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Touché, cliché

I was thinking about this column when lo and behold, like a bolt from the blue, I was bowled over. If you know enough of these expressions you don’t have to think at all. Many of them are mindless fillers, or maybe to be more generous, used for emphasis. It makes what we are saying seem more than what it is. Some of them make no sense or do not mean what we think they do.

Lo and behold. Who am I? Moses? Who says this anymore? What’s next? Auld English a la Chaucer? And that “a la” is suspect in and of itself. In and of itself? Does it never end?

Bolt from the blue has two possible interpretations that I know of, one from the weather channel and the other from antiquities warfare. In both cases it alludes to something that strikes without warning.

The weather guy explains this as a phenomenon in which a lightning bolt strikes from a cloud that is miles away, seemingly from a blue sky overhead. There is no way to avoid this. You don’t have a clue that this could happen. Not a cheerful thought.

The military historian says this refers to the missile used by slingers, a piece of lead called a bolt. Shepherds used stones. Serious slingers used lead, sometimes with little inscriptions carved into them in their spare time; things like “Take that!” Because of its small size, dark color and speed, it strikes its target without warning. You can’t see it coming like an arrow or a spear.

The impact is also unexpected. There is evidence that these little devils could split a helmet. Expertise with the sling required a lifetime of practice, the bow years, the spear you could pretty much pick up on the spot although the javelin was a bit tricky, enough so that they made it into an Olympic sport. This is annoying to practice because you have to keep fetching your javelin for another throw. The job of javelin catcher was never popular.

Bowled over is clear cut. Like a bowling pin I am knocked flat. Sometimes I carom off of the walls in the process, depending on how squarely the ball hits. This seems to happen a lot.

In the 1950s we had “feature this,” meaning look at this closely and “dork.” “Dork” survives to this day although I have never seen an actual definition. However you know one when you see one. OK … stop staring.

The 1970s gave us “hitter,” someone who attempts to be stylish, but just misses, like wearing boot cut jeans with loafers. The 1980s featured “bag it.” This means we are done here, let’s move on.

OK. Bag it.

Bill Abrams “parks it” in Pine Plains.