Friday, November 21, 2008

Butt Nipping Must Be Nipped in the Bud

There's an expression, "nip it in the bud", that means to stop something quickly, before it gets out of control. I believe it is a gardening euphemism, based on pruning a plant before it grows into a "Little Shop of Horrors"-style bad plant that will eat you, or some other undesirable plant like geraniums, which my mother refers to as "institution flowers". In conversation, however, there's about a 50/50 chance that a modern-day morphing of the term, "nip it in the butt", might be used, at least among the people I talk to.

I know some linguists, and they've basically convinced me that language just changes like that sometimes and I need to lighten up. I'm trying, I really am. My difficulty here is that the expression is most often used in reference to a person's behaviour. When someone says they will "nip" something "in the bud", they are equating themselves with a gardener who lovingly and precisely takes action for the betterment of the garden as a whole. On the other hand, when one is prepared to "nip" something "in the butt", they are ready to behave as an annoying little dog, inflicting some lightweight pain on another's bum that is most likely to make them yell, get angry and deliver a swift kick in response. If you're going to take the dog-attacks-bum approach to behaviour modification, you should at least say "chomp that fool's ass" or something like that. At least then you might expect a behaviour-changing result.

Rather than that though, couldn't we all just return to being gardeners rather than the annoying little enemies of mail carriers and delivery people? Gardeners are humans, you see, like kind and peaceful Greg here and horticulturally passionate Mary, whereas dogs are just dogs, like this Pug named Charlie or this fine fellow named Mondex. Oh, never mind.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Double word. Spooky; it's like you and I could be related. Did you steal this bit from me?

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