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An Idiom's Guide to Idiots, or Possibly Vice Versa

(This week's dip into the science pool over at Secondhand SCIENCE is all about hypervelocity stars.

No, it's not about Shia LaBeouf speeding down the PCH on a tricycle. It's definitely not about that. Maybe it should have been, but it's not. Go see.

Speaking of things that are both quick and stellar, there's still time to catch our sketch group Always on Deck at the Somerville Theater on July 3rd or the Magnet Theater in New York City on July 7th. Have at it.)

Some people tell me I'm too literal. But that's not true.

Well. Not literally true. Maybe hypothetically, I'm too literal. Or figuratively. Or allegorically.

Now I'm just confused.

Here's the thing. I don't ask that people say literally what they mean. Where's the fun in that? (And how many thousands of posts here would I have to retract? Exhausting.)

I only ask that what people say makes some kind of sense. And often, it doesn't. That annoys me -- and apparently fazes no one else. It's kind of a problem.

Take, for instance, the last time I argued with someone that they weren't making any sense. I got a little snarky, and they commented on that. But because it was a person who isn't in the habit of making sense, the comment didn't make any sense, either. It was like an Abbott and Costello routine, where nobody is on first, the rest of the infield is abandoned and both dugouts are on fire.

That person had plenty of ways to tell me I was being snarky. "You're being snarky," just for starters. Or "angry", or "loud" or even "crabby".

See, crabby is fine. It's not literal, but it makes sense. Obviously, I wasn't growing extra legs and a shell and delicious claw meat up my sleeves. But crabs are naturally nasty creatures, so "crabby" is easily equatable with "upset".

"Try fitting Ray-Bans on a couple of corn dogs, and see how you like it."

(Not that I blame the crabs, mind you. I mean, look at life from their perspective. First, they've only got those fiddly little pincers to work with. You're never going to work a TiVo remote or make a decent martini with those things. Then, you're in the sun all day, but you can't wear sunglasses because your eyes are on stalks, of all things. Try fitting Ray-Bans on a couple of corn dogs, and see how you like it.

And sure, you live at the beach, which seems nice. But you're so close to the shore, the ocean slaps in twice a day and washes away all your shit. People get pissed when a hurricane or tsunami or something floods their house once; these crabs are doing it every twelve hours.

So no, I don't blame the crabs. Don't hate the pincer, man; hate the pinc. Or the pinch. Whatever. Screw those guys.)

The point is, "crabby" works. I don't need literal. I get it.

Likewise, I get, "who pissed in your Wheaties?" That indicates upsetness. If someone had actually urinated in your bowl of breakfast, you'd probably adopt a very particular attitude about it. You wouldn't be happy. You wouldn't be relaxed. You sure as hell wouldn't be hungry any more. You'd be pissed. And you might never look at Chex Mix with quite the same fondness again.

This person said none of those things. When this person saw that I was getting grouchy, this person instead asked:

"Hey, what crawled up your butt?"

And that makes no sense. It's not appropriate to the sentiment, is all.

Think about it. If something crawled -- yes, literally -- up your butt, right down the old shaft in the Death Star, you'd likely be many things.

And again, none of them would be happy. Or relaxed. Or, very probably, hungry.

(Unless the thing crawled very far up your butt. And neither of us wants to think about that.)

Let's make this a little more concrete. At the time, puzzled as I was, I tried to imagine: if something were to crawl up my butt, what would it most likely be?

Anything is possible, as they say. But some things are less possible than others. I don't expect a wildebeest, for instance, could profitably crawl up my butt. Maybe some butts. But not this one. Nor could an armadillo. Nor an Olympic gymnast. I don't care how good they are on the vaulting apparatus. I just don't see it.

I figured it would be a spider. Some say that in our sleep, we swallow something like eight spiders a year.

(Some are lying through their spider-stained teeth, it turns out. I wasn't thinking about that at the time.

I may have been hung up on the wildebeests. I'm just saying.)

Anyway, I figured if spiders were crawling in the front door that often, then they must occasionally be using the basement hatch, too. So more likely than not, that's what would crawl up your butt if something had, literally, crawled up your butt.

(Of course, since spiders don't actually creep inside us with any sort of regularity, maybe it's more likely to be something else. My money's on the vaulters.)

I tried to imagine how I'd feel if I knew some critter, arachnid or otherwise, had just strolled up my outhole to set up shop in Chez Pooper. And it was different. Not crabby. Nor golden shower-Cheerio'd. In fact, I don't think "angry" was anywhere close to what I'd feel in that situation. It's not a "get mad" kind of thing.

It's more a "getitoutgetitoutgetitout and kill it with fire and let me take a four-day shower" kind of thing. Like I said: different.

So our conversation went nowhere. I pointed out the logical fallacy in "what crawled up your butt", the other person doubled down on me being too "literal", and it devolved into a whole bunch of messy snarking back and forth.

Which we could have completely avoided, if that person would just back their idioms with a teeny bit of logic. Seriously. People like that drive me up a wall.

An, uh, annoying wall. Obviously. Otherwise, it would make no sense. Literally.

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