Gransnet forums

Pedants' corner

Sayings that get muddled

(42 Posts)
phoenix Sun 06-Sep-20 19:43:16

Hello all,

Noticed on a couple of threads, the use of "spitting feathers" to mean cross or angry.

I thought that meant to be very thirsty, and that "spitting nails" was cross?

Perhaps it's a local thing? (I was brought up in Worcestershire)

Marydoll Sun 06-Sep-20 19:47:11

I always say, spitting tacks, never heard spitting feathers, until I heard it on GN.

In fact, there is a lot of spitting tacks on here this evening! 😱

BBbevan Sun 06-Sep-20 20:16:37

I thought it was ‘state of the ark’ for years .

grandMattie Sun 06-Sep-20 20:23:29

The proof is in the pudding? Grrr 😡

sodapop Sun 06-Sep-20 20:59:35

Money is the root of all evil - grrr

lemongrove Sun 06-Sep-20 21:01:19

I was going to say that grandmattie so many people on tv say that don’t they? The proof of the pudding is in the eating,
It seems few know the actual saying.

lemongrove Sun 06-Sep-20 21:03:47

.....and that one Soda 😱 the Love of money!
Unsure about the feathers/nails/ tacks, I have heard all of them used, maybe a regional thing as you say Phoenix

25Avalon Sun 06-Sep-20 21:05:15

Being thirsty my mother (Hertfordshire) described it as being “unable to spit a sixpence”.
Spitting feathers to me is being angry but I believe it can mean thirsty as well.

Jane10 Mon 07-Sep-20 07:43:59

Spitting feathers does mean being thirsty. Its just become accepted on GN as being angry.
Also a bunfight is tea party in Old fashioned schoolboy parlance not some kind of actual fight.
So many old turns of phrase have become distorted over time.

LullyDully Mon 07-Sep-20 08:26:55

When I googled it, "spitting feathers" can mean either thirsty or angry. I hadn't heard it used as the former.

Lucca Mon 07-Sep-20 08:30:17

“Off his own back”. I always thought “off his own bat”.
Now I’m getting déjà vu.....feel like I’ve said this onGN before)

Jane10 Mon 07-Sep-20 09:06:19

It is off one's own bat. Its from cricketing terminology. The problem is that people hear rather than read the original phrase and perpetuate it thus leading others to think that eg spitting feathers means being angry. It's spitting tacks for anger and feathers for thirst.
Of course language use mutates but it's good to know where it came from.

jeanrobinson Mon 07-Sep-20 09:20:22

I hate it when "mischievous" (emphasis on the first syllable) is pronounced "mischievious" (emphasis on the second syllable) and an 'i' is added in the last syllable.

Nannarose Mon 07-Sep-20 10:01:38

Jean, I think the pronunciation of mischievous is about dialect and accent. I have heard it pronounced differently around the country.
My mother used to say she wanted to something " in one foul swoop" and as she was usually talking about something unpleasant, I think it quite apt!

Sparklefizz Mon 07-Sep-20 10:05:51

When I moved to Shropshire from Surrey, I was surprised when a farmer said to me "You look starving". How could he tell? Then I found out that it meant "You look cold" in Shropshire.

vegansrock Mon 07-Sep-20 12:03:47

“You can’t have your cake and eat it” is incorrect, the original phrase was “ You can’t eat your cake and have it.”

Alima Mon 07-Sep-20 12:44:07

I think the same as you Phoenix, spitting feathers means thirsty. Makes sense as your mouth would be very dry after spitting feathers. Bit wimpy spitting feathers if you are angry. Spitting fire means cross or angry. ( I was brought up in Derbyshire as was my Dad. Mum was brought up in London then Hove. They both used the same meanings as me).

grandtanteJE65 Mon 07-Sep-20 13:11:48

My mother talked about helping lame ducks over stiles and no-one could convince her that the expression is helping lame dogs over stiles.

She got really angry when I pointed out that a duck, lame or not, would probably fly over the stile and not need help.

Jane10 Mon 07-Sep-20 13:27:31

Can't change a leopard in mid stream
Plenty of fish on the beach

I do love a mixed metaphor. It's kind to help a lame duck over a stile

lovebeigecardigans1955 Mon 07-Sep-20 13:59:15

My late MIL was always getting initials mixed up. One of her best was when DH and I were looking for a new sofa. She asked if we'd been to MI5!

rockgran Mon 07-Sep-20 14:01:59

We used to learn the meanings and origins of these sayings at school but I guess they don't now.
I've noticed the spitting feathers for "angry" creeping in. I always thought is meant thirsty. I also shout at the screen when I see or hear ...
on tenderhooks
off his own back
proof is in the pudding
one foul swoop
money is the root of evil
etc.

I think they are perpetuated on social media so that they become the norm.

pollyperkins Mon 07-Sep-20 14:08:47

What about’ on the home straight’

pollyperkins Mon 07-Sep-20 14:10:30

I was brought up in derbyshire where starving or starved meant cold, mesh meant to feel the cold, and Mardy meant cry baby or someone feeble.

Pittcity Mon 07-Sep-20 14:38:22

A damp squid. 🦑

Daddima Mon 07-Sep-20 14:43:30

Spitting feathers was always thirsty to me, and ‘ off his own back’ and ‘ proof is in the pudding’ annoy me also, as does ‘ it played on my mind’.