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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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How to pull and shuck corn and earn $4.00 . . .

Everyone knows that corn grows on stalks. The stalks grow tall, often even taller than some of our NBA players, and with good growing conditions produce numerous ears of corn. I imagine that the term ears is used because each ear grows angled upward on the perpendicular stalk at about 45 degrees, somewhat similar to our ears. Ears of corn that are removed while still green are harvested for the purpose of roasting, and are therefore referred to as roasting ears. Country folks in my era called them rosnears, a useful contraction of roasting ears that allows more words in a sentence, whether written or spoken. Many country folks still use that contraction.

An ear of corn, as removed from the stalk, is completely covered with overlapping leaves. That covering is called a corn shuck, or simply a shuck. Rosnears are roasted in their shucks. When done, the shuck is removed, butter and salt if desired are added to the ear of cornand I do desire butter and saltand the corn is eaten directly from the cob. The cob is the cylindrical core of the ear of corn, the part to which the kernels of corn are attached. The eating process is referred to as eating corn on the cob—I’ve always felt that it would more properly be called eating corn off the cob. In either case the taste is heavenly and the process is devilishly messy—one should keep a napkin close at hand while eating corn on the cob—or off the cob, as the case may be.

And just in case anyone wonders about the origin of the term rough as a cob. When dried corn is shelled from the cob, the small depressions left by the kernels being removed leaves the cob rough to the touch. Way back in the dim mists of antiquity, in a time when folks had limited access to manufactured toilet tissue, various substitutes were used—magazine pages, Sears Roebuck catalog pages, old letters and envelopes, outdated calendars, straw, oak leaves or whatever could be found in a time of need. Dried corn cobs were in plentiful supply following the corn harvest, and I am witness to the fact that rough as a cob is as accurately definitive as a definition can get.

Ah, those were the days!

Allow me to digress for a moment: I have gone into considerable detail so far in this posting. The reason is because legions of people in our country, particularly younger generations, have no idea how corn is grown, harvested, prepared and cooked, nor do they know the terminology of the various uses of corn. Their knowledge is often restricted to the purchase and ingestion of popcorn in our movie theaters. In addition to the ridiculous cost of tickets to the movies, movie goers pay ridiculous prices for the popcorn, and the beat goes on.

And trust me—not even one in a thousand of today’s youngsters know the origin of rough as a cob. Perhaps this posting will spread the word, so to speak, and let younger generations know that old times were not romantic at all times.

For purposes other than roasting ears, corn is allowed to remain on the stalk until the green stalks and shucks turn brown, and then the corn is harvested by giant machines that harvest multiple rows at the same time. It hasn’t always been that way—before the invention and use of such harvesters, each ear of corn was pulled from the stalk by hand. A sharp pull downward at the correct angle would snap the ear off at the stalk.

I can speak with authority because I’ve done it—ear by ear, stalk by stalk, row by row, hour after hour and day after day until the field was stripped. The hand pulled ears were dropped on the ground between the rows and later loaded on a skid for movement to the barn for storage. Yes, Virginia, a skid—a primitive conveyance fitted with runners similar to those of a sled. A skid was a flat wooden platform mounted on wooden runners, with sides forming a box to contain such items as corn, or any other items that needed to be transported in bulk. The skid was powered by a mule, a tall long-eared beast of burden with a sour disposition and a proclivity to bite, depending on its mood and the task with which it was confronted.

Let’s see—I’ve covered pulling corn, so now on to shucking corn. This is easily done—one needs grasp the ear near the stem with one hand, then start peeling the leaves of the shuck downwards with the other hand, and when the leaves are all pulled away from the ear, simply snap the stem to separate the shuck from the ear of corn. Got it?

And finally, on to the tale of the four dollars I earned by shucking corn. Christmas was near, and I needed money to buy presents for my mother and my sister. One of my aunts that lived on a farm nearby asked me if I wanted to earn some money. I answered in the affirmative, but made a serious mistake by not inquiring into what my efforts would earn. The job turned out to be corn shucking—removing the shucks to prepare the corn to be milled—ground—into corn meal.

Picture this: Two farm wagons were loaded with corn to be shucked, rounded in the center to a level a bit higher than the sides of the wagon box. Each wagon box measured approximately four by ten by one foot deep. A quick computation of length x width x depth shows that each wagon had forty cubic feet of corn, a total of eighty cubic feet for both wagons. I was paid a whopping total of four dollars for a full two long days work. I worked without gloves, so by the time I finished I had blisters on top of my blisters. I did not question my pay or grumble about it, at least not out loud. I reasoned rightly that I now had four dollars where before I had no dollars—I took the four ones, gave thanks to my aunt and left to find some cool water for my hands.

That’s it—I’ve covered the three subjects in the title of How to pull and shuck corn and earn $4.oo, so I’ll close this posting.

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

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2010 in Childhood, Family, Gardening, Humor, Travel

 

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