[lit-ideas] Re: Sunday Wotsit

  • From: David Ritchie <ritchierd@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 6 Sep 2009 17:07:38 -0700

On Sep 6, 2009, at 4:43 PM, Robert Paul wrote:

David Ritchie:

I'm as hard nosed as whatever animal is it that has a hard nose and inspired the metaphor, (what on earth would that be exactly...hard-headed is easy...some misinterpretation of the rhino perhaps? and why is it that the hardness of a nose has come to be a measure of anything? boxing possibly?)

The only hard-nosed animal mentioned in the OED's account is a dog with a poor sense of smell. How we get from there to stubborness is left unclear.

Someone off-list suggested a connection with the Toucan.

Partridge has "hard a-Gilbert" (ref to port wine purveyors), "hard- arse" (orig a kind of wooden chair), "hard as a goat's knees" (Aus.), "hard-faced" (impudent, see also hard-faced Parliament, elected in 1919, and full of war-made millionaires), "hard neck" (impudence, "you had the hard neck to pass the time of day with him" Anglo- Irish), "hard O'Brien" (complimentary remark), "hard titty" (luck), and of course older refs. like hard cheese, hard lines, hard stuff and hard tack. Where the nose comes in is not obvious.

Hard by hard, however, are the entries for "happy as." "Happy and Chatty," any slack-disciplined, untidy ship, "happy as a boxing kangaroo in fog time," thoroughly discontented (does anyone know why boxing kangaroos are unhappy in fog time?), "happy as a nun weeding the asparagus" (does anyone know why this is a Canadian expression?) and "happy as pigs in shit."

David Ritchie,
watching the sun come out and quite aware that he missed out on the opportunity to hyphenate. ------------------------------------------------------------------
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