Coffee. A way of life to some, and to others a means to fuel each hazy morning. From the millennial sipping on their instagrammable paper cup to the middle aged mechanic with his morning brew – we all have a little time for a cup of Arabica. Myself for example, I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with it. Starting out like most- with an utter disgust for the smell let alone taste – reminding me of my french teacher : a certain je ne sais pas.
Then I reached 16 and it was cool to have an iced drink doused in sugar, cream and syrup. I realised quickly that this was not sustainable for both my health and wallet at almost 3.50 a pop. Exams came and the next rung up Jacob’s ladder was the warm embrace of a hot, smooth milky latte – essentially an adult milkshake, not proper coffee but not all milk – so 100% judgement free!
And then one summer I became a fully fledged adult – I moved on to the big boy – a nice, fresh Cup of Joe.
But how does a cup of coffee become anthropomorphised into Joe? And why Joe and not Tom, Dick or Harry?
The origins of this phrase are thought to originate on the sails of the American Navy in the early 20th century . Josephus Daniels held the elusive role of Secretary of the Navy and his lasting legacy was that of banning alcohol on navy ships. Like flotsam, the sailors found themselves lost at sea and so replaced a cold beer with plenty of hot coffee – naming it aptly after the man causing their caffeine fuelled vendetta.
Another belief is that Joe is used to represent that it is a drink of any man and everyman – Joe around the corner enjoys a coffee so why shouldn’t you?
All I know is that life is too short for bad coffee – in an instant it will all be over . All the memories of the past will filter through your mind and you’ll ask yourself if given another shot would you have done anything differently?
Open your eyes – it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.
If there is one thing in life I am really terrible at – it is having serious personal conversations. I don’t know what it is or where it comes from – the irrational fear that being honest will hurt someone and the fear of the sadness of having to say goodbye. The ironic thing is – in my job – I have important conversations with people about themselves and nothing comes easier. I guess when it’s someone else’s life – the repercussions seem distant, the effects will never be known to you. It’s a job that you’ve done, and the aftermath of which is not your problem anymore. You, the deliverer have delivered, and now the problem must be reckoned with by that person alone. But when it’s you, your problem, your delivery and your reckoning – it all changes doesn’t it ? For me at least it does. And so out of an inability to get the horrible adulting out of the way – I end up in a line of traffic – the “should have saids” like cars in mind keeping me at a personal standstill whilst the world bustles on around me.
But out of a series of personal revelations I’ve come to realise that however horrible and sad goodbyes are, it’s not worth putting off things you know you need to do. Life is too short. I’d rather remember the good memories and not of the foreboding anxiety I had when I was constantly putting serious conversations off. That’s right – I’ve learned at last that sometimes you just need to cut to the chase.
The origin of the saying ” cut to the chase” is thought to herald from old silent movies. These 1920’s films usually followed similar plot lines – a tumultuous love affair depicted by longing glances between the hero and heroine. Now for whatever reason, these love affairs climaxed with a car chase. Unorthodox I know but whatever floats your boat. Perhaps the first 3/4 of the movie was made for the female viewers and the director remembered that the male members of the audience would need a testosterone fuelled action scene to once again arouse their interest at the films end. Who knows, but it is believed that ” cut to the chase” was first used in this context and was a direction from the script of “Hollywood Girl” in 1929:
” Jannings escapes . Cut to the chase”
In modern day it is used less literally and more figuratively to describe getting to the point. It’s easier said than done, and sometimes it is simpler to be a passenger in life. But as easy as it is to go along with things and trundle along in a car that badly needs a repair, in a pursuit of something you know you do not want, it is better to be the script writer and director of your own film. Cut to that chase and let the end credits roll to one chapter of your life and the titles run of the next.
Sometimes when I say a word over and over again, or ponder too much about the meaning of it, the word suddenly becomes nonsensical. I cease to believe that the original word, however simple and mundane it may be, is actually a legitimate word in the English dictionary. For example one fine evening, when I was clearly swamped with things to do and people to see, I found myself conversing with myself . ( Internally ladies and gentlemen, don’t send the psychiatrists just yet.) I was lost in the maze of my own mind when I came to a mental block, shaped in the form of the word “cross.” Imagine a 21 year old sitting in a room and muttering the phrase “I’m cross at you” over and over – because that it was occurred. I could not believe that the word was used as a synonym for annoyance, in fact I became so annoyed at that fact, that after repeating the word over and over again I reached the conclusion that the word itself was entirely imaginary and a figment of my imagination. Conclusion of the day : I created a fictional word, it doesn’t exist, time to move on and do something productive.
On reflection however it got me thinking that most words, phrases or sayings have an origin, but sometimes those origins have no relevance to the modern day use of the word itself. So I thought to myself ( all this thinking, I must be Aristotle ) you know what surely doesn’t make any sense?
Why do we make toasts when we drink? I mean surely no fool can believe that the origin of this act has something to do with crispy bread – plus or minus peanut butter and jam. Nay, some sayings are just sayings that have been plucked off the tree of “that will do.”
It turns out that the act of clinking your champagne flutes together and “Making a Toast” is however the plucked fruit of a very relevant, very Elizabethan tree.
Back in the 16th century , winemakers hadn’t mastered that art of making a palatable drink (surely the basic requirement for this occupation?) and many of the Château Suffolk 1678 were tart and industrial strength. But never one to pass up a drink, the frugal Englishman came up with an idea. A piece of stale burnt bread (what my toast always ends up as when I underestimate the settings on my toaster) was placed in the acidic alcohol to soak up some of the tartness and make the wine more easy on the refined palates of Elizabethan England. What’s more, the Nigella’s of the past even used spiced bread to add more dimension and flavours to their ales and wines. And that’s the bread and butter of where the saying “to make a toast” comes from.
So here’s a toast – may your wine always be drinkable and your bread never burnt. If either fails – now you know what to do – cheers to that.