Heard It On The Grapevine

There has never been a time like now. Information about anyone or anything is at the click of a button. With the advent of the digital world and social media you can find out most things about people online .  In fact social media is the biggest satisfaction to one of man’s greatest cravings . Like a pyromaniac with a zippo lighter, we scroll , eyes glazed over with inquisitive wonder, through online timelines and news feeds, our shameful hunger for other’s people’s business satisfied with each glorious mouthful of virtual information. We are a prying race, we like to know what others are doing and why we aren’t doing it too. The likes of Facebook and Twitter allow the constant updates of peoples lives to be streamed straight to our handheld devices and so, with some form of implicit consent  by their acceptance of your  friend request,   we monitor their activities, thoughts and relationships.

It is a virtual grapevine, thriving in all climates and seasons, gifting us the fruits of other people’s labours and lives.  By word of mouth soon even I know that Jenny’s dad’s cousin bought a new house in Idaho. ( I don’t know Jenny and I have never been to Idaho.)

But where did the saying ” Heard it on the Grapevine” come from?

This phrase was born in the USA ( try not singing that! ) back in the 19th century when Samuel Morse’s telegraph system was the new means of communication. The first telegraphing line built, like most new products on the market , was a basic prototype and so in its unrefined  glory parts of these wires were held shoddily  off the ground by being strung on trees  and so the trailing wires on the ground were likened to un farmed grapevines . Because of this, the first telegraph lines built were prone to damage by weather and hooligans and so information undoubtedly encountered problems in reaching its destination . From there came the term ” heard it on the grapevine” where grapevine was used to refer to the telegraphing system in a mocking manner. The truth was that the information passed on the  “grapevine” was unreliable, transmission had somewhere gone wrong and the true message had been received either tainted and lost in translation or not at all.

We use the term now to describe hearing misinformed gossip from a friend’s sister’s cousin , with information spreading like wildfire, bringing along with it debris that taints the true course of the original flame.

Regardless it was the dulcet tones of Mr Marvin Gaye who brought the phrase to popular culture in 1968. But as the song goes ” people say believe half of what you see, son, and none of what you hear. “

So perhaps it’s best to believe things when it’s straight from the horses mouth! ( But that’s for another post eh !)

Wear Your Heart On Your Sleeve

“I have found the perfect paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love. – Mother Teresa”

Nun’s say it best right? This quote from Mama T is not the topic of this post but rather a scene setter, aptly describing the tumultuous nature of that enigmatic creature that is love.

Love can be simultaneously the greatest feeling in the world, and yet it can be the most painful soul destroying experience.

So if love itself is bad enough, what’s it like for those among us who fall in love hard and fast? I’m talking about the romantics, the poets, some would say- the fools. Those who give all they’ve got right at the start, running into enemy lines with guns blazing.

So what is love , and where did it derive from, for those who ” Wear their hearts on their sleeves?” 

I like this idiom because it has both a historical past but also, as always, is somehow related to Billy Shakespeare.

( Surely by now I should just resign to the fact that most modern day sayings are in some way related to him, I have after all immersed myself in the incestuous world of quotations. )

Historically men were believed to be better soldiers if they were bachelors. Without the hold of a woman, man could inflict testosterone infused violence  upon whatever enemy he was commanded to attack.  Emperor Claudios Gothicus of the Roman Empire sealed the deal by making marriage illegal . Now don’t worry, we all know Romans enjoyed the finer things in life, so good old Claudios had his boy’s backs.  Men were allowed to – during the annual festival celebrating the goddess Juno – draw the name of a woman who would become his – what is now –  friend with a benefit. He would then wear this lady’s name on his sleeve and would *ahem* be with her for the coming year. ( Facebook status : It’s Complicated ??)

Away from Italy and in England at the same era, men once again, in their quest for displays of dominance, took part in jousting.  And what impresses a woman more than watching a man with a massive lance on a horse. ( Tone lowered..?) Now this desirable knight would dedicate this romantic scene to his beloved by wearing something of hers around his arm.

So these two are  figurative examples of men  literally wearing – in some way-  their “hearts” on their arms. However it is Shakespeare’s use of the phrase that  is used in modern day.

In his play Othello it reads :

“For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In complement extern, ’tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
For daws to peck at. I am not what I am.”

Here the character Iago is telling Roderigo that his perceived loyalties to the Venetian general, Othello, are indeed a masquerade. ( This boy be frontin.)  He is saying that when one displays their true emotions and intentions outwardly ( the native act and figure of my heart) it leaves them vulnerable to birds to peck away at. So when you wear your “heart”, that is your feelings and your hopes, so outwardly and visible, it leaves you vulnerable to others , who can – like so often occurs in the madness of love – take slowly away from you, without returning what you first gave them . And so sadness can only ensue.

Iago describes a pessimistic world.  But perhaps we don’t have to go sleeveless just yet, we don’t have to hide our feelings entirely but maybe it’s time to roll up our sleeves,  put on the arm bands, and jump into the deep end.

