Mighty Red Pen

March 3, 2008

Idiomatically speaking

Filed under: Pop culture,Word wars — mighty red pen @ 5:30 pm
Tags: , ,

So the Onion reports that Idiom Shortage Leaves Nation All Sewed Up In Horse Pie:

A crippling idiom shortage that has left millions of Americans struggling to express themselves spread like tugboat hens throughout the U.S. mainland Tuesday in an unparalleled lingual crisis that now has the entire country six winks short of an icicle.

Well, ha ha, wouldn’t that be funny? And if it were true, apparently, we could all haul ourselves to Moondog’s hometown of Erie, PA, where they seem to be hoarding our nation’s idioms, including:

Being the cat’s paw

It’s a horse apiece

Six a one, half dozen the other

Burns my biscuit

He assures me that “it’s a horse apiece” means something like “it’s the same either way,” but I still have no idea what “being the cat’s paw” refers to.

What are some of your favorite idioms? Alternatively, which idiom would you, er, vote off the island?



  1. Oh, MRP, where do I begin?…First the world’s most favorite idiom is “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free.” People think that is Shakespeare for relationships. It’s like The Secret. Also, “you’ve made your bed, now lie in it.” Which is pretty backwards because usually you lie in your bed first, then you get up in the morning and make it. Anyway, “a horse apiece” and “six a one, half dozen the other” means the same thing…you got it…how funny those idioms are “the same either way.” And lastly, thanks for the shout out to good old Erie, PA! And the best part is when I click on the tag “Erie” the first blog that comes up is “More ‘Rasslin!” Oh, Erie, your charm is unsurpassed.

    Comment by Moondog — March 3, 2008 @ 10:42 pm | Reply

  2. It’s “six of one, half dozen of the other”. Perhaps in PA, they are particularly lazy with their idioms.

    Incidentally, people in PA actually call the state PA. Are there other states that nickname themselves with their US Postal Service abbreviation?

    Comment by David — March 4, 2008 @ 12:02 pm | Reply

  3. You know, I asked Moondog about that “six a one” and he was adamant that even though you and I know it as “six of one” that’s how they say it in PA.

    As for your other question, I can’t think of one but I’d be interested to know if anyone knows!

    Comment by mightyredpen — March 4, 2008 @ 6:13 pm | Reply

  4. David, very astute for picking up on that. Someone else brought that to my attention, and until I moved to MA, I never gave it a second thought, and it hadn’t sounded funny to me at all the hundreds of times I’ve said PA. People here feel comfty saying Mass., but it’s not quite the looney verbal abbreviation as using the postal code. Imagine saying FL, or OH. Weird. I bet AZ might not sound idiotic.
    Oh and by the way, I was just watching one of Ellen’s comedy DVDs and she indeed says “six a one, half dozen of the other.” Maybe it’s not just PA, but it’s my other people as well.

    Comment by Moondog — March 4, 2008 @ 11:27 pm | Reply

  5. I recently came across ‘it’s six and two threes’ for the first time, which at least has the advantage of brevity compared to ‘it’s six of one, half a dozen of the other’…

    Comment by JD — March 6, 2008 @ 12:22 pm | Reply

  6. Yeah, but it has the disadvantage of requiring MRP to do some math in order to figure out what it means . . .

    Comment by mightyredpen — March 7, 2008 @ 8:41 am | Reply

  7. “cat’s paw” is in the dictionary.

    Merriam-Webster’s 10th Collegiate:
    2 (fr. the fable that a monkey used a cat’s paw to draw chestnuts from the fire): one used by another as a tool : DUPE

    Comment by TootsNYC — May 6, 2008 @ 12:31 pm | Reply

  8. Ah ha! Strong work, TootsNYC!

    Comment by mighty red pen — May 6, 2008 @ 7:19 pm | Reply

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