The Mütter of All Ütterances

You struggle for half an hour trying to put together a bookcase from a Scandinavian superstore, only to discover the instruction sheet you’ve been following is for a wine rack.  In another scenario, you see the police car light up in the rear view mirror and suddenly realize your car inspection sticker expired two months ago.

Tutankamen in a tutu!  You should have known it was a wine rack, since there were on twelve of the parts instead of the sixteen listed on the box.  (Image from this-pic dot com)
Tutankhamun in a tutu!!! You should have known it was a wine rack, since there were on sixteen of the fluted wood dowels instead of the twenty-two listed on the box. (Image from this-pic dot com)

These types of situations are as unavoidable as potholes in March or a humongous nose-zit on the day of your big interview.  It’s called life, people.  We’re adults here; we deal with it and move forward.  If you’re like many people, these moments of unpleasant surprise are worthy of some sort of verbal acknowledgement to the fates who are responsible for dealing you such a crappy hand.

One of my father’s favorite things to grumble at such times was, “Jesus Christ on a crutch!”  We weren’t an especially religious family, so my brothers and I had little fear of lightning strikes or plague-of-locusts type retributions for his blasphemy.  We just knew that Dad was fed up and we’d be well advised to steer clear of him.

An acquaintance I met much later in life used a similar phrase but put the Savior on a Harley instead of a crutch.  Others have been known to put the Son of God on a pogo stick.

Crutch, Harley, hey, whatever man, I'm cool with it.  (Image from buntology dot com).
Crutch, Harley, hey, whatever man, I’m cool with it.  All is forgiven, bro! (Image from buntology dot com).

Each of these utterances is colorful in its own way.  Christ on a crutch strikes me as more alliterative than visual, though I can picture Him spraining an ankle tripping on an Easter egg when He rose from the dead.  Putting the Number One Son on a motorcycle, on the other hand, is purely visual.  The comical image of His robes and long locks flowing in the breeze is trumped only by Him kick starting that hog in a pair of ratty sandals.  In an effort to avoid upsetting the more pious readers any further, I’ll skip discussion of the pogo stick entirely.

As amusing as the thought of the Son of God cruising on an Electro-Glide may be, it’s got a definite time stamp on it.  Biblical scholars among you might point out that my Dad’s saying is not exactly timeless either, as J.C. only walked or limped the earth a couple of thousand years ago.  So an ancient Egyptian, when faced with the lack of Brown-Out© correction fluid for fixing the errors on his papyrus scroll, would have had to utter something else.  On a side note, who would’ve guessed that biblical scholars read this blog?

You can't tell from this picture, but the original text of the third column was supposed to read, "beetle, sun, lotus, beetle, zig-zag"  I screwed it up, but there was no way to correct it, so the Pharaoh ended up having to enter the next world through the back door.  Man was he pissed.
You can’t tell from this picture, but the original text of the eighth column was supposed to read, “beetle, sun, lotus, beetle, zig-zag” I screwed it up, but there was no way to correct it.  The Pharaoh ended up having to enter the next world through the back door. Man was he pissed! (Image from roadrunner dot com)

The mütter of all ütterances* has to be free of references to a given era, or the gadgets of the day.  It’s got to be composed of only the most elemental components.  It should be just as applicable to today’s suburban Dad dropping his iPhone in the urinal at the strip club**, as it would have been to a Neanderthal man stubbing his toe while dragging his newly found mate by her hair.

For those of you who haven’t already guessed it, the original saying for man during moments of frustration and/or dismay is none other than the classic; “Shit on a stick!

The roots of this gem of an utterance can be traced further back to the single syllable cry of “Shit!”  Linguistics experts agree that after creating words to describe fire, cave, hunger and constipation, early man likely named excrement next.  Shortly after our ancient ancestors came up with a name for poop, they discovered that saying “Shit!” sometimes just wasn’t enough.

