Wednesday, April 10, 2024



Chip on your shoulder


A 'chip on your shoulder' is a perceived grievance or sense of inferiority.


Apart from today’s meaning as fries and crisps, ‘chip’ had an earlier meaning as 'a small piece of wood, as might be chopped, or chipped, from a larger block.

There are various explanations as to how the phrase came about:

- Boys spoiling for a fight would place an actual chip of wood on their shoulders before walking around belligerently daring others to knock the chip off.

- The standing orders of the [Royal] Navy Board for August 1739 included this ruling:

"Shipwrights to be allowed to bring [chips] on their shoulders near to the dock gates, there to be inspected by officers".

The permission to remove surplus timber for firewood or building material was a substantial perk of the job for the dock workers. A subsequent standing order, in May 1753, ruled that only chips that could be carried under one arm were allowed to be removed. This limited the amount of timber that could be taken and the shipwrights were not best pleased about the revoking of their previous benefit. Three years later, for this and other reasons, they went on strike.

The former explanation is the more likely.


Cut to the chase


To "cut to the chase" is to get to the point without wasting time.


Films, particularly comedies, often climaxed in chase scenes. Some inexperienced screenwriters or directors would pad the film with unnecessary dialogue, which bored the audience and prolonged the time before the exciting chase scene. Cut to the chase was a phrase used by movie studio executives to mean that the audience shouldn't get bored by the extra dialogue, and that the film should get to the interesting scenes without unnecessary delays. The phrase is now widely used, and means "get to the point."


Mad dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Midday Sun


The expression 'mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun' refers to the perceived naivety of the English in their disregard for the power of the sun in hot climates.


Noel Coward used the phrase in his 1931 song of the same title, bringing the phrase to the attention of the public. In the 1930s when the song was written, few English had travelled abroad and those that did were entirely unprepared for the heat of the sun near the Equator, the sun in England rarely requiring protective measures.  Coward's use of the phrase as the title of his 1931 song brought it to the public's attention, although as we shall see, Coward didn't coin it himself.

This statue of Noel Coward, at the site of his old home and burial place in Jamaica, shows him in typical pose and, appropriately, in full sun and without a hat ("which the Britishers won't wear").

Coward wrote the song in his head on a car journey in Vietnam without pen, paper, or piano.


In tropical climes there are certain times of day
When all the citizens retire
To tear their clothes off and perspire.
It's one of those rules that the greatest fools obey,
Because the sun is much too sultry
And one must avoid its ultry-violet ray.
The native grieve when the white men leave their huts,
Because they're obviously definitely nuts!
Mad dogs and Englishmen
Go out in the midday sun,

The Japanese don't care to.
The Chinese wouldn't dare to,
Hindus and Argentines sleep firmly from twelve to one.
But Englishmen detest a siesta.
In the Philippines
There are lovely screens
To protect you from the glare.
In the Malay States
There are hats like plates
Which the Britishers won't wear.
At twelve noon
The natives swoon
And no further work is done.
But mad dogs and Englishmen
Go out in the midday sun.

It's such a surprise for the Eastern eyes to see
That though the English are effete,
They're quite impervious to heat,
When the white man rides every native hides in glee,
Because the simple creatures hope he
Will impale his sola topi on a tree.
It seems such a shame
When the English claim
The earth
That they give rise to such hilarity and mirth.
Mad dogs and Englishmen
Go out in the midday sun.

The toughest Burmese bandit
Can never understand it.
In Rangoon the heat of noon
Is just what the natives shun.
They put their Scotch or Rye down
And lie down.
In a jungle town
Where the sun beats down
To the rage of man and beast
The English garb
Of the English sahib
Merely gets a bit more creased.
In Bangkok
At twelve o'clock
They foam at the mouth and run,
But mad dogs and Englishmen
Go out in the midday sun.
Mad dogs and Englishmen
Go out in the midday sun.

The smallest Malay rabbit
Deplores this foolish habit.
In Hong Kong
They strike a gong
And fire off a noonday gun
To reprimand each inmate
Who's in late.
In the mangrove swamps
Where the python romps
There is peace from twelve till two.
Even caribous
Lie around and snooze;
For there's nothing else to do.
In Bengal
To move at all
Is seldom, if ever done.
But mad dogs and Englishmen
Go out in the midday

Out in the midday
Out in the midday
Out in the midday
Out in the midday
Out in the midday
Out in the midday sun.

Hear and see him sing the number (at super fast pce) by clicking on:
Comment from one contributor: "The piano player deserves an award for sticking with him through those deliberate out of time changes, that's talent."

The phrase and concept predate Noel Coward’s song.

In 1770 (the year Captain James Cook claimed the East coast of Australia for Britain) author Charles Burney wrote:
He certainly over-heated himself at Venice by walking at a season when it is said that only Dogs and Englishmen are seen out of doors at noon, all else lie down in the middle of the day.
Haden S Melville wrote in 1867:
They were bound to keep under cover during the midday hours, for it was said that none but mad dogs and Englishmen walked abroad then.
it is also the title of an album by Joe Cocker:


Dry as a bone


Completely dry.


The phrases "dry as a bone" and “bone dry” have been used since at least the 16th century. Whilst the origin is not entirely clear, it likely refers to the fact that bones, when left in the sun, become very dry.

The earliest known citation of 'bone dry' comes in a glossary written by the clergyman Robert Forby in 1830.

By the way:

Driza-Bone, originating from the phrase "dry as a bone", is a trade name for the Australian company making full-length waterproof riding coats and apparel. The company was established in 1898 and is currently Australian owned and manufactures its products in Australia. The trademark of Driza-Bone was first registered in 1933.

This style of coat originated in Australia workwear for stockmen. Not traditionally considered desk-wear, the coats were developed to protect horse riders from the rain and feature straps that hold the coat to the rider's leg.

A stockman on horseback wearing a Drizabone coat rides into Olympic Stadium (pictured) during the opening ceremony of the 2000 Olympics

In 2008, the Driza-Bone brand was brought back into Australian ownership for the first time in many decades. In December 2023, Driza-Bone was purchased by S. Kidman & Co, a Gina Rinehart company.

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