……returns! Not that this sunday has been any less busy than any of the others that have interrupted my clichés. But I decided I better suck it up and just get back on schedule 🙂 This week is going to a mash-up of any clichés that “tickles my fancy.” Shall we start with that one?
tickle my fancy: to be pleased or having your interest aroused by something. “It can also be used as a euphemism for sexual pleasure or attraction. Tickle is used to mean ‘to excite or stir up in a pleasing manner’ (think of the smiling, laughing reaction of a person being physically tickled), and fancy as a noun that means ‘a notion or whim, a fantasy.’ Dating at least from the late 1700’s, tickle your fancy‘s original definition may have originally been closer to our modern euphemistic approach. One of the earliest known references comes from Abraham Tucker’s 1774 In the Light of Nature Pursued, the author tells of animals “whose play had a quality of striking the joyous perception, or, as we vulgarly, say, tickling the fancy.” *
of the first water: to be finest quality. But why? How does water work as a measurement of quality? The comparison is of diamonds or pearls to the luster and brilliancy of water. This was first used from Arabic gem traders; who, living a desert, presumably put a lot of importance on clean water. The traders graded the gems as first, second or third water. The white stones of the highest quality were graded as “of the first water.” The method of grading in such a way stopped being used around the 1850s, but the phrase lives on.
to go scot free: to get away with something with no repercussions or consequences. This is an old English term, where “scot” meant a payment or a share in the cost of entertainment. Therefore, there was also a phrase “to pay one’s scot,” clearly not as popular. I guess everyone skimped on their share of the entertainment, and got away scot free!
halcyon days: a time of peace and serenity, or rest. Halcyon days are the seven days before and the seven days after the shortest day of the year. “These days were believed by ancients always to be windless and calm. According to Greek legend, Halcyone and her husband, whom she had found drowned upon the shore, were turned into birds by the gods and were thereafter known as halcyons, or, as we call them, kingfishers. Their nests were believed to be built upon the sea, and the gods decreed that whenever these birds wished to build their nests, the sea should remain perfectly calm and unruffled. They made their nests, according to Pliny, during the seven days preceding the winter solstice and brooded upon their eggs during the next seven days.”**
to read the riot act: I think we have all been read the riot act. Ever got home late and your parents lambasted you? Yup, that’s the RA. Your parents were following in the footsteps of George I of England. In 1716, he enacted the Riot Act.
“makes it a duty of a justice, sheriff, mayor, or other authority, wherever twelve persons or more are unlawfully, riotously and tumultuously assembled together, to the disturbance of the public peace, to resort to the place of such assembly and read the following proclamation: ‘Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons being assembled immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in first of King George for preventing tumultuous and riotous assemblies. God save the King.'” —Encyclopedia Britannica, eleventh edition.
**A Hog on Ice, Charles Earl Funk