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Chew the fat 叙旧

[ 2011-08-10 16:06]     字号 [] [] []  
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If we have a long, informal chat with some old friends we are chewing the fat.

“It’s would be good to get together sometime to have a few beers and chew the fat”.

Americans might say shoot the breeze instead.

“I like nothing better than shooting the breeze with some old buddies.”

Nobody is sure of the origins of chewing the fat but a lot of theories rest on salt pork. Salt pork was common in both army rations and in the food stored for sailing ship voyages. Chewing the fat from this took a lot of effort. Likewise gossiping at length takes a lot of jaw movement!

If you see a herd of cows in a field chewing the cud they will be slowly masticating some of the partly digested food from their first stomach. Like chewing the fat we can also use this expression to describe aimless natter.

However, if I had a bone to pick with you, I would be in no mood for friendly gossip. I would have a serious issue to talk over with you that could well involve a disagreement and that would require a lengthy discussion. The expression dates back to the 16th century and refers to a dog chewing endlessly on a bone. In the end the bone would be picked clean. A similar phrase, meaning an issue over which two people are arguing, is a bone of contention and refers to two dogs fighting over a bone.

We have mentioned salt pork and now’s the time to bring home the bacon. Bringing home the bacon means to earn a living

“Since I lost my job it’s up to my wife to bring home the bacon.”

One nice story is that the phrase originates from the days when country fairs would organize competitions for people to catch a pig. The pig would be coated in grease to make it especially slippery. Whoever caught the pig would win the prize and then, could be said to be bringing home the bacon. However it might just be that pork was an important and valuable provision for ordinary people.

If you are going to eat pork then you ought to have some beans. Pork and beans is a dish eaten all over the world but I remember it especially from the cowboy films I watched as a child. If you spill the beans you give away a secret. This expression goes back to ancient Greece where people would vote by putting a different coloured bean in a jar; a white bean for a yes vote and black or brown one for a no. The result was a secret known only to the officials but if the jar was knocked over, the beans were spilt and the secret was out.

Somebody who is full of beans is lively and full of energy, presumably because he or she has eaten well.

For me, however, all this food has made me sleepy so I think I will lie down on the settee and watch some TV like a regular couch potato.


chewing the fat: chatting or gossiping

shooting the breeze: chatting or gossiping

rations: allowance of provisions

chewing the cud: action of some animals of chewing partly digested food/ chatting or gossiping

cud: food brought back up from the stomach to chew

masticating: chewing

natter: chat or gossip

a bone to pick with you: something serious to discuss

bone of contention: the subject of a dispute

bringing home the bacon: earning a living

spill the beans: give away a secret

full of beans: full of energy

settee: sofa, couch

couch potato: lazy person