Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Sweet as pie

I read a blog at the weekend about the clichés that make people stop reading a book and throw it at the wall. The one quoted was fat people who move like lightning. I hadn’t stopped to think that one through before, but I suppose I will next time I come across it.

I don’t tend to throw books over clichés. If I’m going to throw books it’s more likely to be over injustice, crimes against humanity, misplaced apostrophes...

There are no particular clichés that really get my goat.

Why goat? What is the origin of that one? I can find two: the less likely that it comes from the use of goats as companions to nervy racehorses and thus getting someone’s goat would spook their horse and so annoy them. The other is that ‘get’ is used in the sense of ‘bring out’; thus brings out the goat in me, presupposing that I act like a goat when annoyed. Not sure about that. It isn’t usually annoyance that makes me want to eat everything in sight.

Here’s one – sweet as pie. It doesn’t enrage me, but it stops me. What sort of pie – steak and ale, chicken and mushroom, meat and potato? Is sweet the right word? If the intention is to signify sweetness, is pie the right word? Even apple pie doesn’t do it for those of us who prefer fruit pie to be tart and fighting back. Why not something unambiguously sweet – honey, sugar, fruit pastels?

Bald as a badger is another one. Why not bald as a train or a pencil-sharpener or a rock? Why something with hair, for heaven’s sake? Oh, OK, apparently it’s bald as a coot, though I’m sure it’s badger in this part of the world. A coot isn’t much better. No hair, but plenty of feathers. Black and white. There’s the key. Not hairless bald, but pie-bald.

If inhumanity gets my goat and humanity gets my vote... Does that make goat the opposite of vote? There’s an election coming so I’m going to use it that way. That’ll be just sweet as pie-bald.

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