Come on, you little toe-rag!

My inspiration today is the saltier side of the English language

“Come on, you little toe-rag!” was probably not the phrase that greeted the newest member of the British monarchy when he was born this week. My own son, the minute he was out, was thrust into the salty atmosphere of lively English exchange; not by myself, I might add, but by his midwife. She obviously felt that tough love might help him to “come to” after his delivery. “He’s not a little toe-rag!”, I responded, “he’s beautiful”, or some other cliché. However, if the midwife had called him a “beautiful angel” I probably would have worried. Surely only a babe who was going to survive would be nicknamed a “toe-rag”?

I was reminded of this down to earth expression today when discussing the word “gobsmacked”, meaning astonished. Apparently, overseas visitors find this word very amusing. Another, more unpleasant, word is “gobshite”, and, so evocative and unpleasant is it, that that no one wants to be called one of those. It is another good powerful English word and it stops people being “gobby” (loose tongued) and “trouble stirrers”. This leads me to another rare phrase that I’ve only ever heard once: “if I have to flog my mutton I’ll do it”. The speaker here did not mean that she really would sell her body, but that she would carry out her intentions against all odds.

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