Smoking Like A Fish

I wrote recently of my scepticism surrounding old wives tales. A mini diatribe not backed on any scientific fact, moreover sneering conclusions born from my ingrained middle-age cynicism.

During that narrative, I carelessly omitted to touch on the comedic value of these superstitious folk tales, especially when misquoted. I’m alluding to mixed metaphors and idioms, which are inherently funny when delivered incorrectly.

I have an acquaintance who can be relied upon to regularly amuse with incorrectly delivered adages, which never fail to raise a smile. Musings such as “He smokes like a fish.”, “She wouldn’t say boo to a fly.”, ” I wouldn’t trust him with a barge pole.” and “Ronan Keating wasn’t built in a day.”

Ronan Keating (below) – Apparently, he wasn’t built in a day

Ronan Keyrings

It’s not just misquoted old wives tales, metaphors and idioms that I find entertaining. I’m also fond of individuals who create their own philosophical soundbites. Things such as “If a crow flies west for the winter he’s going the wrong way.”, “Many a fool doesn’t shop at Costco.” and the incomprehensible “A man cannot have too many niff naffs!”

Niff naffs – Apparently, you can’t have too many

niff naff

Personally, I opine it’s ridiculous to try indoctrinate by the use of non-existent, incomprehensible and meaningless platitudes. I feel so strongly about this that I’d go as far as saying “The indoctrination of incorrect idioms is food for the lost souls of Byzantine.”

Despite my thoughts above, there is something inherently endearing about the naivety of the people who spawn such platitudes. The individual generally does so with a belief they are are filling a knowledge void of their audience. In reality they have inadvertently created a comedic talking point.

A lost soul of Byzantine (below) – “Did you say it was that way, mate?”

soul of Byzantine

I started writing this narrative in the rest area of the Institute of Oncology at St James Hospital, in Leeds. I always attempt to occupy myself while I’m waiting for Karen to return from her treatment.

It’s important to me I don’t procrastinate during these times. After all, you know what they say, “A Ronan Keating gathers no moss.”……. Evidently, the ex-Boyzone singer’s moniker is used quite a bit in adages!

As I sat there seeking inspiration, my mind went back to Karen’s philosophical words on the car journey to the hospital. As we discussed life in general and whether buying a pet eagle was a mistake, Karen gave me the following advice, “I always think if you don’t want people to know your business, don’t tell them.”

It was an epiphany of such magnitude it nearly caused me to driv. through a red traffic light. Until my wife had eloquently orated this advocacy, I’d never contemplated maintaining secrecy by not telling people things I didn’t want them to know.

My spouses teaching left me with a warm glow of satisfaction, which I imagine was similar to that Moses experienced on receipt of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. …… Although, that might just have been due to the heater in the vehicle being too high. …… Incidentally, that’s my car, not Moses – He always took the bus.

At last I was in possession of what to do if I bump into a person, while out walking the eagle (not a euphemism), who I don’t wish to know my business.  From now on, I will just remain aloof and if I feel I’ve relayed too much threaten the individual’s silence with the eagle.

During a recent visit to my mater’s home, a discussion took place surrounding old wives tales. As I expected, my mum didn’t lack a contribution to this interaction, providing a snippet of folklore passed on by her mother.

This pearl of wisdom of my maternal grandmother, “Don’t sit on cold steps or concrete otherwise you’ll get kingcough.”

This old wives yarn amused me. Although, as I’ve certainly never heard her utilise this sage-like prophecy, it can’t be anything my mum thought worthy of passing on to her kids . I’ve not asked them, but likewise my brother and sister probably haven’t either.

As I’d never heard of kingcough, in a fit of rare intrigue, I googled the word. Bizarrely the top entry in the responses was:-

What was Kingcough? [Archive] – Sheffield Forum › … › Sheffield › Sheffield History & Expats
11 Sep 2007 – 9 posts – ‎9 authors

Does anyone remember our Mums telling us not to sit on cold steps or concrete as we’d get kingcough in our bums! Dont know what it was …


Kingcough – God only knows what this affliction is!


Amazingly, the online question above was almost word for word what my mum had said earlier. Due to its top placement on google, it certainly added to the comedic value of the discussion.

Eventually we ceased chuckling at this coincidence. I left my mum’s residence none the wiser as to what kingcough was, but in better spirits than I arrived.

Oh balls, I’ve just realised I forgot to tell her I’d bought an eagle!


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