Wherefore Art Thou Romeo?

Back to Shakespeare again folks. But not because I have an intense fan girl  obsession with our favorite English playwright, nay but because of Halloween.

That’s right, double double toil and trouble, something wicked this way comes! Halloween is nigh and with it brings a legitimate reason for me to be able to put too much effort and excitement into a costume undoubtedly nobody but perhaps an english or film studies student will get.

This year I am going as a star crossed lover  – masquerading this October 31st as  good old Juliet Capulet ( I’m in the middle of sourcing an apothecary to acquire poison as well as a blood stained dagger so that perhaps more people may know who I am actually meant to be. )

But it got me thinking. Romeo and Juliet is  a cultural staple, its plot forms the foundations of most modern day rom-coms; a classic tale of forbidden love which ends tragically . But, if it is such a well recognized play and so engrained in popular culture, why is it that it is so frequently misinterpreted ?

O Romeo, O Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?

The scene is set. Juliet sits at her balcony and – as one  does – declares her feelings in regards to her undying (and slightly hastily decided) love for Romeo – a 16th century Bridget Jones’ diary.

Now the above quote is often thought to mean ” where are you Romeo?” Now this makes sense grammatically and is in context with the play. Nevertheless the actual meaning of ” Wherefore art thou Romeo” makes even more sense grammatically and is even more in context with the play.

Wherefore art means ” why do you have to be.” So Juliet is not yearning for the longitude and latitude of her lover, she doesn’t want his GPS location, she’s not clingy like that. No she wants more. Our gal Juliet is a philosopher, she wants to know why he had to be born a Montague, born a son of the sworn enemies of her family.

So ladies and gentlemen this time it’s a case of why rather than where for both Romeo and Juliet and myself.

WHY will people not understand who I am dressed up as this Halloween?

Maybe it’ll be because people will expect me to be looking for my Romeo . But we all know now that I won’t be looking for him, but rather I’ll be sitting somewhere, dram of whisky in hand, questioning and pondering his bloodline and heritage.

Wherefore art thou indeed .

Jump On The Bandwagon

Ladies and gentlemen. I have become someone I vowed never to be.  I have buckled under the marketing pressure. I have been ensnared  in a trap made from system boards and modems. I will soon be one those people whom I have always scoffed at nonchalantly , mocking them for their lack of originality,  whilst feeling safe  and content in the knowledge that I am not one of them. Or should I say  that I was not one of them.

I am writing this on my vista equipped , panoramic sized, so heavy nobody could steal it fast enough, laptop. I am replacing this martyr of a PC – a pioneer in its heyday – with a sleeker, lighter and significantly smaller  device which moonlights as 1 of my 5 a day. I am leaving this loyal and faithful housewife of mine , for a younger, hotter more talented model.

I have – Jumped on the Bandwagon. The one overflowing with juicy apples fresh from the factory, shiny and ripe. Best before – the next system upgrade ( or best before it bends right !?)

But where did the bandwagon originally come from and where along its journey did we come across it and hitch a ride ?

Bandwagon’s were  – would you believe it – the wagons for the bands which traveled with circuses back in the mid 19th century. To herald their arrival in a new town, circuses would parade down the main street with their bandwagons – if you’ve got it flaunt it right?  But if anything these circuses had nailed marketing 101. By showing the  town’s people a  sneak peak into what the circus had to offer –  what freaky delights, what wild creatures, what  travelling tricks they had – the parade was prime opportunity to drum up interest and enticed locals to part with their pennies. It took half a century for people to realize that they had fallen for the allure of the bandwagons and the flamboyant displays of advertising they encapsulated.

And of course if there’ something we all know about advertising, it’s that there’s always an ulterior motive somewhere; a secret agenda, an unlicensed ingredient, an unknown sponsor. And like most good ideas in life, it wasn’t long before politics began to manipulate the innocent  wagon’s  of the circus folk into  prime campaigning real estate. Bandwagons began to be used by aspiring politicians as a means of getting in touch with the people and for delivering false promises  to them  (in politics this is known colloquially as a delivering a  “speech.”)

The earliest reference to jumping on the bandwagon was in political speeches made in the late 19th century where the public were warned not to ” jump on the opponents bandwagon in haste.” So the saying originally didn’t mean to follow the trend and what’s popular, but rather it was a token of advice , a scaremongering political move to warn people not  to listen to the politician on the bandwagon from the opposite party. But alas politicians no longer parade the streets in open topped wagons , and the saying now is used to describe the act of following the majority and what’s a la mode.

So I have jumped on the bandwagon. I will be another drop in the ocean of fruit loving fanatics.

I shudder at the thought that I will begin to defend my purchase with the classic ” but  they don’t get viruses.”

That’s right, because my new laptop will be up to date with its vaccinations. So here’s hoping the old saying an apple a day keeps the doctor away is true. Because I sure have hell have paid for this apple – bandwagon and all.

