COLUMNS

On the Lighter Side: Watch what you say

Joe Guilbeau

“BELIEVE IT OR NOT” – It’s a wondrous but true expression that was the title of a widely distributed newspaper feature by Robert Ripley (1893-1949). The feature described and illustrated the happenings or phenomena that were true but so remarkable they were hard to believe. The Catholic cemetery in Rayne was featured because all the graves faced north.

Our Cajun version is “Croire le ou Croire Pas!!”

Mr. Joe Guilbeau

“UNTIL THE COWS COME HOME” – For a long time, cows that came out to pasture faithfully turned up at the bar, or at the gate waiting to be milked and fed.

This old saying in 1593 (’til the cows come home) referred particularly to the morning appearance, since it implied that some activity would go on all night.

As a youngster, I was playing marbles with a group of friends on a bright Sunday afternoon when an almost total eclipse of the sun appeared, and the skies became very dark.

The cows came home.

“BETE NOIRE” – An annoyance, a thorn in the side, a bothersome person or problem. The literal translation is “Beast Black!” Its use in French and its transfer intact to English probably reflect ancient superstitions about black animals. One was that a black sheep – an oddity in a herd of sheep – bore the mark of the devil. Another, still encountered, is that it is bad luck when a black cat crosses your path.

“THAT’S THE WAY THE BALL BOUNCES” – The influence to swing an issue in a certain direction or to keep it stable. It is a variant with the same meaning as “That’s the way the cookie crumbles.” Both expressions seem to have originated in the United States some 60 years ago.

The bouncing ball in many games, particularly football, is notably unpredictable and the player must deal with whatever bounces he gets.

A SEQUEL HERE – A guy who swallowed a ping-pong ball went in for surgery. Refusing anesthesia, he also wanted to watch the operation.

He noticed the surgeon punching holes all over his stomach.

“Doctor,” he said. “Why do you have to make so many cuts?”

“Because that’s the way the ball bounces,” the doctor said.

“ALL GREEK TO ME” – Not comprehensible or intelligible, as spoken in foreign language, the term was used in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”

Being in Dearborn, Mich., on a Saturday morning, an affable young man pulled a mechanic from a car job to change the oil in my car.

His old cash register printed a sales slip we couldn’t read.

He apologized.

“It looks Greek to me,” I said. “I’m Greek, and I can’t read it either,” he replied.