I Shall Wear the Bottoms of My Trousers Rolled

On Outliving the Language I Was Taught

Toe the line/Tow the line: We don’t have draft centers any more, where hundreds of young men at a time were once directed to stand with their toes against a line painted on the floor, then step forward in unison and take the administered oath. Your soul may belong to Jesus, son, but your ass belongs to the Army.

Jibes with/Jives with: I guess there aren’t as many sailors in the world as there used to be.

Set foot in/Step foot in: To step is/was an intransitive verb, except maybe for the military’s Step it up back there! (As in step up the pace, which, come to think of it, may be a different verb altogether — something like to upstep, a remnant of those pesky Germanic separable-prefix verbs which seem to be so deeply embedded in modern colloquial English: fuck up, fuck over, fuck off, fuck with, etc.)

How fun!: Fun used to be a noun. (O, what fun it is to ride in a one-horse open sleigh.) Sleigh is still a noun, but only Santa ever rides in one these days. (Vermonters, Canadians, Russians, work with me here.)

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