I have always loved interesting little turns of phrase, evolutions on sayings and things of that nature. When I was young there was the “If people can have bare feet, can bears have people feet?” and of course “Why do we drive in parkways and park in driveways”. Basically, commentaries on the English language borne of humor or just boredom. I have always enjoyed idioms, however. They are those things that I really just find of interest. One of the bits I have always enjoyed was one from my grandmother, she would say “Three Sheets to the Wind With the Other Flapping”. Now, this always intended, in my family, to represent extreme intoxication, but I never really understood what it meant, until I started poking around a little.
What I discovered (not necessarily from this source, but this is basically what I found) is that it is a nautical phrase, meant to represent one of the sails not being tied down properly. It is an interesting bit that I think we, as a society, have lost over time. We just don’t really use language in such a colorful way anymore. Consider the last e-mail you wrote to your partner. Now compare it against, say, a letter from a soldier during the Civil War, you will find a real disconnect.
I am curious, though. What sorts of idioms, euphamisms, turns of phrase etcetera, did you grow up with that really have that same “Three Sheets” quality? Another favorite of mine was “About as useless as a tit on a bull”. Gotta love growing up in a blue collar family.