Nonsense Expressions

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by StrangerInAStrangeLand, Sep 2, 2008.

  1. Gustav Banned Banned

    a nail is dead when clinched
    thats just jargon
    dead stones however is just contrived
    neither jargon, popular parlance or particularly logical
    a retards idiolect
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  3. eL eSs Vee Registered Member

    "Good grief!" - Is grief ever actually good?

    "Dumb as a box of rocks." - Well, they're generally sold in sacks in the home improvement stores.

    "You can't have your cake and eat it, too." - Last I checked, eating your cake was the sole reason for having it.

    "The cat's meow." Or for those more inclined toward feline sartorial matters, "The cat's pajamas."

    And has anyone, anywhere ever, while drunk, actually seen a "Pink elephant"? I'm not a drinker, but I've never been told that alcohol was a hallucinogen.

    "Stone cold." - Whoever thought up this one has never walked barefoot in a desert.

    Last edited: Sep 10, 2008
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  5. eL eSs Vee Registered Member

    I agree. One must first have been alive to eventually achieve the status of being dead. Doornails are inanimate.

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  7. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    24,690 is a compendium of about twelve dictionaries, and most of them include something along the lines of "incapable of supporting life" as one definition of "dead."
    Many of our English exclamations that begin with "good" are phonetic degradations of ancient oaths beginning with "God." Even "goodbye" is a contraction of "God be with ye."
    I've always heard it as "dumb as a sack of hammers." I suppose hammers probably are sold in boxes. My favorite version is, "That new farmhand is as strong as an ox and almost as smart as one, too."
    You got it backwards. It goes, "You can't eat your cake and have it too."
    I doubt that that expression was invented by cowboys. It probably refers to English castles.
    You guys can agree with each other all you want, but you're still "dead wrong." "Inanimate" is in fact one of the definitions of "dead." One of the word's primary meanings is "incapable of living," or "incapable of supporting life."

    You're unconsciously interpreting "dead" as the past participle of "to die." If that were true, then you'd be right, in order to be "dead" something has to have "died" first.

    I suspect that maybe is the origin of the word, but 2,000 years ago. Nowadays the past participle of "to die" is "died," and "dead" has a different meaning.

    You can't make words mean what you want them to mean, no matter how logical you are.
  8. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    You can't make words mean what you want them to mean, no matter how ridiculous you are.
  9. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    You can't have your cake and eat it, too - 91,400 Google hits

    You can't eat your cake and have it too - 791 Google hits
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    World Wide Words indicates that this is just one more example of sloppiness overtaking our language and obscuring the meanings of old sayings. It was clearly "eat your cake and have it" back in the 16th century when it first appeared. But as early as the 19th century, one-third of the citations found have already got it wrong, even though people who cared about their language like John Keats and Franklin Roosevelt still knew how to say it right up until a couple of generations ago.

    I guess our homilies are becoming as meaningless as a Tupperware full of used staples.
  11. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    That is a large part of my criticism & what I've been saying all along!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  12. Gustav Banned Banned

    how frikkin annoying

    But William and Mary Morris, in The Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, quote a correspondent who points out that it could come from a standard term in carpentry. If you hammer a nail through a piece of timber and then flatten the end over on the inside so it can’t be removed again (a technique called clinching), the nail is said to be dead, because you can’t use it again. Doornails would very probably have been subjected to this treatment to give extra strength in the years before screws were available. So they were dead because they’d been clinched. It sounds plausible, but whether it’s right or not we will probably never know.

    industry jargon
  13. firdroirich A friend of The Friends Registered Senior Member

    Fall down
  14. Steve100 O͓͍̯̬̯̙͈̟̥̳̩͒̆̿ͬ̑̀̓̿͋ͬ ̙̳ͅ ̫̪̳͔O Valued Senior Member

    Why does it matter? Either way means exactly the same.

    It would be a problem if it were, "you can't eat your cake THEN have it", and, "you can't have your cake THEN eat it".

    The fact that it has "and" in the middle means the order does not matter as it suggest both things are to be happening at once, whereas if it said "then", it would imply an order to events.
  15. amark317 game developer-in-training Registered Senior Member

  16. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I understand. But a large number of your examples have been incorrect. This is the Linguistics board so we have to dig into this stuff and straighten it out. This is especially important since SciForums has a lot of non-anglophone members who could be confused.
    That's hardly correct. "I'm going to put my shoes on and take the dog for a walk." "He fastened his safety belt really tight and drove down the highway at 100mph."

