Do you know what straight from the horse’s mouth really means? Oh yeah, I’m sure you understand it implies information has come from a reliable source. But have you ever wondered why anything a horse said was considered trustworthy?
Well as you know, before there were cars, people used horses. And before there were used-car dealers, there were used-horse dealers. And just like you want to be sure you don’t buy a car that’s just going to break down, folks wanted to be sure they didn’t buy a horse that would just go lame or belly-up (and that’s not to the bar).
And just like unscrupulous people in modern times have tried turning back car odometers to make them appear newer, unscrupulous people have tried to lie about a horse’s age to make it appear younger. In case you didn’t know, you can determine how old a horse is by looking at its teeth (and check out a few other gross health issues I won’t go into here).
Our language has many metaphors that harken back to the realities that spawned them, but the real meaning might be lost on the current generation. Every year we hear the rundown on things we older folks took for granted growing up, that college graduates never experienced.
Remember the clatter of typewriter keys, the manual exercise of using a rotary dial on a phone, or waiting on your computer to make the call to your internet service provider?
There’s something we still do in my family that I’ve wondered if it will fall into the horse’s mouth category or go the way of the dodo. If somebody’s driving off in a car and we realize we need to tell them something before they go, we crank one hand in a circular motion.
Since the age of power windows has fully descended, how long will people understand what that hand signal means? It’s certainly more obvious than just punching your finger down, so it might become one of those things we understand, even though we don’t know why.
Or it could be that someday my grandkids will ask their parents, “I know that Granny’s off her rocker, but why does she shake her fist at us sometimes as we’re driving off?”
Just remember, you got that straight from the horse’s mouth. Did I just call myself a nag…?