IF IT WAS A SNAKE, IT WOULD’VE BIT ME

My wife is up to her old tricks again, mangling idioms at an alarming rate.

Here are three recent mix-ups from my Beirut-born beloved.

They threw you under the river

This one is a physical impossibility.  How can you get thrown under a river?

Aleen was aiming for, “They sold you down the river,” or “They threw you under the bus.”  Instead she came up with a phrase which sounds like it’s from a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel.  I like to imagine Salma Hayek delivering this line.

Okay, I like to imagine Salma Hayek, period.  But I believe she would do justice to the phrase.

The emperor’s new shoes

The final word here should have been ‘clothes,’ but Aleen got specific and went for ‘shoes’ instead.

I am not sure what kind of new shoes an emperor would wear. I think they would have curly toes.

But truthfully, the original saying is kind of boring.  Maybe Aleen’s update is an improvement.

You are talking out of both sides of your ass

This one’s a definite improvement.

Aleen mashed together two well-known expressions:  Talking out of your ass, and Talking out of both sides of your mouth.

I regret to report that she was addressing me when she made this accusation.

If it was a snake, it would’ve bit me

Aleen didn’t say this one.  A clerk at the Beverly Hills courthouse did.  She was an African-American woman in her mid-40s.  She was shuffling through papers in my client’s case.  When she found what she was looking for, she said, “If it was a snake, it would’ve bit me.”

Actually, the way she said it sounded more like, Snake, idda bit me.

This isn’t a mangled idiom.  The clerk said it correctly.  It means, “The thing I was looking for was right in front of me.”

The clerk said she learned the expression from her grandmother.  According to the internet, this saying is popular in the South.

Speaking of snakes, my brother Bob was hunting for quail a couple of weeks ago in Colorado when he and his wife ran across a rattlesnake.  He shot the head off the snake, but the decapitated snake continued to slither off down the road and was still wriggling when Bob picked it up for a photo. 

Don’t ask me why Bob picked it up for a photo.  He just did.  And as long as he did, I kind of wish the picture showed the actual torn and bloody neck.  Alas.

Snakes are not the only animals which keep moving after they are dead, decapitated, or dismembered.  At a child’s birthday party several years ago, I tried to delight the young crowd by showing them a lizard which I’d found on the pavement.

I picked up the little guy by his tail.  The tail came off.  The terrified lizard took off running.  I was left holding the squirming, wriggling little abandoned tail.

The faces of gathered toddlers went from amazement to disgust, and in one case, to tears.

I was a big hit at the party!

Here’s a second, bonus story concerning reptiles and crying children.  It’s from my reporting days 17 years ago at the St. Petersburg Times in Florida.

One fine June morning in Osceola County, reptile expert George VanHorn was preparing to extract venom from a 12-foot-long king cobra named Show Material.

Thirty kids from the Good Beginnings daycare center in Melbourne, Fla., were watching from the other side of the glass as the greenish-gold snake suddenly launched itself from a table in the center of the room.  The snake attacked George and injected a big dose of cobra venom into his arm.

George was rushed to the hospital.  He was in a coma for 3 days.  He survived the incident, but lost partial use of his arm.

For my own part, I wanted to know more about the toddlers from Good Beginnings.  That’s one field trip I would like to have attended, if for no other reason than to help tamp down the collective Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder response.  (Well, and also to see a 12-foot cobra attack his keeper.)

It wasn’t the best way to begin the day for the preschoolers.  “They were all asking me, ‘Is he okay?  Is he going to die?'”  said teacher Mike Szewczyk.  “I didn’t know myself.”

Truthfully, now I don’t feel so bad about the lizard tail at the birthday party.

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About kittroyer

Kit Troyer lives in Los Angeles.
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7 Responses to IF IT WAS A SNAKE, IT WOULD’VE BIT ME

  1. Nancy says:

    Once again, a very funny break in my day. Thanks.

  2. ethan says:

    genius

  3. Nick says:

    I miss Aleen sooooo much! Please send her my best! x

  4. Great post! I constantly mangle all kinds of “expressions” even though I have no excuse as I was born in NYC! I wish I had an example but my memory sucks which is why I mess up those kinds of expressions… I think I should be more afraid of snakes but due to my dwelling I am much more terrified of the idea of bedbugs!

  5. Dennis Colonello says:

    Aleen is a slab off her mothers block

  6. Karen Todd says:

    Book then t-shirts then film. Come on, let’s merchandise! This stuff is gold. Thanks for the uplift.

  7. Bill Todd says:

    Aleen didn’t get her b.a. for $.25 and a Wheaties boxtop. I’m guessing that even in the heat of a domestic dispute she knew what she was doing. The Russian Formalists call it “defamiliarization” — остранение. Some pretty good writers (Tolstoy, Gogol for starters) built credible careers on such brilliant turns of phrase. The third, I’ll bet, a conversation stopper.

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