    Other things being equal, there is a weakly implied time sequence to events connected by "and." Having your cake and eating it are so contradictory that the only way you can imply the opposite is to overcome that weakly implied time sequence by reversing it.
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Well it had better be, since a lot of those jokes are ripped off from Gallagher and George Carlin! They haven't even done a very good job of editing, since several of them are listed twice under slightly different versions.

    Most of these are just good fun, but a few pose interesting questions:
    • Why doesn't McDonald's sell hotdogs? – because hotdogs are not nearly as popular in America as hamburgers so there’s not as much profit in them.
    • If you’re driving a federally owned car, and you run a stop sign, is it considered a felony? – If you’re on federal business, state and local police have no authority. A city cop gave a mailman a ticket for driving without a license, and the courts couldn’t prosecute. This was back in the days when the Post Office was a federal agency. Fortunately they changed their rules and required all their drivers to be licensed.
    • If you dug a hole through the center of the earth,and jumped in, would you stay at the center because of gravity? – You would fall to the center and your momentum would keep you going until you popped up on the other side and gravity pulling the other way would finally stop you. Then you’d oscillate back and forth until air resistance eventually slowed you down, each time not popping quite all the way to the surface, until finally you’d come to rest floating around at the center. That would be quite a trip. It will take you many hours to travel the 16,000 miles from one side of the earth to the other.
    • If a person dies and then springs back to life, do they get their money back for the coffin? -- Nobody “springs back to life” because death is permanent. This simply means that their death was diagnosed incorrectly. If this happens to you you’d better hope it was before they put you in the casket because there’s no way the mortician can sell a used casket.
    • If you are asked to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and your the main witness, what if you say "no"? -- You will be in contempt of court. Since courts are miniature dictatorships, the judge can decide to toss you in jail and keep you there until you decide to cooperate. No kidding.
    • If a lesbian has sex with other women but never with another man is she still considered a virgin? – Every community that worries about stuff like that has their own definition of “virginity.” But in virtually all of them, in order to not be a virgin, you have to have a hymen broken by penetration. So it depends on the kind of toys those lesbians are using.
    • Is it rude for a deaf person to talk (sign) with their mouth full of food? – Probably if their hands are full of food.
    • Why is the Lone Ranger called 'Lone' if he always has his Indian friend Tonto with him? – Because he’s a Texas Ranger and Texas Rangers always travel with other Texas Rangers.
    • Why is it that on a phone or calculator the number five has a little dot on it? – So you can operate the keys by touch.
    • Is it legal to travel down a road in reverse, as long as your following the direction of the traffic? – In most states it’s illegal to travel down a road in reverse in either direction, except for the short distance required to park your car.
    • When Atheists go to court, do they have to swear on the bible? – In some jurisdictions we’re allowed to “affirm” instead of “swear.”
    • Why do people say beans beans the magical fruit when beans are vegetables? – A “vegetable” is the edible part of any plant. A “fruit” is the reproductive organ of a plant. The definitions overlap. A bean is a seed, which satisfies both definitions.
    • Why are the little styrofoam pieces called peanuts? – In our house we call the Styrofoan Fritos or sometimes Styrofoam boogers.
    • If milk goes bad if not refrigerated, does it go bad if the cow isnt refrigerated? – It takes a few days to go bad. If you went that long without milking your cow she’d kick your door down.
    • Can a black person join the KKK? – About 25 years ago when they were desperate for members they bought some mailing lists to conservative religious organizations and sent out applications. One went to an African-American guy in Montana. He seriously considered sending it in to see what would happen.
    • Why are there Interstate Highways in Hawaii? – Because they’re paid for by the Interstate Highway system budget and the feds promise to pay for some of their maintenance. There’s a State Highway near Seattle that is a ferry boat route, all water.
    • Who was Sadie Hawkins? – Sadie Hawkins Day is a fictitious event invented by Al Capp for the Li’l Abner comic strip.
    • Do the minutes on the movie boxes include the previews, credits, and special features, or just the movie itself? – Just the movie itself, but that includes the credits.
    • What does PU stand for (as in "PU, that stinks!")? – Pew is a conventional transcription of the exclamation we make when we smell something stinky. Spelling it P. U. means that it’s exceptionally stinky so we’re exaggerating the pronunciation into peeeew.
    • What is the stage of a reptile when it has eggs in it but they haven't been laid. Are they pregnant? – Only mammals whose babies are born live can be pregnant. Animals whose babies hatch from eggs are never pregnant. That includes all vertebrates except mammals plus the monotremes (egg-laying mammals, the echidnas and platypuses) and all the lower orders. Many female birds can produce an egg every day.
    • If Mars had earthquakes would they be called marsquakes? – That’s what science fiction writers call them.
    • Why do dogs like the smell of other dogs butts? – It’s their way of checking each other out because that’s where the maximum concentration of pheromones is. Also because putting your face in another dog’s face would be interpreted as aggression.
    • Do glow-in-the-dark objects stop glowing when somebody turns the lights on? – No, they continue to phosphoresce, but the energy output is low and you can’t see it unless it’s dark or very dim.
    • Do you wake up or open your eyes first? – I don’t know about you, but I wake up with my eyes closed.
    • In some books, why do they have blank pages at the very end? – Because the paper is cut from standard size stacks.
    • Why can't donuts be square? – I can tell you’ve never made doughnuts. That would be really time-consuming and nobody would care that you did it.
    • Do the security guards at airports have to go through airport security when they get to work? – I happen to have a friend who is one. She goes through a different security gate from the rest of us and doesn’t have to take off her shoes or belt.
    • Why are all of the Harry Potter spells in Latin if they're English? – She was trying to imply that the profession of magic is really old. Remember when the Weasleys took a vacation in Egypt and they were impressed by how good the ancient Egyptian magicians were because their spells were still holding?
    • Why are dogs noses always wet? – They don’t have effective sweat glands so they need a different mechanism for evaporative cooling.
    • How come all of the planets are spherical? – Ask the people on the Astronomy board. It’s all about gravity and centrifugal force.
    • When a pregnant lady has twins, is there 1 or 2 umbilical cords? – Two. Dogs can have as many as eight.
    • Why doesn't Winnie the Pooh ever get stung by the bees he messes with? – You didn’t read the story carefully. He goes to great lengths to avoid being stung.
    • Why don't woodpeckers get headaches when they slam their head on a tree all day? – Their brains are suspended in a fluid so they float.
    • What do you call male ballerinas? – They’re called danseurs.
    • Can bald men get lice? – There are two kinds of lice. Most mammals get what we call head lice in their fur. Humans also get body lice inside our clothes. DNA analysis indicates that body lice evolved about 75,000 years ago, so that means that’s about when we invented clothing.
    • If you undergo chemotherapy do you lose your pubic hairs? – I’ve seen people lose their eyebrows.
    • When you're caught "between a rock and a hard place", is the rock not hard? – That’s the point. It means that you’re caught between two alternatives that are both bad.
    • If there were a thousand seaguls in an airplane while it's flying, each weighing two pounds apiece, but they were all flying in the airplane, would the airplane weigh 2000 pounds more? – Its weight would be the same if it were sitting on the ground on a scale. But it’s mass will be greater, and when it’s flying it will need more fuel to carry the extra mass of the birds. Even when they're flying, they’re pushing on the air that’s sealed in the plane and that air pushes on the plane.
  18. eL eSs Vee Registered Member