Curiosity Killed The Cat

Curiosity – or let’s be honest – nosiness, is one of the inherent natural instincts of most humans. You’d be lying to yourself if you disagreed.  In one way or another we are all inquisitive, questioning and sadly – suspicious. Mankind is  a distrustful race , but it’s not our fault ,  if evolution didn’t make us this way society certainly did.

But why use man in a metaphor when there is an equally suspicious and even more  cautious animal than man.

The cat.

Something about their cold exteriors, their lack of response to emotion , their arrogance and their self seeking behavior – is alarming. It’s almost scary.  I’m just putting it out there, there are some cat’s I know that could most definitely fit the criteria for a psychopath. (That’s superficial charm, lack of remorse and sensation seeking)

But enough of cat bashing. ( I’m a dog person – could you tell?)

Cat’s are inquisitive – I presume that’s why they like to enter every house  in the neighborhood – maybe some form of covert espionage where they then report back to their owners about who  has the biggest television. Keeping up with the Jones’ and all that.

But why did “Curiosity Kill The Cat” ? ( and did it kill the cat 9 times?)

The original metaphor was “Care Killed the Cat” where “care” was taken to mean “worry.”

The definitive origin of the saying is not known but the earliest written reference is in the 16th century play “Every Man in his Humour” by Ben Jonson. He wrote:

“Helter skelter, hang sorrow, care will kill a cat”

But since then nobody really knows where ” curiosity killed the cat ” came from. It’s a general consensus that the proverb was widely recognized by the start of the 20th century and most likely of British origin. There’s something about it -almost alliterative and musical in nature – I like this idiom. It does its job perfectly at warning you that you’re probably better off staying out of matters that you’re not involved in.

And if curiosity didn’t kill the cat – perhaps Schrödinger did!

Frankly my dear – I don’t give a damn.

Oh Scarlett.

Lusting after Ashley Wilkes – a married man –  like a schoolgirl led you to lose sight of the greatest mustache to have ever crossed the golden screen of the 1930’s – Rhett Butler.

One of my lazy Sunday go to films is the saga that is  Gone With The Wind. Now some may say that it is a wholly inaccurate representation of life during civil war and the deep south but regardless it is an amazing piece of filmography for it’s time and even better for me it has a vast number of quotable  lines. Fiddle-dee-dee!

Most famous of these is the classically bittersweet,  oh no he didn’t, what has she done, moment of :

“Where shall I go? What shall I do?”

“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

So famous is this climactic moment that the quote itself holds the prestigious number 1 title of greatest movie quote ever as voted for by the American Film Institute  in 2005. For it’s time the quote was a topic of scandal as it was deemed profane and had been previously  banned by the 1930 Motion Picture Association’s Production Code.

Now for those who have shamefully not seen or read GWTW the mammoth impact  of this quote  probably means nothing to you. However after what seems like 4 hours of watching Scarlett O Hara throw herself at the wrong man and then finally come to realize that the right one was the one who wanted her from the start -this quote encompasses all the mixed feeling you have for the characters.

Scarlett is annoying and a blind stubborn fool at times. Rhett Butler is constantly trying to romance the heart of a woman who is infatuated with a childhood crush. It’s a recipe for heartache. But it’s the moment everything changes – Scarlett realizes she loved the wrong man and Rhett realizes that it’s too little too late and all hope for them was lost with the sad death of their daughter.

The quote is a lesson to us all:

Sometimes it’s too late to realize the truth of our actions.

So we better start giving a damn.





Therein Lies The Rub

I thought I would start off with a classic and slowly work my way into some favorites of mine (Voltaire and Bukowski) .

So for all you modern moguls here’s a  blast from the past.  Shakespeare, an universal pioneer in modern day quotations, was an Englishman with both a penchant for comedy and tragedy . But you just can’t have those two together in one story – or can you?

And therein lies the rub!

The quote itself is a misquotation from Hamlet’s soliloquy about suicide:

“To die, to sleep

To sleep perchance to dream:

Ay, there’s the rub.

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come”

Therein lies the rub – or to quote exactly – “there’s the rub”   means – that’s where the problem/obstacle is.”

Hamlet  is reflecting on the possibility of suicide as a means to an easy end. That perhaps death – which he likens to a “sleep, perchance to dream” may be preferable to life. He comes to realize that nobody knows what death itself has to hold  as nobody has ever come back from the dead to recount their tales, and so that perhaps that is the catch to suicide – therein lies the rub.

“Rub” originated from the good old English game of bowls – a rub was a fault in the surface of the green which would divert a bowl from its desired and planned direction.

Despite being overshadowed by its older brother ” to be or not to be, ” “therein lies the rub” is still used in modern day conversation. People just don’t know that good old Billy Shakespeare helped to coin it into 21st century English.

So here’s to the underdog, the middle child of Hamlet’s monologue.

We found the rub but we’re not going to erase it .

( Bad joke – but I’m not sorry )