The tooth fairy

Posted by />Victoria S Dennis on October 09, 2005

In Reply to: The tooth fairy posted by Sharon M. on October 08, 2005

: : : : : I came across a certain expression while watching "Doctors" on BBC, when one woman tells another that she won't "cough up a pound to the tooth fairy". I would like to know if this phrase is current in English or if it is specific to the situation portrayed in the chapter I viewed? I didn't find any mention of this expression during my search on the net and will be grateful for your assistance if possible.

: : : : I assume the expression bothering you is "tooth fairy," not "pound" or "cough up." So you must be of the English persuasion. In the U.S., since some time LONG after my childhood in the last millennium, it became customary to reward children who had lost one of their baby teeth with a quarter (that is, $0.25) if they would leave the tooth under their pillow. Mom would substitute the quarter for the tooth, and say that the tooth fairy had been there. I personally have never seen this done, so someone else may have better information. Are English mothers that generous with the tooth fairy? A pound seems an awful lot. SS

: : : Thanks for the background info about the tooth fairy and the custom involving paying for lost teeth. What I am curious about is whether the expression rather than the action it entails is a common saying among folk, since I am aware by what you say that the custom is practiced in some places. Is it likely that someone would use the same phrase (or paradigm) as mentioned in the 'Doctors' chapter or is it just a one-time-make-up for TV? And yes, it seems that in the UK little ones grow up producing precious golden teeth, worth a pound's loss if what that lady character said is true ;).

: : It seems quite possible that the indignant lady was using the expression "tooth fairy" as a metaphor for something which, not having seen Doctors I can't define, but may have been as yet immaterial or fictional, like the tooth fairy. SS

: Thanks for commenting. The nature of the sentence, dealing with something as surreal as a tooth fairy, does strike me as being peculiar, especially since the scene set up quite a concrete situation of medical illness from which the patient who said the phrase was suffering. Your opinion assures me that there might not be any somewhat deeper meaning or reference to the saying besides the practice it portrays, worshipping the whims of as an unlikely being as the tooth fairy, with its greediness for baby teeth. However, it does make a good bed time story for the children, as well as a good savings account for those who are fortunate enough to dispose of their pearls :D

: Thanks again!
Just to remark that the figure of the tooth fairy is so universally known in Britain that Terry Pratchett was able to produce a riff on the idea in has recent novel "Hogfather", including a rather queasy answer to the question what she actually does with all those milk teeth, and the alarming thought that she carries a pair of pliers so that if she hasn't got the right change she can always pull out an extra tooth or two to make the transaction fair! (VSD)