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Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence

Posted by ESC on October 17, 2004

In Reply to: An American slang posted by Bob on October 17, 2004

: : A couple of days ago I was explaining to an American friend of mine that in Farsi , which is my native language, there is an expression that literarily translates into English as ' to put watermelons under someone's arms' which means to say things to some one that they want to hear about themselves, but which aren't genuine. The person who does this thing has the intention of tricking someone into doing something without helping them. For example we have, in our patio, a heavy big old rotten couch which has to be get ridden of, but I am not in the mood to give my brother a hand with the couch, therefore I start taking about how strong he is that he is the man and that he can do it by himself , in other words I say the things that I know my brother wants to hear about himself in order to make him feel good about himself and dump the couch without me taking part in this chore , but when he sees me smiling he realizes what is going on and tells me, " hey, I know what you are trying to do, you are saying all these nice things about me without meaning it, you don't want to help me, you are trying to put watermelons under my arms, but I am sorry it won't work on me you are going to help and there is no way that I am going to do it by myself. and when I was done explaining I asked my American friend if there was an expression in English having the same meaning, and she told me how about "to blow sunshine up some one's ass."
: : But I haven't been able to find it in any slang dictionaries. Could you please tell me if there is such a slang expression in English or not and if not what American or English equivalent would you recommend for "put watermelons under someone's arms.

: There are a number of expressions that are, if not an exact match, at least in the neighborhood. "Blowing sunshine up your ass" is a vulgar equivalent, also expressed as "pumping sunshine," and "blowing smoke." I think "blowing smoke up your ass" has been discussed here previously, and available in the archives. Flattery, in English, can be expressed as "buttering someone up," which gets us back to foodstuffs.

A "nicer" way of saying it is: to pump sunshine (or smoke) up someone's skirt.

There is a story in American literature about a trickster getting someone else to do his work.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Plot summary from SparkNotes:

An imaginative and mischievous boy named Tom Sawyer lives with his Aunt Polly and his half-brother, Sid, in the Mississippi River town of St. Petersburg, Missouri. After playing hooky from school on Friday and dirtying his clothes in a fight, Tom is made to whitewash the fence as punishment on Saturday. At first, Tom is disappointed by having to forfeit his day off. However, he soon cleverly persuades his friends to trade him small treasures for the privilege of doing his work. He trades these treasures for tickets given out in Sunday school for memorizing Bible verses and uses the tickets to claim a Bible as a prize. He loses much of his glory, however, when, in response to a question to show off his knowledge, he incorrectly answers that the first two disciples were David and Goliath.

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