yardbird; snuffy

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat Jun 21 04:52:56 UTC 2014

On Fri, Jun 20, 2014 at 10:44 AM, Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com>

> OED doesn't include the BE sense,"chicken." Nor does DARE.

What?!!! ;-)


I Googled the "rare, BE" expression,

"When you find a fool, bump his head,"

and was startled to discover that the expression is neither particularly
"rare" nor is there evidence worth mentioning of BE origin, though I've
heard the phrase used in the wild only by black St. Louisans, starting in
the late '40's, and it has a very "soulful," down-home feel to it.

OTOH, when I Googled another expression that I felt was far less likely to
be either rare or necessarily of BE origin, though my experience of it is
the same as my experience of the "fool" expression,

"When you find a good horse, ride him to death,"

I found only one hit, something like,

"As the cowboys say, '...' "

Yeah, right. Like a cowboy would ever destroy a good horse!

So, apparently, it *is* rare in print. But, likewise, there's no solid
evidence in support of my inclination to regard this as peculiarly black in
origin, either, especially given "horse" and not "mule." *Riding* horses is
still so rare among black Americans that I once saw a PBS special on

"I'm 'onna jump up on one of these ol' po' mules an' start ridin'
An' I don' give a Bruce an' Laura dern where we stop at"
- Mercy Dee

In my experience, both expressions = "Never give a sucker an even break,"
if that's not obvious.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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