Friday, August 18, 2006

Them's workin' words

Pastor, my landlady's dog, has been restless this morning. He won't eat his breakfast but that's probably because he's sulking. I made him take his meds this morning. I opened the capsules and put the powder in his food, but I have to give him his pills, which requires opening his mouth and holding it closed once I have the pills on the back of his tongue. It's like force feeding geese to make their livers fat and succulent, except that I don't don't do it for longer than it takes for him to swallow his pills.

When I was a kid and Dad was stationed at Fort Monroe in Virginia, we lived in Hampton Roads, a small town off Chesapeake Bay. Dad kept pigeons and when he had babies he would hand feed them dried corn. That meant prying open their little beaks with a fingernail and and putting the corn down their throats -- force feeding. They were too young, so Dad said, to be able to eat the food by themselves and were used to having their mothers regurgitate food from their crops into the babies mouths. Of course the babies expected mama to feed them so they squeaked and cheeped with their beaks wide open, jostling their siblings to get first in line, or at least first beak up since they were packed so tightly in the nest. I don't think the baby pigeons saw Dad as mama. They didn't fight him or wriggle to get away; they sat patiently on his lap while he hand fed them. I don't think it's a good idea for me to hand feed Pastor; he's spoiled enough as it is.

I'm getting spoiled, too. For the first time since I was a kid, and I mean a very young child who didn't pay attention to these things, I am looking at a weekend where I don't have to clean the apartment, which is a good thing since I ache all over, but especially at my knees and hips. Could be the fall I took last night on the landlady's hardwood floors. The landlady has rugs scattered artfully over the floors with some of Pastor's folded blankets on top of the big rug in the dining room. The blankets are his outside bed when he's lounging on the deck. Anyway, I was walking through the dining room in the dark on my way to the laundry room to check on the dryer when my big bare toe caught a fold or hole or something, nearly jerked my toe out of the socket, throwing me to the floor. I hit hard, flustering Pastor not the least bit. As I sat on the floor, knees hurting so badly my eyes watered, I bit back the last few curses on my lips and sat there deciding whether or not I should stay there and avoid tripping and falling again or get back up and try to walk again. I got up.

Needless to say, my knees and hips feel out of place and ache like a mouth full of bad teeth right now. Even sitting here on the sofa with one bare foot on the floor and the other leg stretched out on the couch is uncomfortable. All I can think is that I'm glad I don't have to clean this weekend even though I'm dreading doing the rest of the laundry tomorrow morning. I think I'll avoid going to the Farmer's Market, too, since walking hurts. I probably should be stoic and bite down on a piece of leather or a silver bullet, and walk over there and wander through the stalls, but I'm just not feeling it. I don't think I'll feel it tomorrow either. Walking is an exercise in agony and anything but being curled up in a fetal ball hurts like the dickens. Time for a side trip.

According to The Answer Bank the phrase, "hurts like the dickens" has an interesting history. Dickens is another word for devil, and came to be used as an oath in the same way as God, Hell, Holy Mary, etc. Brewer (dictionary of phrase and fable 1870) explains that the 'dickens' oath, is a perversion of, and derived from 'Nick' and 'Old Nick'. The dickens expression appeared first probably during the 1600's. The etymology of 'nick' can be traced back a lot further - 'nicor' was Anglo-Saxon for monster. The devil-association is derived from ancient Scandinavian folklore: a Nick was mythological water-wraith or kelpie, found in the sea, rivers, lakes, even waterfalls - half-child or man, half-horse - that took delight when travellers drowned. Beginning several hundred years ago both protestant and catholic clergy commonly referred to these creatures, presumably because the image offered another scary device to persuade simple people to be ever god-fearing (".....or Old Nick will surely get you when you next go to the river...") which no doubt reinforced the Nick imagery and its devil association. So too did the notoriety of Italian statesman and theorist, Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527) - (who also gave rise to the expression 'machiavellian', meaning deviously wicked). 'Nick' Machiavelli became an image of devilment in the Elizabethan theatre because his ideas were thought to be so heinous. Shakespeare has Mistress Page using the 'what the dickens' expression in the Merry Wives of Windsor, c.1600, so the expression certainly didn't originate as a reference to Charles Dickens as many believe, who wasn't born until 1812. Charles Dickens' fame however would certainly have further reinforced the popularity of the 'dickens' expression.

I have to go think up good reasons why I shouldn't just crawl back into bed instead of showering, putting on clothes and working this morning.

Oh, yes, I have it. Poverty. Can't afford maid. No maid means I have to clean the apartment. Right. All good reasons why I should get up and get moving even though I'm just not feeling it today. Today I feel like bed and lots of books. Too bad I had to stop and think about it.

That is all. Disperse.

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