Ilene Evans Linguistics
Language Usage 1-7
Language Phrases – What is revealing and distinctive about them?…..
6/18/09 Michael Hughes as John Ross for the Chautauqua Oklahoma Series
1. Armed to the teeth - Heavily armed – from the pirate days of Port Royal Jamaica in the 1600’s.
Pirates were constantly looking for ships to loot and their guns were very primitive. As a result, pirates could shoot only once before a long reloading process. Consequently, they needed to carry a gun in each hand, and also perhaps in each pocket. For extra power, they would also hold a knife between their teeth. So to be armed to the teeth means to carry the maximum number of weapons possible.
I thought this was a funny story :
In Reply to: Armed to the teeth posted by Alex Haney on June 04, 2007
Regarding your explanation of "armed to the teeth" - I recently took a bus tour of the Scotland highlands. During the tour it was explained that "armed to the teeth" referred to a river in Scotland called the Teith. There was an important trading post along the Teith which fell directly between two hostile territories, so when folks would travel to the Teith to do their business they would make sure to be heavily armed in case any conflict occurred. Thus they were "armed to the teith" - at least that's how it was explained to me...
A classic illustration of one of the universal laws of etymology: never trust a word or phrase origin told you by a tour guide! (VSD)
6/17/09 Carrol Peterson while portraying Walt Whitman
2. Showed a fair pair of heels – to scurry away I a hurry, to take to ones heels
show somebody a clean pair of heels (British) to go faster than someone else in a race Butler showed them all a clean pair of heels as he raced for the finishing line.
The light hearted phrase seems to be more British than American, but I thought it was such a funny image as the heels are moving quickly away form he one left behind watching.
3. To die by inches - to give up life in small bits and by stages, to waste away. I think this is one of the saddest images I have. The gradual loss of life is a kind of withering we saw photos and images of when people were release from the prisons of Auschwitz or Andersonville. For Walt Whitman, it would be the latter. The image changed how America came to view itself and define its humanitarian values. We saw that kind of sorrowful sight with the early aids victims, cancer patients and TB.
To die by inches : an account of the Fermoy Poor Law Union during the Great Famine, 1845-1850 by Edward Garner: Published in 1986, ÉIGSE BOOKS (Fermoy, Co. Cork, Ireland)
4. Cheeks yet blooming – young looking, fresh and tender the phrase was in one of the poems that Carrol was reading by Walt Whitman. Whitman saw people’s beauty with great tenderness and the phrase made me think of the time when the young are just really beginning to flesh out with all the excitement, hope and enthusiasm we associate with the unblemished.
6/18/09 Charles Pace while portraying Fredrick Douglas during Chautauqua Oklahoma
5. “I ran up on a friend of mine” Douglass is using a vernacular phrase to describe a chance meeting with a friend on the street. He ran up on him is like being caught off guard, not expecting to see them in that circumstance or place. It stands out in the program because so much if his speech is so eloquent and he seems to avoid the vernacular. So there is meaning in the word choice.
6. “Making fat the soil of America” Douglass is using this phrase in reference to the wealth of America gained by the hard labor of slaves. The fat of the land is one metaphor Douglass uses as a foundation for this phrase because soil is land, and like land is a foundation on which all things stand. It is different because it soil is what we call the most fertile and productive parts of land. to add to the wealth (Fat) of and soil as a foundation.
7. “Uncompromising as justice” Douglass is using this phrase when he is being emphatic about his response to the passing of the Fugitive Slave law passed in 1850. This law provided for legal support for the return of bondsmen who had run for their freedom. He was moved to such an active state that he spoke out against it threatening any who acted to capture and return a freeman or a fugitive would be met with force, a force as “uncompromising as justice”, because he believed that justice was on his side and not on the slaveholders side.