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Unread 03-01-2009, 12:25 AM
Allen Tice Allen Tice is offline
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Brooklyn, NY USA
Posts: 4,805
Default DISC When are usages too regional or obsolete to use?

In the High and Far-Off Times the Elephant, O Best Beloved, had no trunk.
...and he said through his nose, which was now nearly five feet long, 'This is too butch for be!'
That is from Kipling's Just-So Stories, and it tells how the Elephant's Child got his trunk to be so long because a Crocodile bit on it and refused to let go. The EC tries to talk through his pinched nose and say something that I wouldn't & didn't hesitate to read to my young children, but which would cause titters from some adults because of the current use of "butch", and it illustrates how meanings (or mishearings) change through time and place.

All this was brought on by an email I just received from a lady (here nameless) who wrote (I cannot imagine why): 'Allen, you're a brick.'

I think I got the drift, but being a real brick, I decided to check out this wizard flapper's groove-like palaver. I went to

Here's the brick's plunge in descending order: 1) a kilo of illegal drugs, 2) some cocaine, 3) a poor basketball shot, 4) verb: to ruin a piece of electronic equipment, 5) heroin, 6) marihuana, 7) a building block OR to defecate during intercourse, 8) very cold, 9) a giant piece of human excrement, 10) a massive cell phone, 11) a drug kilo again, 12) very cold again, 13) a bad water polo shot, 14) very cold again, 15) a dependable person, 16) a woman flat on all sides and a sexual partner for a national group, 17) a pound of drugs.

I can exclude item 16, because the broad knows I do groom, but as to the rest, poetic license could possibly allow some unless I make certain charitable assumptions. (I do choose to make them, and opt for item 15. She needn't worry.) However, I was struck by how odd it would seem if I replied to her in a rhyming slang, for example, for which she could find no leprecaun.

Moving on: Words and phrases that mean X in area (or time) A but Z in area (or time) B? I don't expect lot of replies: birds and stud muffins are mad shy, but let's hear a few (some) of 'em!


Last edited by Allen Tice; 03-01-2009 at 06:57 PM. Reason: ....
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Unread 03-01-2009, 01:10 AM
Jones Pat Jones Pat is offline
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Northern California
Posts: 222

Allen, in the context of this board, since you asked, I can understand why someone would call you a brick...and mean it as a compliment...a solid contributor, consistently good poet and I would agree...on the other hand, where I come from if she/he said you were dumb as a brick or a brick shy of a wall, that would be different. I've lived all over the US, right, middle and left, and have never heard many of the definitions you sited. If I say someone's a real brick, I mean it as a compliment...solid, dependable, someone we can count on.

It'll be fun to see others' take on it.

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Unread 03-01-2009, 01:20 AM
Philip Quinlan Philip Quinlan is offline
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: N/A
Posts: 1,666
Blog Entries: 1

In olden times a "whaletail" was a whale's tail, or a fluke
Now "muffin-tops" wear thongs; when they bend down it makes you puke

Of course there is also "built like a brick s**thouse"

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Unread 03-01-2009, 02:35 AM
Janet Kenny Janet Kenny is offline
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: Queensland, (was Sydney) Australia
Posts: 15,584

It's the language of Joan Hunter Dunn and it means you're an absolutely tophole sort ;-) Definitely a compliment.

Philip, "built like a brick dunny" is the Australian version.

"Witty" sports commentators refer to some rugby players as a "brick with legs".
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Unread 03-01-2009, 03:20 AM
Holly Martins Holly Martins is offline
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Kent, UK
Posts: 2,445

It is of course impossible nowadays to read aloud to children poems which include the old use of the word 'gay' without causing mirth or misunderstanding. Pity, it was a handy little adjective for certain nouns and easy to rhyme. Perhaps it was a little over-used in Victorian poems, but I resent words like this one, and 'genius' and 'fantastic' being hijacked.
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Unread 03-01-2009, 05:26 AM
Alan Wickes Alan Wickes is offline
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: Buxton, England
Posts: 359

My finest contribution to the art of the inadvertant faux pas (also known as dropping a bollock over here) was a few years ago over on Sonnet Central when I proudly posted a rather heartfelt poem about how the choice of a favourite Hopper painting gave deep insights into the psychology and character of a friend. The title 'Choosing a Hopper' was greeted with sniggers from American members...well how was I to know that a 'hopper' was slang for urinal.


Last edited by Alan Wickes; 03-01-2009 at 05:39 AM.
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Unread 03-01-2009, 05:45 AM
Janice D. Soderling's Avatar
Janice D. Soderling Janice D. Soderling is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Sweden
Posts: 14,175

All this was brought on by an email I just received from a lady (here nameless) who wrote (I cannot imagine why): 'Allen, you're a brick.'
Thank you, Allen, for calling me a lady, when I had just called you a brick and you were uncertain as to whether I meant you were a poor basketball player, or an oversized pile of fertilizer.

My message, with the header "Mucho thanks", ran word for word, thus.

Thanks Allen, you're a brick.

The number one rule at Eratosphere, which I, alas, too often forget despite my generous use of smilies, coolies, yoke-yoke asides and other friendly, if frivolous, tricks, is:

If anything can be misunderstood, it will be, and in the worst possible way.

The urban dictionary seems to be a groovy place to hang out, but I meant "you are a brick", in the sense supplied by the Oxford Dictionary of English, under noun 2. namely:

brick (...) 2.Brit. informal, dated. a generous, helpful, and reliable person; 'You really are a brick, Vi,' Gloria said.

I meant it in a jocular, yoke-yoke P.G. Wodehouse vein, assuming that you would remember what you had done a short time prior and which gave me cause to thank you.

Even my American Heritage Dictionary defines it thus in Americanese:

brick (...) 3. Informal A helpful, reliable person.

Who would have thunk this simple message would put bees in anyone's bonnet.

Now had I written, "No thanks, Allen, you are a brickhead," you would have had cause for worry.

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Unread 03-01-2009, 07:10 AM
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Chris Childers Chris Childers is offline
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Middletown, DE
Posts: 3,062

Allen, I must say I love definition #7, especially the fact that it only gets one entry, whereas "very cold" gets three.
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Unread 03-01-2009, 07:10 AM
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peter richards peter richards is offline
Join Date: Dec 1999
Location: Oslo, Norway
Posts: 1,373

I read such things as this with utter despair. Bad language and vituperation are frowned upon in a downward direction if they come from below and with a slighter plaisant lowering of the brows if they come from one of those who has a golden something-that-shall-not-be-mentioned. So my counsel is held. There's nothing to quote here, as it's either been wiped out of archive, lest one who was short of content for a toilet wall should consider it - horrors - to have been previously published, or perhaps exorcised for the relief of the milder majority or banned along with its authors.
Just in case my silence is frustrating as well as a relief, I have at least offered a description of its content.
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Unread 03-01-2009, 08:09 AM
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Maryann Corbett Maryann Corbett is offline
Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Saint Paul, MN
Posts: 9,598

The funny thing about Allen's initial example, from Kipling, this: The word Kipling spells "butch" is clearly not supposed to be pronounced with a vowel sound like the one in "book," but with the same vowel as the word "much." It is the word "much," its first consonant changed to a stop instead of a nasal. It's the phrase "this is too much for me," with its nasalizations lost.

As long as the reading parent understands that idea, the story can safely be read to the kids.

On the larger topic: yes, word meanings are fluid, and it's nothing short of a miracle that the far-flung people on this site can write to each other. It's uncomfortable to discover our words can be misunderstood, but at least when we learn it here, we're not risking a punch in the face.
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