Category Archives: cliches

The Republic of Pants: Election 2012


It’s once again election season in the Republic of Pants. Four years ago, we were gripped by the tight pants race between Corduroy O’Bloomer and Trousers McPants. Today, the pants of the Republic are still split.

The media’s bias-cut stretches the fabric of the truth, tailoring the fit to either the Left Pants Leg or the Right Pants Leg. For those fully comfortable dressing on one side or the other, the choice may seem an easy fit. For those caught between the legs, however, the decision remains an uncomfortable one, and many concerns chafe.

After wearing O’Bloomer for 3 years, many are ready to try on a new pair of Pants. Some complain that O’Bloomer didn’t fit the way they’d hoped, that they’d been deceived by overly flattering dressing-room mirrors. Others never thought he was a good fit, and are pushing to go back to older pants styles. Yet there are still many who support O’Bloomer, and argue that his sturdily constructed pants are only beginning to be broken in.

O’Bloomer and his Vice Pants, Bootcut BiDenim, seek to publicize benefits of The Affordable Cleaners Act, a law by which all pants should be given access to adequate laundering. They claim that better fabric care for all pants will positively impact the well-being of the Republic, as well as addressing the rapidly rising costs of laundry. Critics argue that the dry cleaning companies will clean up while the pants of the Republic are hung out to dry.

Corduroy continues to be hemmed in by threadbare rumors, including that he is a Muslin, or just like Linen. Rumors that he was manufactured abroad persist in spite of his display of his “Made in the Pants Republic” labels.

Opposition styles, though, are also far from universally appreciated. After one of the most awkward and embarrassing fashion shows in decades, Tweed R. Moneypants was selected as challenger to O’Bloomer.

Few would call the Moneypants campaign seamless, with evidence of it being patched up on the fly. Many claim that R. Moneypants is really a pair of reversible pants, showing whichever pattern of his double-face fabric better suits his base. Some dispute his claims that he pulled himself up by his belt-loops, saying that he was braced by his father’s suspenders. Moneypants has further been criticized and for pocketing his assets in offshore Bermuda shorts, and for being in the back pocket of powerful suits with a vested interest in seeing him wear the Pants.

The uncomfortable stiffness of Tweedy’s material has been the butt of many jokes. Hammerpants Rayon, running mate of Moneypants, seems to be cut from a more comfortable pattern, but many doubt that his flashy cloth has enough substance to adequately cover the seat of the Pants Government.

Every fiber of the candidates is being examined for stains, holes and other defects, whether or not they are material to the issues. In this straight-legged race, neither side has the option to be a relaxed fit. Both must stay up on their briefs or risk being caught with their pants down. As the old adage goes, “He who slacks off gets sent to the cleaners.”

Both O’Bloomer and Moneypants are expected to be neatly pressed for the upcoming debates, with carefully tailored responses under their belts. Questions likely to be addressed include: How will each address the continuing strain on the fabric of the Pants Economy? How will they protect the National Pants from the looming menace of international Powerbritches? And finally, and most controversially, do leggings really count as pants?

having my cake

I got to have me some cake this week.¹ I ate it, too. And this cake-having inspired me to think about cake. So I’ll be serving up a list of cake-oriented things for this week’s ThThTh.

Bon appétit!