Putting the shit on a stick was a natural choice.  Shit on the ground was hardly worth noting.  Shit in the sky was a fairly rare phenomenon despite the sizable number of pterodactyls dropping six pound deuces all over the Greater Pangaea metropolitan area.  This is not to say that airborne feces didn’t have a place in the vocabulary – but the use of the term “shit-storm” was developed much later and usually employed for more disastrous situations.

According to the caption, Justin left this poop-on-a-stick on the plane.  Behavior like that is a good example why I'm not a big fan of buying my kids souvenirs.  (Image from photobucket dot com)
According to the caption, Justin left this poop-on-a-stick on the plane. Behavior like that is a good example why I’ve never been a big fan of buying my kids souvenirs. (Image from photobucket dot com)

Shit on a stick has it all, linguists can only marvel at the catchy rhythm of the words strung together in simple-yet-elegant single syllables.  Its practicality is excellent, as the phrase can easily fit into one exasperated exhalation.  From a content standpoint, it harkens back to a simpler time, when our ancestors valued a nice stick, and lamented the wasting of a perfectly good one because it had doo-doo on it.

*For all you smart-assed experts in Teutonic grammar who want to point out that “mütter” is the plural form of mother, and that “ütterance” isn’t a word at all, save your breath.  I wanted to use some umlauts for comedic effect, and by golly I did.  It’s unlikely I succeeded however, as funny letter symbols from foreign languages seldom amüse people and are more likely to scare them away from a post.  One can only hope I’ll lëarn from my mistäkes.

**Putting the iPhone in a container of uncooked rice is often effective for getting it to work again.  As for getting it to smell better, you’re on yoür own.

Under-Estimating The Labradoodle

If you want dogs to pay attention to your silly signs, you better orient them properly.  Also, you should make sure they can read.  (Image from barksentry dot com)
If you want dogs to pay attention, you better orient your silly signs properly. Also, you should make sure the dogs can read. (Image from barksentry dot com)

I recently stumbled upon an article which described the scientific finding that dogs align their bodies in a north/south orientation while pooping.  This illustrates yet another instance of why being a scientist isn’t all that glamorous.  On a side note, I conducted a brief poll at a rest stop on the southbound side of the New Jersey Turnpike which revealed that the majority of people surveyed had no idea which way was south.  On a possibly related issue, most of them could not speak English, so they may not have understood the question.

Mocking people in lab coats and those who speak foreign languages is all well and good, but the bigger point here is that dogs know more than they’ve been letting on.  This confirms the suspicions many of us have long held about our canine friends.  I looked at my dog lying nearby on the kitchen floor as she tried in vain to look simple-minded and innocent.  At first, I was tempted to grill her about a certain missing shoe and the mysterious stain on the carpet in the upstairs hallway, but I decided to play it cool and watch her closely instead.

After hours of careful observation, I’ve come to some startling conclusions about other secrets of dog behavior.

True to form, the tail chasing is in a clockwise direction.  (Image from candiebeever dot wordpess dot com)
True to form, the tail chasing is in a clockwise direction. (Image from candicebeever dot wordpess dot com)

Turning around three times before lying down – This odd ritual was long believed to be carried over from the days when dogs slept outdoors and needed to trample down grass to make a bed for themselves.  In fact, this is the dogs’ method for winding themselves up for chasing their tails at some later point.  My study showed that my dog turns around slowly 2.7 counter-clockwise rotations each time she lays down.  She will then chase her tail rapidly in a clockwise direction once every few days.  Once the tail is caught and chewed, or the dog runs out of stored spin-energy, it’s time for a nap, which will require 2.7 rotations and the cycle can repeat itself.  The rotational directions may be reversed south of the equator.

I guess you could switch "Johnson" and "Balls" and it would still be funny.  (Image from viewsfromthecouch dot com)
I guess you could switch “Johnson” and “Balls” and it would still be funny. (Image from memeanimals dot com)

Licking their genitals – Contrary to conventional beliefs, this practice has no correlation to hygiene.  Nor is it, as pundits point out “because they can”.  Dogs lick their not-so-private parts for the nutritional value.  Before any of  you health nuts get any ideas, it’s not nutritional for humans.  Stick with your kale salads and protein shakes, you sickos!

