In Reply to: Shroomless wonk + posted by ESC on February 01, 2009 at 16:07:
: : : Origin of phrases:
: : : 1. Shroomless wonk (A preposterous adjective dismissing further a negative person for having failed to take an opiatic drug!)
: : : 2. Level the ashes (Put a lid, close the door on past -- after cremation was done in thee open?
: : : 3. Buttons and cotton deal - from U.S. cotton field tolls? (basic deal where all you get for picking cotton?).
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: : I don't think these phrases can be that common - NONE of them show up if you Google the phrases. A few random thoughts:
: : 1. I believe I've heard the phrase - some years back, mind - but can't find a reference. Shrooms are "magic mushrooms" containing alkaloids (not opiates)like mescaline or psilicybin. I heard the phrase used roughly to mean " a really straight and boring sort of nerd".
: : 2. In the UK, in the old days, we used to "smooth the ashes" (as opposed to "level"). But this was opening a door on the future, not closing one on the past. You smoothed the ashes on New Year's Eve, and examined them the next morning for any signs as to what the new year would bring (a ring meant a wedding, etc.). Referenced back to the 1600s and likely to go back a lot further.
: : 3. I'd be more inclined to think this was to do with low value goods - a pack of buttons and a small spool of cotton sold for pennies. I'm ready to be proved wrong.
: : (GC)
: I couldn't find "buttons and cotton deal" in my political dictionaries or in the one financial slang book that I have. I am finding all kinds of meanings for "button." Button house/button job -- union bar. Button man -- killer in a gang. Button -- a lookout. Dart board bulls-eye. In gambling, the mark used to indicate the deal position. ("The Slang of Sin by Tom Dalzell, Merriam-Webster Inc., Springfield, Mass., 1998). Anatomical meanings: clitoris, baby penis, or testes of animals. Drugs: peyote button. ("Slang: the authoritative topic-by-topic dictionary of American lingoes from all walks of life" by Paul Dickson, Pocket Books, 1990, 1998)
An afterthought - re ashes. If the phrase is a remembrance of an old superstition, of people literally levelling the ashes so as to leave no mark, then this sort of thing seems to go back a bit - certainly to the 6th century BC. As well as doing triangles and stuff, Pythagoras founded a sort of pseudo-religion. From: http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/pythagoras/p/Pythagoras.htm
The Pythagoreans (followers of Pythagoras) branched out. Those who adhered strictly to his precepts were known as the Akousmatikoi 'Hearers'; the others were called the Mathematikoi 'the learned'. Among the unusual rules the "Hearers" followed were injunctions against eating beans, letting the mark of a pot stand in its ashes or letting the impression of the human body remain in the bedclothes.