Posted by Pdianek on November 09, 2003
In Reply to: Anybody to help me out ? posted by James Briggs on November 09, 2003
: : Hello everyone,
: : I am French, quite fluent in US English after 10 years spent in California. However, I am reading at this time Angels Flight from Michael Connelly, and there are some difficult expressions that I have a hard times to fully understand. Here they are :
: : -Reach into the deck at any place and still pull the race card.
: : -We really got our tit in the wringer this time.
: : -Those guys didn't do jack before getting the hook.
: : -They back the tortoise before the hare any day of the week.
: : -rank and file
: : -it's your neck of the woods
: : -sounds like a slam dunk
: : Thanks for your help, Michael
: I can help with some:
: This is an example of a Fossil word in which an old meaning has been preserved in only one or two special sayings. Short shrift is another. In the case of neck the ancestor words in Old Breton (cnoch) and Old High German (hnack) both had a meaning of "hill" or "summit". This sense has been lost in all other uses of the word neck.
: The tortoise and the hare is a fable, possibly Aesop, where the slow but steady tortoise beats the erractic hare in a race.
: 'Rank and file' is military in origin, whereby the ordinary soldiers paraded in 'ranks and files'. A bit like columns and rows in a spreadsheet. Thus, ordinary people were charcterised as those that stood in these ranks, etc
"Reach into the deck at any place and still pull the race card." I'm betting there's a misspelling here -- it would make a great deal more sense if the word were "f-a-c-e" card: reach into the deck of 52 playing cards and pull the face card (knave, queen or king) at any point -- and therefore have a better chance of winning. Also used, of course, metaphorically -- someone who's so lucky in life that they can turn a questionable situation into one that works well for them, quite easily.
"Sounds like a slam dunk": a term from basketball. A slam dunk is an authoritative shot wherein the player, practically underneath the basket, jumps high and *shoves* the ball down through the net. So, off the court, a slam dunk is a move (in life) that makes it absolutely clear that the person has succeeded...in whatever they're trying.
"We really got our tit in the wringer this time": We really got into horrible trouble this time. A tit is a teat (breast/nipple), and a wringer is the part of what is known as a wringer washer (old-fashioned washing machine) -- some were partly electric, but most manually operated. When the clothes were washed, the operator (my grandmother, in the past) would take a piece of clothing and feed it through the wringer, while turning a crank. The wringer (formed of two wooden rollers placed close together) would squeeze excess water from the article of clothing. (This predates the spin cycle on washers!) To get one's "tit in the wringer" would obviously be incredibly painful...much as if it were caught in the rollers of a pasta machine, no?
"Those guys didn't do jack before getting the hook": Those guys didn't do anything (work, pleading for mercy, whatever) before being fired. In old American theater, mainly vaudeville, a bad peformer was occasionally dragged off the stage by someone (unseen) in the wings, using a long wooden cane with a hook/crook (much like a shepherd's crook). "Jack" is short for "jack shit" -- meaning "absolutely nothing".
Colorful language! -- hope this helps.