    Thank you for the corrections and origins, Fraggle.

    Wow! I've been sloppy! Somehow, over the years, I'd managed to turn the Cake saying around in my head and no one's corrected me until now. Thank you.

    "Dumb as a box of rocks" is one I've heard most of my life. I'd also heard the "Sack of hammers" line and do know for a fact that they are sold in boxes (I work in the wood flooring industry and I've never seen them in sacks).

    About how old is the phrase, "Good grief"? I remember it from Charlie Brown, and never thought to consider it could be older than that. I'd just thought it was an interesting oxymoron.

    Thank you,
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    You're just being influenced by your language community. You've had a personal demonstration of how language evolves. As you and the websites pointed out, these days most people say it wrong and you unconsciously "learned" to say it that way yourself.

    Fifty years ago I never came close to using "he and I" or "him and me" incorrectly. Nowadays so many people say it wrong that I've got the wrong versions etched into my brain. Sometimes I pause to make sure I'm saying it right, and not just the way the last ten people said it.
    It's nearly impossible to track down because of the myriad references to the "Peanuts" comic strip. Since Charlie Brown started saying it, people have picked it up from him as a secondary source and that just complicates the search.

    The only halfway authoritative source I could find basically did what I did and just took an educated guess. His guess was clearly better than mine because unlike me his eyes both work and he noticed that not only does "good" start with a G, but so does "grief." He guessed that it was what is called a minced oath, a sanitized and de-blasphemed version of "good God," which we still hear people say frequently enough.

    Minced oaths were more common back in the days when anglophones took blasphemy seriously, fearing the wrath of their god if they uttered an oath in vain and then failed to honor it. (If a 15th-century Englishman said, "I swear to God I'm going to rip your heart out," a wise man would run away.) The "gee" in "gee whiz" builds a minced version of "Jesus Christ!" "Jiminy Cricket" is an even closer approximation to the original.

