Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Kicking the Bucket

There is an interesting scene in the movie Patch Adams where Hunter Adams (Robin Williams) trades barbs with Bill Davis (Peter Coyote), an overly-hostile cancer patient. After a couple of tries where Adams regularly gets bedpans chucked at his head, he finally wins Davis over by inciting an exchange of death-related euphemisms. The scene got funny for a few seconds, if only because it revealed the wealth of creative expression that we have regarding certain subjects.

Three of the phrases that somehow got involved in their exchange were "Kick the Bucket", "Cash in One's Chips", and "Buy the Farm"; and they all have interesting origins:

Kick the Bucket - Pigs that were bled for slaughtering were often mounted (hanging upside-down by their hind legs) from a wooden crossbeam known as a buque. Eventually the term "buque" evolved into the slaughterhouse term "bucket", which meant that whenever the pigs struck the crossbeam during their death throes, they were effectively "kicking the bucket".

Cash in One's Chips - Casino setups are such that players must convert their money into chips or other similar tokens in order to gamble, and that they must exchange any remaining (and possibly excessive) chips for money once they are finished. To "cash in one's chips" therefore refers to the end of a gambling run, or may simply refer to a player giving up in order to cut his losses.

Buy the Farm - During the Second World War, each soldier in the United States Armed Forces was given a life insurance policy. Many of these soldiers came from country families who had mortgaged their farms as part of the struggle to survive the Great Depression, so whenever a soldier died in battle, his family would consequently spend the proceeds of the insurance payment in order to pay their mortgage - "buying the farm," so to speak.

The common theme between these three examples of phraseology (aside from the fact that they all refer to death) is that they came about as a result of creative observation, and eventually found their way into public usage while losing much of the story behind their origins.

Now, if we could apply the same principle to create some suman-centered expressions:

Eat it With the Wrapper On - Impatience, e.g. "Think clearly and take your time. Don't eat it when the wrapper's still on." No sane person, after all, would eat a piece of suman with the banana-leaf wrapper still tied.

Chocolate Suman - Luxury, e.g. "You could buy a lot of chocolate suman with that much money." While chocolate suman is not necessarily an expensive or high-profile delicacy, it represents the combination of traditional food (glutinous rice suman) with a semi-Western blend (yes, chocolate).

Swallow the Suman Whole - Taking too much at once, e.g. "When he showed up with an expensive set of golf clubs the day before he was to first set foot on the course, I knew he was swallowing the suman whole." It's possible to gulp down suman, I suppose, much as it's possible to gulp down hot dogs. The problem is that suman is sticky -- it doesn't go down as easily, and anyone who attempts to swallow it whole is likely to choke.

Suman Without Latik - Simple and plain, e.g. "As an uncomplicated man, he likes his suman without latik." There are a surprising number of people who prefer to eat their suman plain. Frankly, it's all about the taste, I suppose. You don't need garlic dip to eat potato chips.

To Write of Suman - The act of taking a relatively uninteresting topic and make it interesting, much like this little webring does:

A deer, a female deer
A drop of golden sun
A name I call myself

I dream, and I write of suman.


eClair said...

Yeah, you make suman interesting, that's for sure :D

Never thought of these expressions before. I like the last one: To write of suman.

That makes a good signature on email ;) Can I use it? :D

Sean said...

Sure, Clair. :)

Anton said...


That's what i get whenever i visit your site. It gives me the feeling of a suddenly unclogged nose or a wipe off of smudge on the glasses.

Sean said...

Thanks, Anton. That's the first time anyone's really compared my writing to the act of blowing one's nose. :)