Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chew on this

Chewing has been used as a metaphor for mulling over and thrashing out for centuries . . . when y’all chew, yer jaws move up and down, kinda like they do when you’s speaking. 

The action of a ruminant, such as a cow, chewing its cud gave us "chew the cud”; the seemingly never-ending process in which cows chew and chew and chew in order to fully digest their food.  In the euphemistic sense, chewing the cud is chatting in a slow and aimless manner; seemingly on and on and on to digest thoughts.

"Having left her a little while to chew the cud, if I may use that expression, on these first tidings."

Sort of like “chew the rag”, which was originally army slang for complaining.  You know like to rag on [someone] and to chew [someone] out.  What is a rag and why would one want to chew it?   In olden days, 'red rag' was slang for the tongue.   Chewing the rag is similar to flapping your gums and clattering your tongue “on choice morsels of gossip upon which they could feast."

"Shut your potato trap, and give your redrag a holiday."

“Gents, I could chew the rag hours on end, just spilling out the words and never know no more than a billy-goat what I’d been saying”

Two other possibilities to masticate over . . .
. . . Some say “chew the rag” came from soldiers chewing on a piece of cloth when they ran out of tobacco.
. . .  Others say that "chew the rag" came from black-powder rifle days when men sat around talking as they chewed the rags used for wadding a ball into the rifle.

“Discovering in his mouth a tongue,
He must not his palaver balk;
So keeps it running all day long,
And fancies his red rag can talk.”

The idiom, “chew the fat”, is a phrase that the origination of which is something else to gnaw on.

Well, Sit yourself down and let's chew the fat for a while over “bringing home the bacon” before we get to that one.
I suppose it could be said that if you managed to catch and hold down a greased pig in a contest and won said pig you would be the lucky person bringing home the bacon.

There is a custom in England known as the Dunmow Flitch first started at Great Dunmow, Essex in the 13th century.  It is said that the ruling noble would give a flitch(2) to any man who knelt on the hard stone of the doorway of Dunmow church and swore before the congregation and God that for a year and a day he and his wife had not given each other tongue lashings. Believe it or not, this tradition is still in practice today, though it is the town that awards the bacon now. 

The explanation I’m going with . . . primarily because it fits in with the theme of this post and not based on any solid fact  . . . is in days of old when knights were bold pork was such a rare commodity that workers were sometimes paid in rashers(1) of salt-cured noms.  So, bringing home the bacon was quite literally the equivalent of a big payday.  It was something special that when visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man "could bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and "chew the fat."

So, come over and chew the fat.

Other bites on the saying include  . . .
. . . Inuit used to chew on pieces of whale blubber almost like chewing gum. The blubber took quite a while to dissolve, so it just sort of helped pass the time while they were doing something else.
 . . . Sailors had to chew on salt pork when supplies were low, complaining about the poor food as they did.

Just sayin’ . . .


Cher’s Sausage Stuffed Pancakes

-          1 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
-          3 1/2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
-          1 Teaspoon Salt
-          1 Tablespoon White Sugar
-          1 1/4 Cups Milk
-          1 Egg
-          3 Tablespoons Butter, Melted
-     Browned Breakfast Sausages
-          Maple Syrup and Butter

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake.  Press two sausages into the pancake.

Brown on both sides and serve hot with maple syrup and butter.

(1) A thin slice of bacon, or a portion (an order) consisting of three slices of bacon or ham.

 A flitch is the side, or a steak cut from the side, of an animal or fish. The term now usually occurs only in connection with a side of salted and cured pork in the phrase a flitch of bacon.

1 comment:

  1. Hello,
    May I copy the picture of the cow sticking out its tongue?