A Cake List

  1. Cakes are used for lots of holidays and celebratory events in many cultures. Some examples include birthday cakes, going away cakes at office parties, French bûches de Noël or German stollen at Christmas. Also…
  2. Wedding cakes. Usually elaborately decorated multi-tiered cakes meant to serve all the guests at a wedding. They can be quite tall, and easily knocked over or smashed for comedic effect in movies or sitcoms.
  3. stripper in a cake. A tradition (if it really happens outside of TV and movies) of having an exotic dancer jump out of a large cake-shaped container. (You can make your own, if you like.) (I toyed with making a list of movies/shows where you see a stripper cake, but could only remember “Under Siege,” where the stripper fell asleep in the cake. Anyone have any others?)
  4. sexy cakes. A sketch on Saturday Night Live with Patrick Stewart as a baker of cakes decorated with erotic images. That is, erotic if you have similar ideas to the baker as to what’s “sexy”. (The video seems not to be up on the SNL website, but you can read the transcript. Come on, go read it. It’s funny. Especially if you imagine Patrick Stewart’s dignified stentorian voice for the baker’s lines.)
  5. “Let them eat cake!” A phrase attributed to Marie-Antoinette, reflecting her insensitivity to the hungry masses who could not afford to buy bread. It was likely not really said by her. (And certainly not in English.) Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote of someone using a similar phrase under similar circumstances in 1767, several years before Marie-Antoinette even arrived in Versailles.
  6. the icing on the cake. An expression meaning an additional bonus, benefit, or other desirable thing. As in something good on top of something else that’s good.
  7. cupcake. A small individual serving-sized cake. Also an endearment.
  8. babycakes. Another, even cutesier, endearment. (Want to see something creepy? Check out this YouTube video of someone making a realistic sculpted baby cake. Perhaps not as deeply unsettling as bread made to look like dismembered body parts, but creepy nonentheless.)
  9. Pat-a-cake. (or Patty-cake). An English nursery rhyme. Also used for a clapping game.

    Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man.
    Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
    Pat it and roll it and mark it with “B”
    And put it in the oven for Baby and me.

  10. a piece of cake. An idiomatic expression meaning “easy.” As in “eating up all that chocolate was a piece of cake.”
  11. have your cake and eat it, too. An expression describing a desire to have things 2 different ways that are not compatible. More along the lines of “save your cake and eat it too.”
  12. takes the cake. An expression meaning “the most extreme example,” such as the winner of a contest or other comparison. As in “I thought Martin was a geek, but his brother Andy really takes the cake.”
  13. Cakewalk. A game, set to music, where the winner gets win a cake. I hadn’t realized it had origins as an actual dance:

    Cakewalk is a traditional African American form of music and dance which originated among slaves in the Southern United States. The form was originally known as the chalk line walk; it takes its name from competitions slaveholders sometimes held, in which they offered slices of hoecake as prizes for the best dancers.[1] It has since evolved from a parody of ballroom dancing to a “fun fair” like dance where participants dance in a circle in the hopes of winning a free cake.

  14. Cake. A band. My favorite song of theirs is probably their cover of Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive.”

—–

¹ Actually, what I technically had was a celebratory fresh fruit tart, with a preamble of a couple of donuts holding some candles. But these were symbolically cake:

the well of idioms may be about to run dry

I’m afraid I may have upset the apple cart with yesterday’s scandalously wasteful overuse of idioms. (I mean, I packed in the idioms like sardines, all higgledy-piggledy as if they grew on trees.) Because as some of you know, this country is suffering from the ravages of an idiom crisis:

Idiom Shortage Leaves Nation All Sewed Up In Horse Pies

WASHINGTON—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.

To do my part to conserve, I’ll resolve to work on recycling old careworn and threadbare clichés, and coining my own beet-juggling idioms. For more details, please tumble your aardvark over to the full story at The Onion.

make like a tree

I’m quite fond of trees. You might even say that I identify with them. To celebrate their arborial grandness, and to follow up on the squirreliness of last week’s list, I bring you a Themed Thing list of Trees.

  • The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss. This beloved book features Truffula trees, and is a parable (?) about the impact of excessive deforestation, industrialization and consumerism. The Lorax is a little creature who voices the warnings. “I speak for the trees.”
  • The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein. A book about a boy, who takes serious advantage of a generous tree. The tree gives, and the boy/man takes and takes. And takes. Till all that’s left of the tree is a stump. And this is supposed to be a moving tale of generosity. An environmentalist friend of mine from college once said of it, “I think it’s misguided.”
  • the_lorax.jpgthe_giving_tree.jpg

  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a coming of age novel by Betty Smith.
  • The Tree of Man, a novel by Australian Author (and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature), Patrick White.
  • tree-hugger: A term used to refer to environmentalists, especially those who look to protect forests. Sometimes used pejoratively, but embraced by others.
  • Arbor Day A holiday for planting and caring for trees. And maybe for hugging them. In the US, it’s celebrated in April. (The next one is April 25th, 2008. Only 168 shopping days left.)
  • Christmas Tree A possibly Pagan-derived holiday tradition of decorating a tree with ornaments and lights and such. Usually a pine tree.
  • lost_pants_tree.jpg

