Paid Under the Table
In medieval times, before there were computers and celebrities and politics, things were done differently. You might say to yourself, “What does the writer mean when he says that things were done differently?” I do not have time right now to go through every example of how things have changed, being as it is getting dark and I still have two cats to get back in the house, but I will cover one thing that has changed.
Before there were banks, or taxes, or TMZ, people were literally paid under tables. One would work all day in the fields, or in the orchards, or as a hovel-maid. When Friday rolled around, everyone from the village would show up in the town square, in height order. People under five foot tall would go to the six-foot high table, and people from 6 feet to 7 feet would go to the 8-foot high table. Everyone over 7 feet would be banished from the tribe, because they were usually bad luck, and basketball was not yet a sport. The payments would then be made, literally, under the table. No taxes were taken out. The practice of paying under the table gradually changed to having people pay through the nose. But when payment is made nowadays without collecting taxes it is usually referred to as being “Under the Table.”
Fit as a Fiddle
Have you ever noticed how sleek a fiddle is? It is shaped rather erotically, don’t you think? You don’t? Well, me neither. But it is very fit. There is no fat on a fiddle. You will not see a fiddle struggle to get up from the couch. A fiddle would never watch football all day eating junk food. And that might be why it is so fit. A fiddle watches what it eats, and it gets plenty of exercise too. How many of us haven’t seen a fiddle running by the side of a road, or around the track? Some fiddles have even been spotted poolside in Vegas, sipping protein shakes.
There have been reports of other instruments drinking alcohol, such as tubas, bassoons, and tympanis. That could be why they are so unfit. But a fiddle always watches what it eats and what it drinks. A fiddle exercises, meditates regularly, calls its mother on holidays, is not in debt, and has never lost a job. A fiddle feels good about what it has accomplished in life, and it does not fear death. If only everyone could be like the fiddle, fit and happy. It is ironic that the one thing a fiddle does not do is fiddle around. It is far too motivated for that.
Need I explain how the phrase “Fit as a Fiddle” came from? I think not.
Gonna Tap Dance on Your Head
In order to fully understand the phrase “Gonna tap dance on your head” one must first know the circumstances surrounding the first tap dance. The art of tap dancing was done for the first time at a New Year’s Eve Party hosted by the Governor of Philadelphia on December 31, 1853. James Edward Tap, an unemployed millworker who lived in nearby Nashville, became very inebriated at the party and passed out before the ball dropped in Times Square, just as he did every year.
When he awoke at 3 a.m., several of the guests were still drinking and dancing a waltz. In the corner of the room there were several rugs, blankets, and hides for people to use if they wanted to nap or just get cozy. At 3:35 a.m. on January 1, 1854, James began dancing alone on the rugs, then gradually the blankets, and eventually on the hides. Someone in the corner of the dance hall yelled out to the host, “Hey everyone, check out Tap, dancing on your hide!” Gradually the phrase became what we now know as “Tap Dancing on your head.” Why is it is used as a reference to causing harm to someone remains a mystery.
Can Stop on a Dime
In the early 1880’s people traveled through the countryside by one of three ways: Horseback, Train, or Stage. People with Stage Fright usually opted for Horseback. But that’s neither here nor there. Sometimes, when it was very hot, they would drink to excess in the bars. This was usually followed by evenings filled with debauchery and sleeping without first brushing one’s teeth. In the morning, most people would usually find themselves in bed with someone they would never think of sleeping with. When they would run out of their motel rooms, they would usually leave a trail of money showing where they had been. If they were seen by their spouse, they would usually stop right where they were, in their tracks so to speak. More often than not they would be standing right on a dime. Need I say more?
Unlike its cousin the Backseat Driver, the phrase Sunday Driver was coined, interestingly enough, on a Monday. Back in the days of the Pharoah, before there were drive thru restaurants, celebrity game shows, or ethnic politicians, many people would take Sunday off from working on the pyramids to go for a drive. They would cruise around the River Nile, check out what was happening in the desert springs, and have an all-around great time. Sometimes whole armies of people would be out, and wars would often break out over parking. Do you remember Genghis Khan? He was the most famous of all Sunday Drivers. He was just trying to parallel park when he happened upon 200,000 Persians, who were also out for a Sunday drive. On Monday morning, it was all over. Since that fateful day, the phrase has been used to describe someone who drives slowly, a fact which remains a mystery to this day.
The Bee’s Knees
Quiet as a Mouse
The only thing quieter than a mouse seems to be a church mouse. So if you wanted to really get your point across, you would say something like, “My alcoholic uncle is as quiet as a church mouse when he is passed out.” If you compared him to a hamster it wouldn’t have the same meaning.