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Somebody Let the Cows Out

Somebody Let the Cows Out

My title for this post is a euphemism, as defined by Wikipedia: Euphemism is a substitution for an expression that may offend or suggest something unpleasant to the receiver, using instead an agreeable or less offensive expression to make it less troublesome for the speaker. To Wikipedia’s definition, I would add that it also makes it less troublesome for the one to whom the euphemism is directed—big time!

The word euphemism comes from the Greek word eupheme meaning words of good omen, and etymologically is the opposite of blaspheme, or evil speaking—the Greeks felt that one should speak well or not speak at all. An admonition oft delivered to me by my sainted mother was If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything. In my early years as a young boy, a small decorative plaque placed prominently on the wall of our combination living room/bedroom/game room/courting room bore a special poem—the poem and related information, all tremendously interesting and beautifully written, even if I do say so myself, can be found here and on my About Me page. The poem is as follows:

There is so much good in the worst of us
And so much bad in the best of us
That it hardly behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us.

I have carried the image of that plaque and the words of that poem in my memories for almost eight decades. I sincerely wish that I could say that I’ve followed its recommendation over those decades but I cannot—so I will not. I will, however, share this claim with any viewer that happens to stray this way—at this time, admittedly a late date, I am striving mightily to follow the creed expressed on that small plaque in the hope that my failures will be overlooked and credit will be given, both in this realm and in the realm to come, for subsequent attention paid to that sage advice.

Our English language is rich in euphemisms, some created in English and many converted to English from other languages, resulting in a wealth of ways to express something that at first glance is unrelated to the subject, a pot of gold that is constantly spilling over as new euphemisms are created.

And now on to the crux of this posting:

The most recent example, at least the most recent euphemism that applied to me, was when I recently took a neighboring couple to the airport to catch a flight. After we retrieved their luggage from the car trunk the lady favored me with a goodbye hug. Her husband normally shakes hands, but this time he put his arm around my shoulders, pulled me close and whispered in my ear.

I was expecting him to say something similar to See you in a few days, or perhaps Don’t be late picking us up, but what he said was Somebody let the cows out. I was perplexed for at least two nano-seconds and then I realized that my jeans were not zipped, hence the reference to the cows being turned loose, implying that someone had left the barn door open. His courteous and euphemistic whisper in my ear was my neighbor’s way of telling me that my fly was open.

I was lucky—my neighbor could have asked me whether I was anticipating, advertising or absent minded, with the emphasis on absent minded. I suppose that such a question, whether voiced openly—so to speak—or communicated to me in a whisper, could in its self be considered a euphemism—I prefer the one dealing with the wayward cows.

I immediately made a 180-degree turn and tossed the rest of my words—over my shoulder. The ambient air temperature at the baggage drop-off point had risen so swiftly that my first thought was of Al Gore, that he was right about global warming and that it had finally arrived in central south Texas, but then I realized that the increase in temperature was caused by my blushing. Speaking quite frankly, had I been asked I would have said that I did not have a good blush left in me, but I was wrong—I did.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Revisit: Captain, or engineer? Ship, or train? (via The King of Texas)

Captain, or engineer? Ship, or train? Some believe and some say, and some even teach, that each of us is the captain of our ship, steering it and our lives through the gentle swells of calm seas and crashing waves of gale-lashed waters across oceans, some dotted with tropical islands and others filled with icebergs. The analogy of our journey through life as the master and captain of our ship is exemplified by this poem: Invictus Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from … Read More

via The King of Texas

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2011 in death, Uncategorized

 

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Captain, or engineer? Ship, or train?

Some believe and some say, and some even teach, that each of us is the captain of our ship, steering it and our lives through the gentle swells of calm seas and crashing waves of gale-lashed waters across oceans, some dotted with tropical islands and others filled with icebergs. The analogy of our journey through life as the master and captain of our ship is exemplified by this poem:

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance,
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley, 1849–1903

Rather than the captain of a ship, I consider myself to be the engineer of my train. I have no helpers—no switchman, brakeman, signalman, fireman, conductor, oilman and no mechanic. I am the sole occupant on the train, controlling its freight and its movements through life with the various switches and gauges and handles available to me—and trust me, they are many and varied.

My travel through life is not limited to any existing railroad lines or tracks. My train is capable of laying its own roadbed. No matter where I choose to go, the track will always be there and I travel on it at my own speed, without regard to other traffic or intersections or crossroads.

Rumbling and swaying behind me on the track is a string of railroad cars, a string that lengthens as life goes on. In that line are railroad cars of every description and function—coal tenders, box cars, flat cars, hopper cars, passenger cars, cars of every description and every color, cars capable of holding and hauling anything and everything ever owned, including businesses and cars and houses and pets and airplanes and even islands.

Those railroad cars hold everything ever taught, everything ever learned, every job, every action ever taken, every thought and every deed done, whether good or evil. They carry every love ever found and every love ever lost, whether love for a person or a place, or for an animal or an idea, and they carry every friend ever made and lost, every enemy ever made and every antagonist ever faced.

I’m reasonably sure that you, dear reader, have already deduced that my train is my brain. The cars that I haul are the compartments of my brain, and in those compartments repose every thought I have ever had—memories of everything that I have learned and done are being hauled by the railroad cars. They are always there, although sometimes some of them are not always available to me—that seems to be a condition that increases in direct proportion to age.

The poem that follows pertains to those that do not understand or are unwilling to accept the responsibilities of an engineer, believing that their own train is run—engineered, so to speak—by someone other than themselves. Since all life ultimately ends, those folks may possibly—with emphasis on possibly—be in for a surprise! The poem’s origin is unknown, at least to me, but it could well be titled:

Plaint of a Non-engineer

I’m not allowed to run the train,
The whistle I can’t blow . . .
I’m not allowed to say how far
The railroad cars may go.

I’m not allowed to let off steam,
Nor even clang the bell . . .
But let the damn thing jump the track
And see who catches hell!

After awhile—eventually, ultimately, inevitably, inexorably and conclusively, we will hand over the controls of our train and its cars, loaded with the thoughts and deeds of our lives, to the Central Dispatcher and we will arrive at our final destination—no, make that our penultimate stop, the one next to the last.

Our freight—our baggage, so to speak—accumulated over a lifetime will be off-loaded, weighed, categorized, tabulated and compared to established factors in order to determine our ultimate destination. Some of us may protest the final decision, but bear in mind that the deciding factors will have been available for consideration, beginning with our first breath and continuing to our last.

Enough said?

A brief postscript:

I have been criticized, constructively of course, for the length of my postings. Evidently some viewers are so busy loading their train and maneuvering it around various obstacles, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, that they have little time for reading. This posting is relatively short, so I’ll close it with a metaphor, an apology for the length of my stories.

In my writings I am somewhat similar to the drunk—similar to, mind you, but not the drunk—that made a bet with another drunk in the bar, with the loser agreeing to take a drink from one of the bar’s cuspidors, commonly called a spittoon.. The loser raised the spittoon to his lips and emptied it, and the shocked winner told him he didn’t have to do that. The loser replied that he had no choice because it was all in one piece—as are my postings.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

 
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Posted by on July 25, 2010 in death, religion, ships, trains, Travel

 

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