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I think I no longer understand what people mean. Recently, I was on the phone. My friend soon had to go to work for a shift she was not particularly looking forward too. She said to me, “I am not looking forward to piling out of here tonight!” Not having heard the words ‘piling out’ in the context of leaving for work before I was slightly befuddled and mostly confused. “It means leaving the house.”she said.

Last weekend an acquaintance of mine was in the passenger seat of my car telling me of a woman he just talked to face to face. She had been suffering with the flu. “She looked sick,” he told me. Then instead of leaving it there went on to say, “She looked like someone who had just chased a fart through a bag of nails.”

I looked at him flabbergasted, “What? I have no idea what that even means!” He shrugged and only said that I didn’t travel in the right circles. I pulled my car back into the proper lane.

In my last blog I used a phrase that I had heard Yosemite Sam say over and over every Saturday on the Bugs Bunny, Roadrunner show “What in tarnation…?” 40 years later I still have no idea what in tarnation, tarnation means.

When I don’t understand what something mean it really gets my goat. Which, by the way, is another phrase I don’t understand. It seems to infer that being frustrated by something someone else does is equated to the feeling you get when someone takes your goat.

Hogwash! I have had dealings with goats in my past and the thought of someone taking it away would be equated with great joy, like candy on Halloween, presents on Christmas day, or a blizzard the day of the math exam about quadratic equations. It’s not a bad thing to have someone take your goat.

Four eight years I lived at a summer camp and one Spring the director decided to liven the place up by deciding to bring in a little baby goat. Being a male, the goat was called a billy and being a baby, the goat was called a kid. It ended up with the name Billy the Kid.

That summer the camp’s nurse was infuriated beyond measure when all the flowers she so carefully and painstakingly planted the month before begain to vanish planter by planterful. Billy seemed to be getting fatter and the aroma of pink and purple flowers followed him wherever it wandered. I think the nurse would of been so pleased if only someone would come and get her goat.

Some of the summer staff got a kick out of how Billy would love to butt things, and in order to bring some excitement to lives that were otherwise dull and uneventful, they decided to join in. They would get down on all fours and encourage the goat to headbutt them. Billy would stand upright on his spindly two hind legs and wag his head as he aimed at his giggling target. With a sudden charge the baby goat would ram its skull into that of the staff’s, roars of laughter soon echoed from the campers gathered around to watch. With staff being such healthy role models the kids were soon playing the same game, some with the goat, some with each other. Once again the nurse was not pleased as she was busy giving out cold clothes and distributing aspirin.

Summer came to an end as the stems of long ago eaten flowers dried up and faded. Staff and campers headed back to homes and schools leaving Billy the Kid suffering severe bouts of loneliness. He tried to fit in with the horses but they would chase him off when they caught him eating their oats. Occasionally we would get visitors in the off season for birthday parties and sleigh rides. In his joy Billy would take these opportunities to butt the little kids dressed up in colorful snowsuits and send them spinning across the ice like that dear in the movie, Bambi. Laughter and bleating mixed in the frigid January skies of blue, thawing the heart with its sounds of joy.

Then the dreary numbing colds of February set in, quiet, mournful, and gray. Visitors were rare and children in snowsuits were just a memory of how things once had been. It had been quite some time since the goat had a chance to butt someone and on that late February morning Billy just had the urge. I had just finished feeding the horses and Billy followed me down from the corral. I stopped for some unknown reason, a chill in the base of my neck warned me to look behind. There was Billy the Kid standing on his two hind legs, wagging his head and I could see in his eyes his target was my butt.

I had not realized before that instant just how much Billy had grown. He was no longer a kid. After a healthy diet of last summer’s flowers and last fall’s horsefeed, Billy was a full sized goat. Standing on his back legs we were actually eye to eye. And those eyes were set on butting my butt.

I punched Billy in the nose.

He fell back into a snow drift with all four cloven hooves pawing at the sky. Flailing around he righted himself, stood up, shook his head, offered a short, terse, “maaaa!” and trotted away. He never attempted to butt me from behind again.

If someone had come along right then and told me, “I am here to get your goat.” I would of helped load Billy aboard the truck.

Even the summer staff from the year before changed their minds about the goat, but that may have been more attributed to brain damage then common sense. Summer was almost back and one sunny day I found the staff who had first challenged Billy to butt her head sitting in the grass holding her head between her knees. Behind her Billy was chewing on a fresh shoot of grass and bleated innocently when I looked at him. If this had been a cartoon, tweeting birds would be circling the staff’s head and coo-koo clocks would be sounding in the distance. She looked up at me with a tear in her eye and a red lump on her forehead. “Stupid goat,” was all she said.

I have no idea why we say when frustrated, that gets my goat. I have no idea why you say the things you do, nor why I continue to pretend I understand what you mean when you say them. Finally I have absolutely know idea how a fart would end up in a bag of nails in the first place. (well, ok, maybe how… just not why.)

Oh the questions that keep me awake at night.

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8 thoughts on “Thought 206: I No Longer Understand What People Mean

  1. Pingback: Thought 132: Saturday’s Selections #2 « Two Hundred and Ten Thoughts

  2. Your blog is the first blog that I have ever received on a regular basis. Oops–that may give my age away–but I have to tell you, it rates a 5 star. You make me laugh and that is good medicine at any age. Keep it up!!

  3. I really like the way you process your thoughts, Brad!

    Yes, I know that people say certain things that befuddle others. Could this have anything to do with the culture or the place and time where one grew up in and lives?

    If there are phrases you can’t understand in English, which I suppose is the language native to you, imagine me! Though I have know of no language with which to read and write but English I was born with one of the 87 Filipino dialects, but mostly speaking and attempted to write with another dialect (also known as the national language, Pilipino). When I migrated to Canada four years ago, I discovered not the English I learned and recently rediscovered in NY and Baltimore but British English and what’s known as Canadian English! Both are quite different from what comes naturally to me in many of the expressions used and even spelling! The ‘ou’ in ‘glamor’ and other words that I used to furiously correct when proofreading text has descended on me just as furiously.

    But back to your topic, here’s one word that absolutely amuses me, which I gather means ‘fuss’, the spelling of which I can’t even figure out so that I can’t find it in the dictionary–maybe you could help or someone could, this word based on how I hear it: ‘caffafle’ (kaf-fuh-fel). Befuddling, isn’t it?

    Ahhh…I feel better. Thanks, Brad, for this space!

  4. Scrolling through your contents lead me here. I must admit, this really made me giggle. The “fart in a bag of nails’ analogy is so obscure and strange that I can’t even imagine where that would come from. Did someone actually do that and end up looking like your friend’s friend who had the flu? We’ll never know. I can only hope that 3/4 years later, these phrases aren’t still circulating… Nope, they’ve been replaced with worse ones.

    • Georgie, that was the one and only time I ever heard that statement used, but the way my friend said it made it seem like is was a popular phrase used all his life. Feel free to use it where ever you deem fit. 🙂 And feel free to scroll around my blog, even I am surprised at some of the stuff I still find here.

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