Friday, 28 January 2011

Knowing what's what

After yesterday's post, where I mentioned that Leslie knows 'which way the stick floats', I was pretty sure one or two people would email to ask about the derivation of the term, which would give me an excuse to explain it. Well, they didn't. Nobody did; so I'm going to explain it anyway - not for Leslie, who as a bona fide vaquera would be familiar anyway, but for any greenhorns out there who are interested in what Mel Brooks, in Blazing Saddles, so eloquently described as 'authentic frontier gibberish'.

It's thought that the expression had some currency in the era of the fur traders, when an experienced beaver trapper was said to be able to read all kinds of things from the way in which his float stick (attached by length of cord to the trap) lay on the surface the water.

Alternative Old West expressions include: Know which way is up; know your ass from a hole in the ground; and my personal favourite, know poor bull from fat cow.

'Know what's what' would work for us sons of the city (greeners, junipers, gunsels, pilgrims, tenderfeet...)

Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.6
blog comments powered by Disqus