Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Mashed Thumb

As promised, I looked up "sore as a boiled owl" in my GREEN'S DICTIONARY OF SLANG. Under "sore as..." we have "very angry, annoyed, in various comparative phrs., incl. sore as a boil, ...boiled owl, ...gum boil, ...pup, ...sore as sox, ...sorer than a mashed thumb." We find that "sore as a boil" predates by some time "sore as a boiled owl," so I like to think that the person who first said "sore as a boiled owl" was getting the older phrase "drunk as a boiled owl" mixed up with "sore as a boil." Maybe he or she started to say "sore as a boil" and "sore as a boiled owl" just came rolling out of his or her mouth! And everyone found it charming and apt. Apt! That's what I like to think! I'm just making up stories in my head. Email from McNeil: "There was a story on about Malawi executing owls and I thought about you." Perverse! McNeil's phrasing (misleading in every way, as we shall see) made me curious, and with some trepidation I researched what promised to be an unpleasant tale. Turns out the owls were "nearly shot" for being bad luck but then the guy with the gun changed his mind and nothing bad happened to the owls. You know, I don't even care that much about owls.