You Don’t Say: Vol 88
It’s week two and we’re truly into the new school year. Teachers have been assigned and students are figuring out their new surroundings, schools, lockers. Going about my days this past week, I heard a few words and phrases that I’ve taken for granted. Everyone knows these don’t they? Then I thought about it a lot more about meanings, origins and what these things mean.
When the alarm clock rings to get up and get ready for school, one must be careful not to get up on the wrong side of the bed which means to start off in a bad mood. So what does grumpy have to do with getting out of bed, grumpy or unpleasant from the first eye flicker or yawn? The Romans thought it was bad luck to get out of bed on the left side (the wrong side). This of course refers to the early belief that anything ‘left’ (except maybe last night’s dinner scraps) was not good and therefore to be avoided (apologies to all left-handed people). Therefore, if you got out of bed on the ‘wrong‘ side (the left side), it was thought that you would have a very bad day. Similarly, starting to move on the left foot first was also indicative of a bad move or bad start, so we have the idiom, “we got off on the wrong foot” really means things aren’t working well, let’s start over again. It has nothing to do with feet unless you are a podiatrist (foot doctor) and you really did operate on the wrong appendage.
Understand (undertanding) means to know or comprehend something (such as what the teacher is teaching). But if you take the words at their literal meaning, under and stand, it’s confusing. Underline means to draw a line under a word or phrase to add emphasis. Underscore means (no it’s not what the Canucks were doing last season) it means to more dramatically emphasize or draw attention to something: he underscored the importance of not checking if the gas tank is empty… with a match. Undertake means to take on a project or activity. You undertake the task of undertaker – but maybe it should be under (ground) bury-er. But understand? What am I standing under? The texts I checked could not provide anything earlier than understanden, middle English meaning “come to know” or “know.” Understand? Good!
Recess – ah, my favourite course in school! It’s a chance to get out on the playground, shake off the boredom, get the blood flowing (but not by fighting) and maybe, if it’s cold enough, get your tongue frozen to the flagpole. But wait, it’s not just in school, a recess is something judges call in their courtrooms when they want a break. Recess is a term for a period of time that a group of people are ‘temporarily dismissed from their duties’ perhaps for “morning tea.” Of course we all know when an economy takes a break, it’s called a recession.
Old school doesn’t refer to the age of the institution you are attending, although some of them are really old – even older than some teachers. If you are doing it old school, it really means you are doing or believing something that is old-fashioned or traditional, which may carry a negative or positive connotation.
Learning the 3 Rs is really about getting the basics in education: Reading wRiting and aRithmetic. (they take some liberties with the alliteration – words starting with similar sounds). Of course Three Rs, is a little easier than the good old RWAs, right? Of course right!
The Writing part of the 3Rs involves Cursive (hand-writing). No it doesn’t mean you get to curse when you make a mistake, it means the letters are joined as opposed to being individual as in printing. It comes from the Latin cursivus, from curs- ‘run’, as in run the letters together. Some jurisdictions it seems aren’t teaching cursive in favour of key-boarding (typing to us old geezers). But what happens when the power goes out? Then you start cursive-ing of course!
It’s the write way to do it – See you at recess!