Posted by Keith Rennie on December 08, 2004
In Reply to: Meaning of bite the paddle posted by Bernd on December 08, 2004
: : : : Hi,
: : : : thanks for you trying to help me. I looked up the context. It´s from the book "Somewhere for me" (A biography of Richard Rodgers). On page 349, there is a story about composer Richard Rodgers not getting along with the husband of one of his shows´ star, Mary Martin.
: : : : "Richard Rodgers knew more about the theatre than he did, but Halliday (=husband) was always out there protecting Mary,", Anna Crouse said. "Mary was very smart. She´d let her husband bite the paddle and, when asked, she ´didn´t know anything about it.´
: : : : I guess it´s somewhat akin to "biting the bullet", just wonder whether it´s a typo or this phrase really exists... Can´t be a pun, neither rafting or anything similar fits in here somewhere (the show being discussed is "The Sound of Music").
: : : : Bernd
: : : : : Hi Bernd. I've never head of this before. A more common saying I'm familiar with is 'bite the bullet'. There's an explanation for that saying, if you enter it into the search field at the top, and browse the archives.
: : : : : But 'bite the paddle' is a new one on me. Perhaps if it was in context, it could have been the author deviating slightly from the original saying in order to make it fit the story. eg. Maybe it was said in the story while the character was whitewater rafting or something. --GODDESS
: : : The meaning is quite clear from the context quoted. It means Mary let her husband do all the hard work. Nothing to do with mouths or teeth. When the paddle "bites" in the water, making two nice little whirlpools, it is getting the purchase that lets the effort of the paddler drive the canoe forward efficiently. A co-paddler can easily pretend to be making an effort (they would put their paddle in the water without the paddle "biting") as I well know from canoeing with my family. I dont think the paddling community use that term (you can check their sites, there are several good ones). I think it's more a literary device, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with "bite the bullet".
: : I'll buy into Keith's explanation entirely, since oar or paddle blades are said to "bite" into the water. The interesting and confusing thing here is the transitive usage of "to bite" - "she let her husband bite the paddle", presumably in the sense of "she let her husband cause the paddle to bite" or "she let her husband's paddle bite". I'm bowing to Keith's paddling expertise here in his statement that this isn't a typical canoeing usage.
: Very interesting and certainly enlightening, thank you all very much. I would just be interested if anyone has every seen this expression before or whether author Meryle Secrest has come up with it on her own.
I thought the same as The Fallen about the transitive use; and that it's probably just a slightly lazy shorthand, misreporting, or perhaps even an interfering editor. It's a bit like somebody saying "Please boil the kettle" instead of "Please put the kettle on in order to boil the water inside it.". There is probably a name for this kind of misidentified object. Many languages wont allow you to do this but English kind of encourages it.
But don't rule out paddler language or regional canoeing usage (e.g. Canadian). All I can say is that I've canoed here on and off since the late 1960s, and I never heard it said, and it wasn't in a modern fairly authoritative canoeing instruction manual (Jon Rounds, ed., 2003.)You'd have to search more to be sure.