  • syntactic trees (tree structures) Diagrams representing hierarchical structure are often described as trees. People studying syntax spend a fair amount of time drawing tree diagrams of sentences.
  • family tree The tree is used as a metaphor to describe relationships within a family, especially when drawing a diagram of relatedness.
  • Trees are prominent in mythologies and foklore from many cultures, including many variations on a mystic Tree of Life.
  • family_tree.jpg yggdrasil.jpg dryad11.jpg
    A German woodcut of a family tree, the Yggdrasil, and The Dryad by Evelyn De Morgan

  • Dryads, tree nymphs (or wood nymphs) from Greek mythology. They are among the magical creatures to be found in the Chronicals of Narnia. See also “The Dryad”, a story be Hans Christian Anderson
  • In Greek Mythology, Daphne is turned into a laurel tree while trying to escape the clutches of an amourous Apollo.
  • The Ents, from the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkien. Big tree people.
  • “Shaking the Tree”, an album by Peter Gabriel. Also a song with Youssou N’dour. [YouTube]
  • “barking up the wrong tree” An idiom alluding to a dog chasing a cat up a tree, but mistaking the location of said cat. It means “acting based on some mistaken impression”
  • “can’t see the forest for the trees”An expression to describe when someone is too caught up in the details to understand the larger context.
  • Then there’s the playground chant:

    X & Y sitting in a tree
    K-I-S-S-I-N-G

  • How do you like them apples?

    Fall has fallen here in the northern hemisphere, and in my neck of the woods, this means it’s apple-picking season.¹ Which seems like as good a reason as any to pick apples for this week’s Themed Things Thursday.

    1. Apple of my eye. An expression meaning one who is most dear to the speaker.
    2. cortland_apple.jpg

    3. The Big Apple. A nickname for New York City. One source identifies its origins from usage by African-American stablehands at a New Orleans racetrack in the 1920s. (Wikipedia says it was first used by touring jazz musicians in the 1930s.)
    4. Snow White. A fairytale in which a girl falls asleep after eating a poisoned apple.
    5. An apple a day keeps the doctor away. A saying suggesting that eating apples is good for the health. I found a bit on origins of the saying:

      From “Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings” by Gregory Y. Titelman (1996): “An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Eating fruit regularly keeps one healthy. First found as a Welsh folk proverb (1866)” ‘Eat an apple on going to bed,/ And you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread.’ First attested in the United States in 1913…”

    6. Adam’s apple. A bump on the front of the neck, tending to me more prominent in adult males, from the “forward protrusion of the thyroid cartilage.” Likely nicknamed based on the Biblical story of Eve giving an apple to Adam.
    7. archibald_apple_tree.jpg

    8. Newton’s apple. A falling apple (which may or not have bonked him on the head) may or may not have contributed to Newton’s theory of universal gravitation.
    9. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. An expression meaning that the offspring will often turn out like the parent(s).
    10. Johnny Appleseed. An American folk hero famed for planting lots of apple trees.
    11. Apple Inc.² A company. Makes computers. One line of which is named after a type of apple, the macintosh. Has a logo shaped like an apple_rainbow.jpgapple_clear.jpg
      apple with a bite out of it. Has a variety of iProducts: iMac, iPod, iPhone, iCup
    12. An apple for the teacher. An apple is known in the US as traditional gift to give to a teacher. (The fruit, not the computers. But I bet most teachers would appreciate getting an Apple.) Has (probably) led to apples showing up on greeting cards and coffee mugs as symbols of the teaching profession (along with rulers, blackboards and squid). (No wait, scratch that last one. I was just checking to see if you were still reading this.)

    ——–

    ¹ We live in an area with many apple orchards, and Phoebe even got to go apple picking with her daycare last week. I hope we’ll get to go together some time this year. Late October last year, we went to a nearby orchard that grows over 50 varieties of apples. Pick-your-own season was past, so our experience was less about apple picking than apple choosing. But it was still fun. And the apples were yummy.