If you want to complain about gravity, try telling it to a basset hound (Image from commons dot wikimedia dot jpg
If you think gravity sucks, try living a few days as a basset hound. (Image from commons dot wikimedia dot jpg

Walking on four legs – Dogs are effected more than humans by the earth’s gravitational pull.  In addition, their low position gives them unparalleled access to lost tennis balls and food dropped by toddlers.

The odds are improving for finding that ball.  (Image from cracked dot com)
The odds are improving for finding that ball. (Image from cracked dot com)

Sniffing each other’s butts – This is not the dog’s version of a handshake which many have supposed.  Seriously?  We humans are pretty full of ourselves to  just assign our own odd customs to what dogs do.  In fact the sniffing of butts is the dog’s way of checking one more place for that missing tennis ball.

One day they bring you sales circulars and the next thing you know they're taking your assault rifles and freedom. (Image from petsit dot com)
One day they’re bringing you sales circulars and the next thing you know they’re taking your assault rifles and freedom. (Image from petsit dot com)

Barking at the mailman – Dogs were Tea Party members long before the thought ever occurred to Sarah Palin.   Dogs have a deep distrust of the government inserting itself into our private lives six days a week bringing us “mail”.  There are even dogs working undercover in the military and police organizations around the world.  The original undercover operatives were Dalmations, who pretended to be the loyal sidekicks of firefighters as they gathered important information about batch cooking and the mystery of why man would slide down a pole when there are stairs available.

This photo has been cropped to spare you the grisly sight of dead opossum, but you can tell from the dog's face how much he's loving this. (Image from pets dot webmd dot com)
This photo has been cropped to spare you the grisly sight of dead opossum, but you can tell from the dog’s face how much he’s loving this. (Image from pets dot webmd dot com)

Rolling in dead animals – A highly spiritual event, the dog is attempting to bond with the departed life-force of the creature in an effort to understand the meaning of his or her existence.

 

I love the composition of this photo.  Too bad the subject matter is a dog dragging his butt.  (Image from emlabradors dot com)
I love the composition of this photo. Too bad the subject matter is a dog dragging his butt. (Image from emlabradors dot com)

Dragging their butts on the floor – Spring is coming – it’s time to fertilize the carpet.

For a good belly scratch, some dogs even wear sweaters.  (Image from ilovedogs dot com)
For a good belly scratch, some dogs even wear sweaters. (Image from ilovedogs dot com)

Kicking their legs when being scratched – Dogs get a great deal of pleasure from having their bellies scratched.  They have learned that we humans have short attention spans, particularly when providing happiness to any creature other than ourselves.  Dogs added the leg kicking as a clever way to amuse us, thereby prolonging their belly scratches.  On a related topic, they also figured out that licking their chops to excess will often result in them getting more peanut butter smeared on the roofs of their mouths.

"What's that Lassie?  Timmy fell down a well?" (Image from dogster dot com)
“What’s that Lassie? Timmy fell down a well?” (Image from dogster dot com)

Being surprised by the sound of their own flatulence – This is another classic example of human misinterpretation.  The dogs’ sudden attention to their own rear ends is not surprise, but careful listening.  The sound of a dog’s fart is actually telling the animal secret clues about the planned take-over of the planet – usually the farts are silent for the sake of secrecy.

I encourage you gentle reader, to take a good long look at man’s best friend and see for yourself.  The take-over could happen any day, we’ve got to spread the word before it’s too late.  On second thought, after checking recent headlines, I’m thinking that dogs taking over the planet may not be such a bad thing after all.

 

Any creature who can find happiness in a bed of pachysandra should get a crack at running the show.  (Image by the author, with permission from Lucy)
Any creature who can find happiness lying in a bed of pachysandra should get a crack at running the show. (Image by the author, with permission from Lucy)