the actual official portico. I was pretty sure it was a Moravian descendent though.

    I found your comment about Cheques fleeing to England, or nearby Yorkshire, at least, for religious freedom whereas our Pilgrims flee'd FROM Yorkshire, or somewhere, perhaps Great Falmouth - no it must have been Plymouth because that's what the named the rock when they got there - to escape the King's Cavalier attitude towards non-COEers. Did you know that the University of Virigina (itself named after good queen Bess, I think, probably in an attempt to secure more royal grants, are called the Cavaliers? Probably irrelevant since the Pilgrim puritans landed in Cape Cod, then Plymouth, and started Thanksgiving and frozen pumpkin pies. Have you been to Providencetown? The one at the tip of Cape Cod? I have. And I can't imagine the sumbitch in the dead of winter. No wonder they gave Thanksgiving for escaping to Plymouth the next year. Providence? It ain't. Or maybe they named it as it was providencially fading in the Mayflower's rear-view mirror.

    Bren, you say? Made by DC troup 119, BSA. Well, I can believe it. I was a cub scout once, but no guns. CUB stands for Czech Unity of Brethren: "I, state your name, promise to do my best to do my duty, to be square and to obey the law of the pack." Or similar. Being of only 8 or 9 years of age, we had no fulnecks in our den.

    Did you know Edna St. Vincent Millay wasn't actually real, but only another pen name of those wacky Bronte sisters?

  9. @Symdaddy - Yours is the most logical explanation, I think. It is the one I will use, as it has no Moravians in it. :)

    @Expat Mum - I keep meaning to explore (Wikipedia-speaking, at least) the north of England for some time now. All I know about, in tiny part, is Durham. I think that is north. I was hoping you might explain the stoning crows thing. Perhaps that is just the name of a rock band. :)

  10. @Soubriquet - The more I research Gordon Bennett, the more interesting he is. Was he a race car driver too?

    @A. - You almost had me believing you. Up until the God Blind Me part. :)

  11. Perhaps I got Edna mixed up with Stephen Vincent Benet. I often do. Perhaps it was he who didn't exist except in ...

  12. The dictionary says croze is the groove around the end of a barrel which holds the top or bottom of the barrel. Or the coopers tool to make same.

    It is speculated that to stone the croze is to smooth it true to place the top tightly; or to pop open the keg or cask at times of celebration.

    I reject all this out of hand. Crows is black and they fly. You throw stones at them when they try to kill your lambs.

  13. Dissenters in Yorkshire? There's a tradition of taking folk like that in. Huguenots, moravians, jews etc. As for pilgrims and dissenters, John Wesley was a yorkshireman.
    Your .303 Enfield was also originally a BSA product, later, of course, made in multiple locations. Solid, simple, heavy. Our school ones had no magazine, single shot.

    Gordon Bennet. Over the years, I've read quite a lot about him, after I too started wondering why "Gordon Bennett" was used as an expletive, then working in the library, reading early 1900s motoring journals, and learning of the various Gordon Bennet trophy races on land air and sea.
    Did he race cars? I'm not sure whether he did, but he certainly encouraged those who did. He raced yachts though, winning the first transatlantic yacht race. Of course, those were the days when rich men had big yachts and left the working of them to professional crews, so he might just have been drinking hard liquor all the way.
    BSA.... boy scouts... the BSA works diversified from rifles and made bicycles and motorbikes too.
    The Moravian bloke was chief architect of the Capitol too. And designed the public waterworks of new orleans....
    He did not design the capitol dome though.
    Stone the Croze? If you bashed the end of a barrel in it would be stoved. Stove the croze? But, the sides, not the ends are the staves, and the end's the butt.

  14. Not MY butt, by god. But I remember singing the old hymn "Bringing in the Staves." Often fellow worshipers croze as I sang almost loudly enough to stove in the dome. A capital idea.

    And I wuddn't be abraggin' too much right now if I had invented the New Orleans water drainage system. Just sayin'. Or maybe you meant "fire" works.

    Your mention of John Wesley Hardin being a dissenter strikes me as an understatement, though I had thought it mostly Texas rather than Yorkshire. I yield to your superior memory on that.



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