My girlfriend’s mother (Mothie) has a great line of expressions. She has such a very colourful and memorable way of phrasing things that I thought it worthwhile to pass some of them on.
It’s in a bull’s wool
This means, for Mothie, it’s in a great mess. Example: “This room is in a bull’s wool”.
Where is it from? I don’t know for sure, but there’s even a reference to bull’s wool in a Dail debate from 1962 in a defence/finance debate. A deputy Tully refers to uniforms as being made from bull’s wool: “The ordinary battle dress, the uniform they wear during the day, is the one I want to refer to particularly. I understand we are now the only civilised nation which has still held on to what is vulgarly known as the bull’s wool uniform. The bull’s wool uniform should be abolished. Perhaps the Minister would endeavour to do something about that also.”
In an altogether different context, on a rhyming slang site, “bull’s wool” is said to refer to stolen clothes. This is backed up on The Probert Encyclopedia, which says it is Black-American slang for stolen clothes. In Australia, apparently, bullswool means: “bullswool – 1. nonsense; exaggerated, unreliable talk. 2. exclamation of disbelief, disgust, scorn, etc.”.
None of these, sadly, matches Mothie’s unique usage.
A disreputable woman, untrustworthy, scandalous, impossibly demanding, irritating. Examples: “That one’s a rip”; “She’s a rip!”. Usage: whenever you meet an annoying woman, just lambast them with, “You’re a rip”.
I only came across one on-line definition of “a rip” that gets close to this meaning and it said it had two definitons, a dissolute person or an old or worthless horse. Hmmm…not exactly the same, but close. And apparently, it is of Flemish extraction. And one version of it in French is “debauche”. As to whether this is the origin of Mothie’s usage is anybody’s guess.
There’ll be wigs on the green
This is, apparently, a well-known old Irish expression, but I had never heard of it until I met Mothie. It refers to the habits of old gentlemen who wanted a good fight or scrap. They’d proceed down to the green (possibly even St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin), take off their wigs, and proceed to biff and throttle each other. Biff, bang, take that you rotter! A great definition is available on-line: “It’s an intriguing expression that’s still to be heard from time to time, though it’s seriously out of fashion, just like the wigs it mentions. Wigs on the green refers to a fight, brawl or fracas, or to a difference of opinion that could lead to fisticuffs. It often appears as “there’ll be wigs on the green”, as a warning (or a prediction) that an altercation is likely to occur. It’s originally Irish, dating from the eighteenth century, when men usually wore wigs. If a fight started, the first thing that happened was that the wigs of those involved would be knocked off and would roll incongruously about on the grass, to the amusement of bystanders and the embarrassment of participants. I can’t leave an Irish expression without quoting James Joyce. From Chapter 13 of Ulysses: “But Tommy said he wanted the ball and Edy told him no that baby was playing with the ball and if he took it there’d be wigs on the green but Tommy said it was his ball and he wanted his ball and he pranced on the ground, if you please”.”
Nine to ninety
This is my favourite Mothie expression. It is a shortening of the (quite possibly true) theory that all men between the ages of nine to ninety cannot be trusted to keep their eyes (or more) off a pretty young girl. Example: An attractive waitress asks if we are ready to order a meal, and after departing there is the muttered “Nine to ninety” with an air of satisfied superiority and a knowing raising of the eyebrows. Protesting your innocence is both useless and ignored, but mandatory.
This began as a direct warning to the actual cat to, variously, stay off the couch, stop scratching the carpet with her nails, or stop begging for food. But it has been usefully extended by Mothie to include any warning to any person about just about anything. Usage: “Bad cat, don’t pay for that meal!”, “Bad cat, don’t sit there” etc. Infinite uses really.
And one that S. reminded me about last night…Up the hill of my noddy
This means “I don’t know and I don’t care” when asked where something is. Usage: “Where is the bad cat?”, the answer is invariably, “Up the hill of my noddy”. I don’t know what “the hill of my noddy” refers to, but S. reckons it means “up my arse for all I care”. Brilliant!