If you’ve “seen the elephant,” it means you’ve been in combat. But why an elephant? Martha and Grant also discuss some odd idioms in Spanish, including one that translates as “your bowtie is whistling.” And what names do you call your grandparents? This episode first aired January 22, 2011.
If you’re in Bangladesh, the expression that translates as “oiling your mustache in anticipation of the jackfruit tree bearing fruit” makes perfect sense. In English, it means “don’t count your chickens.” A discussion thread on Reddit with this and many other examples has Martha and Grant talking about odd idioms in other languages.
A woman in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, remembers a ditty she learned from her mother about “thirty purple birds,” but with a distinctive pronunciation that sounds more like “Toidy poipel blackbirds / Sittin’ on a coibstone / Choipin’ and boipin’ / And eatin’ doity oithworms.” Here’s the Red Hot Chili Peppers version.
Martha offers excellent writing advice from the former editor of People magazine, Landon Y. Jones.
A West Point graduate says he and fellow members of the military use the expression He has seen the elephant to mean “He’s seen combat.” Grant explains that this expression originated outside the military.
Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Used under a Creative Commons license.
Music Used in the Episode
|The Better Half||Funk Inc||Chicken Lickin’||Prestige Records, Inc.|
|Running Away||Funk Inc||Chicken Lickin’||Prestige Records, Inc.|
|Oh! Oh! Here He Comes||Herbie Hancock||Fat Albert Rotunda||Warner Brothers|
|Creation||El Michels Affair||Sounding Out The City||Truth and Soul|
|Slippin’ Into Darkness||The Ramsey Lewis Trio||Upendo Ni Pamoja||Columbia|
|Fat Albert Rotunda||Herbie Hancock||Fat Albert Rotunda||Warner Brothers|
|Slide Show||El Michels Affair||Sounding Out The City||Truth and Soul|
|Bowlegs||Funk Inc||Chicken Lickin’||Prestige Records, Inc.|
|Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off||Ella Fitzgerald||Ella Fitzgerald Ella Fitzgerald Sings The George and Ira Gershwin Song Book||Verve|