Johnny on the Spot
My wife and I went out for brunch the other day.
The hostess greeted us and I asked her, “How are you?”
“Peachy keen!” she responded.
So, naturally I asked, “How come you’re not “banana keen” or “apple keen” or “grapefruit keen”?
When I tossed out “grape keen”, my wife nixed that for insufficient syllables.
So being the investigative reporter that I am, I looked into this “peachy keen” phrase.
As best as I can determine, it comes from the mid-to-late 50’s and it’s an adjective meaning “extremely good”, “exactly right” or “all right”.
It also appears to be an American phrase.
Have you ever heard, “Peachy keen, jelly bean”?
I just think that’s just a rhyming thing, much like “Awesome possum”.
I used to work with a gal in Ohio who always said, “Cool beans!”
Unless they’re jelly beans, I like ’em warm.
Other “catch phrases” came to mind.
“Heavens to Betsy”
It’s probably a variation of “heavens sake” from somewhere between 1850-1900.
“For Pete’s sake”
Research indicates it’s a euphemistic replacement for God.
Sounds better than “for Harry’s sake” I guess.
“Mind your p’s and q’s”
This is probably from the mid 19th century when British bartenders would track your purchases at the pub with “p’s” for pints and “q’s” for quarts. Some shady barkeeps would “pad” your tally to get a bit more money out of you.
Therefore, while imbibing, you needed to mind your p’s and q’s.
Today, it means we should mind our manners or be on our best behavior.
“Dressed to the nines”
This one appears to have descended from an old English saying “dressed to the eyes” which was written as “dressed to the eyne” and someone “misheard” it and replaced “eyne” with “nine”.
It’s probably why my daughter Nikki used to sing that Eagle’s hit, “Take it to the Limick”.
“Bob’s your uncle”
This is not one I’ve ever heard but it has a neat story behind it.
A very British story.
The phrase is referring to something that’s easy to achieve, you’re all set or you’ve got it made.
The story is in 1887, British Prime Minister Robert Cecil appointed his favorite nephew to a prestigious post in Ireland.
Folks thought he got the job because “Bob’s your uncle”.
“The last (or final) straw”
Defined as “a further difficulty or annoyance, typically minor in itself, but coming on top of a whole series of difficulties that makes a situation unbearable”.
It comes from “the last straw which breaks the camel’s back’ for the accumulative effect of small actions.
I think of it as “Jenga in reverse”.
It’s kind of a neat mental visual.
“Barking up the wrong tree”
This means you completely misunderstood something or are totally wrong.
You can trace this back to the early 1800’s when hunting with packs of dogs was popular.
Former country comic Jerry Clower has great stories about hunting raccoons in Yazoo City, Mississippi.
One of the best is about a monkey that would climb up a tree after the dogs had chased a raccoon there and the ape would shoot it with a pistol and toss it out of the tree.
The best coon-hunting dog in the area, June, treed a raccoon but the critter got up in the high branches and got away. The monkey searched and searched, couldn’t find the “coon”, climbed back down and shot the dog.
The dog’s owner screamed, “Your monkey shot my dog!”
The monkey’s owner said, “Clovis, there ain’t but one thing that monkey hates worse than coons and that’s a lyin’ coon dog.”
“Straight from the horse’s mouth”
It means you got this information from someone with first-hand knowledge on the topic.
It’s probably from the early 20th century and overheard at a race track when a bettor said he had a “sure thing” since he heard it “straight from the horses’ mouth.”
“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”
This means you shouldn’t question the value of a gift.
Back in the day, the practice of evaluating the age of a horse involved looking at its’ teeth.
That’s probably where “long in the tooth” (meaning old) came from.
“When pigs fly”
It’s a way of saying something will never happen.
By the way, there’s a connection to Cincinnati, OH for this one.
There was a time when the Queen City was known as “Porkopolis” because it was a leader in the meat-packing industry.
Folks organized the “Flying Pig Marathon” to celebrate that designation.
Now, this is a bit of a stretch for this article but I was intrigued to learn what the distress signal “SOS” stands for.
Some would have you believe it’s for “save our souls” or “save our ship”.
It’s kind of a “backronym” which is “an acronym deliberately formed from a phrase whose initial letters spell out a particular word or words, either to create a memorable name or as a fanciful explanation of the word’s origin.”
“SOS” comes from the Morse code string of 3 dots, 3 dashes, 3 dots.
In Morse code, those would be the letters “S”, “O”, “S” but it doesn’t actually stand for anything.
It’s just easier to remember “S-O-S” if you want to let someone know you have a problem and you need to use Morse code.
Now, maybe I’m “splitting hairs”, which is making unnecessary distinctions between things when the difference between them are so small, they’re not important.
That would be “peachy keen”.