Definition: To stay calm, composed, and collected
Example: Despite the intense pressure, Stan stayed cool as a cucumber and defeated his five-year-old nephew in the game of tiddlywinks.
This is a strange one. How somebody’s bearing under pressure should be compared to a vegetable is not just unclear, it’s totally nonsensical on every level. Yes, cucumbers are cool to the touch, and can be as much as twenty degrees cooler inside than the outside air, but the cool in the phrase has nothing to do with temperature. And it’s older than you might think. Its first appearance in print is in a 1732 poem by John Gay.
Iddy, as pictured, has used the 1970’s derived definition of cool, that of somebody socially admired. Just like the Fonz was on Happy Days. Funny. Looking at him, you’d never have thought Iddy to be in awe of custom motorcycles….
Definition: A business venture that generates great profits for little investment
Example: Popcorn was the cash cow for the local cinema.
Cash cow is a very recent addition to the language. Management expert Peter F Drucker is credited with coining the phrase in the 1960s where it quickly became a buzzword in the business community. It relates to the notion that once a dairy cow reaches maturity, it provides a endless flow of milk, which in turn becomes a revenue stream for the farmer. Nice notion, but I’m sure that any dairy farmer would disagree. Its not quite as easy (or profitable) as that.
The business world is notorious for creating their own idioms. Anything to mask the meaning of what they are actually saying. Here are some of Iddy’s favourites:
Rooster call: an early meeting
Run it up the flagpole (and see if anybody salutes): put forward an idea
Monday morning quarterback: somebody who criticises something only after it has gone wrong
Blue ocean opportunity: a promising possibility
Iddy could go on. But he won’t. He has to get to bed early because he has a rooster call tomorrow. He wants to run a blue ocean opportunity up the flagpole before some Monday morning quarterback causes problems.
Definition: Silliness or mischieviousness
Example: ‘Hey! You two! No more monkey business from either of you!’ Johnny and Jackie’s nanny was not enjoying being tied to a tree.
People have been described in terms of animal traits for as long as pen has been put to paper. Foxes for slyness, lions for bravery, and monkeys, lots of monkeys. It seems fairly apparent why monkeys are equated with silly antics. But when and where did it enter the English language?
There do seem to be several theories:
- Firstly, it may be a by-product of the English colonial era in India. Bandrami is a Bengali term for naughty or reckless behaviour by children, child-like behaviour by adults, or monkey like gestures. It altered into the more literal ‘monkey business’ in the 1830s as it was absorbed into English..
- A second theory proposes that it grew out of a related phrase ‘monkeyshines‘ which meant disreputable behaviour, coined at about the same time in America. It was basically a racist taunt aimed at slaves.
- Lastly, perhaps it grew from an even earlier UK phrase ‘monkey tricks‘ used in the same way to describe foolish behaviour from children.
Never mind the origin, Iddy’s more concerned that he has found the reason for the recent problems on Wall Street.
Iddy’s back after a break, starting with this one for Olivia and her Middle School class who are studying animal based idioms… what better place to start than Crocodile Tears?
Definition: A fake or insincere demonstration of sorrow
Example: Belinda shed crocodile tears at Bernie’s funeral. After all, she’d been the one who had shot him.
Can crocodiles cry?
The idiom comes from an ancient belief that crocodiles cried when devouring their prey. A very strange concept; remorseful reptiles! The phrase reached the English language at the beginning of the 15th century, but in the form of crocodiles ‘weeping’. It was another hundred years before our current phrasing began to appear.
So back to our question. Do they cry? Apparently they do, but not from emotion. Certainly not from remorse. Iddy was surprised that crocodiles have tear ducts at all. Seems a bit redundant for a creature that lives in the water. But it is for that very reason that they do have tears. When they do venture from those waters, their eyes tend to dry out, and so the need for tears.
Having established that they do indeed shed tears, a neurologist decided to go one step further in 2006. He observed caimans while they fed at a refuge in Florida. Closely related to their larger counterparts, several of them did ‘cry’ while feeding, though the actual reason is still debated. However, not a single scientist came forward and claimed it was remorse.
There is a rare medical condition, Bogorad’s syndrome, which causes people to shed tears while they eat. Unsurprisingly, it is sometimes referred to as ‘Crocodile Tears Syndrome’.