A couple months ago, I clipped a news item for my wife.
It was about an alleged rape at her old high school in New Hampshire.
To me, the story was of passing interest, mainly because it occurred at her alma mater.
But my wife really went in-depth. She stayed up late reading articles online and printing them out for our children, ages 13 and 12.
“So they learn what constitutes rape,” my wife said.
“And how to avoid the situation,” she said.
Hmm. Okay. I hadn’t really intended to start a household conversation. But no problem. Always good to talk things out.
Soon enough, I realized my wife and daughter were following the court case closely. They were waiting eagerly for the verdict.
They were rooting for the defendant to be acquitted of the felony charges.
And somehow my daughter had come away from the news stories with a positive picture of the school.
“I kind of want to go to there,” she said.
What the hell?
All this culminated in an animated discussion one evening at our kitchen table.
I started by telling my wife and daughter:
b) They were on the wrong side; and
c) Of course the kid looked nice in court, he was dressed up for court.
As usual, my own opinions went in one ear, out the other.
The boy wound up getting convicted of multiple misdemeanors and one felony which, admittedly, seemed somewhat misapplied. (The felony was ‘using a computer to seduce, solicit, lure or entice a child under the age of 16.’ He was 18, she was 15. They had traded emails about their upcoming date.)
But ultimately, some tangential good did arise from our household fascination with the case. It yielded two new entries in my wife’s already impressive array of mangled idioms.
THE HERRING BONE
As Aleen discussed the rape case, she referred to one set of emails as ‘the herring bone of the whole thing.’
This might have confused other listeners, but I have spent 30 years de-coding Aleen.
There was a double error, I realized. She meant ‘red herring.’ But even that was wrong, since a ‘red herring’ is a seemingly important clue which turns out to be irrelevant.
What she really meant was ‘smoking gun,’ or alternatively, the ‘backbone’ of the case.
But hey, ‘herring bone’ works, too.
Here, Aleen was aiming for ‘Pavlov’s dogs,’ but wound up instead with ‘Pavel’s mouse.’ (Sounds like the protagonist of a children’s story.)
Aleen has always blamed her aphoristic smash-ups on being an immigrant. She arrived in the U.S. from Beirut at just 10 months old. Her parents never used any American sayings, she says.
Maybe mangled idioms ought to factor into our national debate on immigration.
I, for one, would be against that.
But I’ll discuss it with my wife and daughter. There’s a good chance they will see it differently.