I’m over at Word Whores today, talking about why cats are my favorite sidekicks.
This morning, on our way out of the rec center, David and I passed one of the guys who works there. I commented that, typically, the guy didn’t look at or acknowlege me, though I’ve seen him pretty much every day at the same time for a year now. David compared him to an old acquaintance of ours. “He’s all about work being serious business,” he said, “no horseplay.”
Ooh, I thought, I want to blog about “horseplay” today. When I got home, I looked it up in my phrase & fable dictionary: nothing. My word & phrase origins dictionary goes right from “horse opera” to “horsepower.” I went to one of my all-time favorite sites, The Word Detective, to search his archives — a concession because I’d wanted to do my own research — and even the witty, all-knowing, all-word-powerful (omnietympotent?) Evan Morris doesn’t have it. I even resorted to Wikipedia (the same Evan Morris quips that Wikipedia’s motto should be “it could be true”). Article not found. I even tried a general google search. All I get is the completely unhelpful suggestion that “horseplay” is a combination of “horse” and “play.” Eureka! “Possibly from observing horses at play.”
Shoot me now.
I mean, my question is: why horses?? Why isn’t it kittenplay or bunnyplay? Okay, if we want the boisterous aspect, why not dogplay? The deer and antelope roam — apparently no playing there. If we presume we have to stick with domestic animals, I can see why cows weren’t picked. But goats? Goatplay involves all sorts of rowdy, sundress-eating types of activities. (Don’t ask — I was only five at the time.)
I can see David’s point, that the “no horseplay” attitude makes for the serious worker. The kind who doesn’t say good-morning. The rule-keepers. I wonder, too, about the pressure we all seem to be feeling. Like me, most everyone I know has the same amount of day-to-day money as they have ever had. Sure there are people getting laid off — we hear about them on the news — but I don’t know any of them. My mom and her husband, Dave, say they now have 50% of what they had, but their monthly income from pensions remains the same.
The loss is more or less theoretical. We worry that we might lose our jobs, or that our 401Ks will dissolve, but it’s theoretical pressure. It’s not now. Napoleon Hill, when he worked for Eisenhower, observed that the most profound effect of The Great Depression, was that peoples’ attitudes changed. The fear of loss made them think of themselves as poor, whether they’d lost already or not. The curse of the cerebral cortex is that we can worry about things that haven’t happened. The blessing of the animal brain is that it is only for the now, the immediate experience.
Give me a little horseplay.