    "By God's wounds" was once a common way to swear an oath, referring to the punctures Jesus is said to have suffered during the biblical crucifixion story. Eventually the Brits, who unlike us Americans have a strong tendency to compress their language into fewer syllables ("extraordinary" only has two syllables in England), shortened that to "zounds." Since the O was sometimes twisted into a short A and the whole thing could be pronounced "gadzwounds," it was also minced into "gadzooks," which people still say for humorous effect today.
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I missed this one the first time around: "Why do the commercials for Kentucky Fried Chicken play the song 'Sweet Home Alabama'?"

    I've noticed that they have been downplaying the Kentucky connection for quite some time. In the 1990s they shortened the name to KFC in all advertising and the full name was only reinstated in 2007, and not universally. Using a song about a different state certainly fits the pattern, whatever it might be.

    Colonel Harlan Sanders has been dead for almost 30 years, so he no longer has any say in marketing decisions. Truth be known, he was born in Indiana, but the governor of Kentucky bestowed the title of "Colonel" on him in 1935 for "service and contributions to the global community" and for "the advancement of Kentucky and Kentuckians," having started his business in Kentucky in 1930. He's in good (if very eclectic) company, with Mohammed Ali, Mae West, Winston Churchill, Hunter Thompson, Pope John Paul, Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton, and even his competitor Dave Thomas, founder of Wendy's hamburger chain.

    The first Kentucky Colonels served in military roles right after the War of 1812, but since then it has become a purely honorary title that requires nomination by someone who is already a Colonel.

    Kentucky was a "border state": a slave state with many citizens sympathetic to the Confederacy, which nonetheless did not secede. The other two border states were Missouri and Maryland, and their continued practice of slavery as the war progressed puts the lie to the historical revisionists' assertion that the Civil War was all about freeing the slaves, rather than satisfying Lincoln's hubris and securing him a place on Mount Rushmore when it was finally carved. (He issued the Emancipation Proclamation in the middle of the war, when it was going badly for the Union and he needed the support of the Northern abolitionists.)

    Perhaps "Sweet Home Alabama" is a similar tactic to gain support in the South: for a recipe that was invented by a Northerner and perfected in a Border State.

    It's probably not well understood outside the USA, but one of the targets of 9/11, the Pentagon, is in Virginia. The attack made Southerners face up to the reality that as far as the rest of the world is concerned--including our enemies--we're all Americans, not Yankees and Rebels.

    The formula for the "secret herbs and spices" in Kentucky Fried Chicken is as closely guarded as the Coca-Cola formula. There is only one complete copy of the recipe, at corporate headquarters. Bits of it are made in different locations and shipped to a central site for the final mixing.
  21. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    * * * * NOTE FROM THE MODERATOR * * * *
    Most of these are not "nonsense expressions." If you'd like to post aphorisms whose origin you don't know, and ask the members to explain them, of course you're free to do so. However, this is not the proper thread for that since it's dedicated to nonsense expressions. In any case, please don't post so many at one time. Neither the Moderator nor the other members have enough bandwidth to respond to them all with corrections and explanations.
    Thanks -- F.R.
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Indian giver
    A bad workman blames his tools.
    A day without orange juice is like a day without sunshine.
    I’ve been working like a dog.
    Family values
    Miss Universe
    Hydrogen & stupidity are the most common things in the universe.
    I can’t get my head around it.
    If I had a nickel for every time …
    So there is a god!
    You snooze, you lose.
    Money is the root of all evil.
    Knowledge has no price.
    Every man has his price.
    If you’re not a liberal when you’re young, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative when you’re old, you have no brain.
    You don’t have enough muscles for this.
    For the life of me … …
    Not on your life!
    It’s better than the alternate.
    This is (has to be) the best steak in the world.
    God’s in his heaven & all’s right with the world.
    She has no morals.
    Atheists worship Satan.
    Atheism is a belief (religion, faith, etc).
    Your ass is grass.
    I’ll kick your ass.
    Gays want special rights.
    My eyes popped out of my head.
    Get your head on straight.
    Cat got your tongue?
    You have a frog in your throat? Ants in your pants?
    Every accusation of a logic fallacy when improperly applied.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 15, 2008
  22. Gustav Banned Banned

    uhh, children
    you are being misled

    "nonsense expressions" is incorrect
    "nonsensical expressions" is the correct form

    there is a fraud being willfully perpetrated here
    the original correction was roundly ignored

    i have contacted the language police
    prepare to go down
  23. StrangerInAStrangeLand SubQuantum Mechanic Valued Senior Member

    What kind of expressions? Nonsensical expressions.
    Expressions of what? Nonsense expressions.
    Each is correct.
    Unlike :
    Fallacy of what? Logic fallacy. Correct
    What kind of fallacy? Logical fallacy. Absurd

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