Thursday, May 23, 2013

twenty three skidoo...

Too many of the best phrases have died off, only to be given their last breaths by my father who uses these phrases with abandon. Last night at family birthday dinner, Alex offered some funny idea and my father screamed across Spruce, "Now that's got legs!"

I spent the next 45 minutes thinking of all the times I'm going to use, "Now that's got legs!" before my parents started describing seeing "A Trip To Bountiful" in New York. On and on, they went about Cicely Tyson, raving about her performance. My mother leaned across my father, "The New York Times said she was 88."

"Twice!" My father added.

"But Wikipedia says she is 79." My mother sat back in her chair, somehow more pleased with Wikipedia's version of Cicely Tyson.

And then with great flair and enthusiasm, my father boomed, "If Cicely Tyson is 88, (indignant pause), Katie bar the door."

Katie bar the door? What the hell is Katie bar the door?

"Look it up!" My father has recently discovered that one can use one's smartphone to access the internet immediately. Anytime he is questioned on anything, his answer is, "Google it." He walks around town saying, "That's got legs! Katie bar the door! Google it!"

I googled and and read the (now preferred) Wikipedia entry to the table.

Legend has it (oohs and ahhs from the table) that during the King's (James the 1st of Scotland) stay at a Dominican chapterhouse in Perth in 1437, a group of men led by Sir Robert Graham came to the door searching for the King in order to kill him. The King's Chamberlain, Robert Stewart, Master of Atholl (ooh, ahh), aware of the plot against his life, had taken the precaution of removing the bolt from the door of the room in which James and his queen were staying. James fled into a sewer tunnel as the queen and her ladies quickly replaced the floorboards to hide his location. Catherine sprang to the door and placed her arm through the staples to bar the assassins' entrance. However, they forced the door open anyway, breaking Catherine's arm, and discovered and killed the King. From that point on, according to the story, Catherine took the surname of "Barlass". Dante Gabriel Rossetti recounted the story of Catherine Douglas in verse in 1881, under the title "The King's Tragedy". This poem contains the line "Catherine, keep the door!" - possibly the origin of the idiomatic phrase "Katy, bar the door!" (a warning of the approach of trouble).

Our entire section of the restaurant really enjoyed that story, including our fabulous server who managed to work in "Katie bar the door" every time he brought something to the table. But it begs the question of my father, who had admittedly just given us all a really cool phrase to use, why is Cicely Tyson being 88 a warning of the approach of trouble? He just tosses around "Katie bar the door" as more of an, "Well then I just don't know what."

"She broke her arm?" My brother said. "Nice work Katie. James is dead. They should change that phrase to, 'Katie drink some milk.'"

*the New York Times also has some answers on "Katie bar the door" but they said Cicely Tyson was 88, so...


Anonymous said...

Ha! Thanks for this. Alex has me rolling on the floor. tp

Kristin J. Bender said...

We use "the story has legs" in the news biz. Well, those who are old enough to remember smoking in the newsroom and taking calls at the Bar over an "Old Spanish" do....

Seana said...

I want the Spotswoods at my dinner table!