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Tumbleweeds, whistling wind and a lonely church bell

Posted by TheFallen on June 16, 2003

In Reply to: posted by Jenny on June 16, 2003

: : : what is the meaning to this expression? thanks in advance

: : It's a Hollywood symbol of the Wild West.
: :
: : Tumbleweed; Whenever you think of the Wild West of America, you think of cowboy movies and tumbleweed, perpetually tumbling around a desolate landscape. According to the American movies, tumbleweed is as American as apple pie. But tumbleweed is not a native American. It's a Russian invader, that was first discovered in Australia.
: : On our recent trip through Central Australia, we saw lots of tumbleweed. Occasionally, with a good tailwind, the tumbleweed moved faster than we did! The tumbleweed is a rather peculiar plant, because it actually moves around - it does not spend its whole life stuck in the soil. Once its seeds are ripe, a layer of cells in the stem of the plant weaken, and it breaks cleanly away. At this stage, the tumbleweed is almost a perfect ball with about 250,000 seeds stored inside. The wind then takes control of the tumbleweed. The ball is designed so that when the plant hits the ground as it tumbles along, it bounces and it won't lose all of its valuable seeds in just a single bounce.

: Henry : thanx for your prompt reply. but I would like to know what it means when someone responds to something you said with "tumbleweed roling across the room".

It's the verbalisation of a piece of visual humour. Henry's alluded to the key point when he mentions desolation above - think tumbleweeds rolling across a dusty street in a ghost town, a dry wind whistling among the deserted buildings, maybe being just strong enough to make the bell in an abandoned church ring mournfully out...

In the UK at least, on certain TV comedy shows, the above type of visual or aural footage will be cut in if someone on the show cracks an appallingly bad joke that falls utterly flat - the idea being to emphasise the complete lack of reaction that the joke deserved. This has over recent years become a well-known motif.

I'm therefore sure that if someone replies to something you've said that you thought was funny with "Tumbleweeds rolling across the room", he/she is lightly mocking you for your gag falling flat on its face.