    ² I read that Apple Inc. officially dropped “Computers” from its name earlier this year. I hadn’t even noticed.

    apples_triangle.jpg

    I yam what I yam

    It’s time for another helping of Themed Things Thursdays. It being vegetable week here, in honor of my first pick-up of my CSA veggies, this Thursday Theme for Things is vegetables. Okay, the list is a bit heavy on the onion bits (with apologies to those who don’t like onions), but you can pick them out.

    some vegetables

  • beans
    Jack and the beanstalk, a fairy tale featuring magic beans that grow a towering beanstalk.
  • corn
    Children of the Corn (1984) A movie based on a Stephen King story. Horror in the corn fields.
  • spinach
    The cartoon character Popeye (The Sailor Man) gets super-duper strong when he eats a can of spinach. Even has a little song he sings when he gets all juiced up: I’m strong to the finish, ’cause I eats me spinach…
  • broccoli
    Powerpuff Girls episode 17 “Beat Your Greens“. Alien broccoli attacks.
  • cabbage
    The Kids in the Hall offers Cabbage Head, a man with cabbage for hair. (There are also the Cabbage Patch Kids, scrunched-up looking dolls that were all the rage in the 80’s, and that now have their own urban legend.)
  • pumpkin
    Peter Peter pumkin eater. A nursery rhyme. Also a song you can play on the piano using only the black keys.

    Peter Peter pumpkin eater
    Had a wife and couldn’t keep her
    He put her in a pumpkin shell
    And there he kept her very well

  • peppers
    Peter Piper A nursery rhyme and tongue twister: “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers”
  • carrots
    Bugs Bunny is known for his trademark carrot-munching. But did you know that his carrot-munching was a Clark Gable immitation?

    bugs

    Bugs Bunny’s nonchalant carrot-chewing stance, as explained many years later by Chuck Jones, and again by Friz Freleng, comes from the movie, It Happened One Night, from a scene where the Clark Gable character is leaning against a fence eating carrots more quickly than he is swallowing, giving instructions with his mouth full to the Claudette Colbert character, during the hitch-hiking sequence.

  • potato
    Everybody’s favorite spud has got to be the ever-dignified, interchangeably featured Mr. Potatohead (Apparently, there are many new Potatohead varieties that have sprouted, including the venerable Star Wars Darth Tater
  • sweet potato
    “Sweet Potato,” by Cracker. (Off the album “Kerosene Hat”) A rockin’ romp of a song. Be my sweet potato, I’ll be your honey lamb

  • yams
    Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe. Yams play a central role in the Nigerian community depicted in this novel. (See? I can get all literary, too.) (By the way, these yams aren’t the same as sweet potatoes, which are often called yams in the US)
  • turnip
    You can’t get blood from a turnip, or “You can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip” (You can also find more garden-variety cliches) An expression meaning that it’s not possible to extract something from a source that doesn’t contain that thing.
  • onion
    1. The Onion (“America’s finest news source”) My own favorite Onion article? This eerily prescient one from January, 2001.
    2. Shrek (2001) An animated movie featuring an ogre who likens himself to an onion:

      Shrek: Ogres are like onions.
      Donkey: They both smell?
      Shrek: NO! They have LAYERS. There’s more to us underneath. So, ogres are like onions.
      Donkey: Yeah, but nobody LIKES onions!

    3. The End: Book the Thirteenth, the final installation of A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket begins with the following layery, teary-eyed, oniony sentence:

      If you have ever peeled an onion, then you know that the first thin, papery layer reveals another thin, papery layer, and that layer reveals another, and another, and before you know it you have hundreds of layers all over the kitchen table and thousands of tears in your eyes, sorry that you ever started peeling in the first place and wishing that you had left the onion alone to wither away on the shelf of the pantry while you went on with your life, even if that meant never again enjoying the complicated and overwhelming taste of this strange and bitter vegetable.

  • bok choi
    Bok Choi Boy, the story of a young lad raised by vegetables to become a legendary leafy-green fighter for truth, justice and better nutrition. (Okay, I made this one up.)
  • a whole bunch o’ different oversized veggies
    June 29, 1999 written and illustrated by Caldecott award-winnder David Wiesner. A picturebook featuring gigantic vegetables raining down from the skies. A beatifully illustrated, beautifully absurd book:

    Cucumbers circle Kalamazoo. Lima beans loom over Levittown. Artichokes advance on Anchorage.

    Check out some of the illustrations on the publisher’s webpage for the book.

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