Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Coupez le fromage? Quoi?

Photo credit: Monday Morning Photography

Take a moment to think about the phrase "cut the cheese." Be honest; did you laugh to yourself, even if just for a little bit? Of course you did! No matter what anyone says, jokes about passing gas will never stop being funny. Now think about why your mind automatically thought of flatulence as opposed to a knife slicing through a block of cheese, as depicted above. You can't quite figure it out, can you? While most native English speakers know the saying, it's doubtful that more than a handful are aware of how it came about in the first place. Well, it's time to fix that! That's right, we're going to put on our etymology hats and try to figure out how "cut the cheese" and other oft-used cheese-related sayings became part of our vernacular.

Cut the cheese: According to Cassell's Dictionary of Slang, the phrase most likely originated due to the fact that certain cheeses have the propensity to, well, stink. It apparently dates back to the 1970s, meaning that your grandparents weren't fortunate enough to be able to employ such a "celebrated" saying during their youth, unlike later generations.

Say Cheese: Why do we shout out "cheese!" while we're having our photos taken? The folks over at Ask Yahoo!, who are paid to answer such obscure questions, were unable to come up with a definitive answer, which leaves little hope of me being any more successful. That said, it's suggested that when you say "cheese", your mouth contorts in such a way that it looks like a smile. So, if you find yourself posing for a photo against your will, try saying "feta" instead. You'll look more glum that way, thus sabotaging the photographer's efforts.

Cheesy: If cheese tastes so good, why does the word in adjective form carry a negative connotation? The Online Etymology Dictionary says that in early 19th century British India, people adapted the Urdu word chiz, meaning "thing", in such a fashion where "cheese" was synonymous with "a big thing." But by the 1850s, the term had evolved to mean "showy", which later led to its modern day definition, as in, "This Journey power ballad sure is cheesy."

Cheesehead: I think that this photo says it all.


Anonymous said...

Haha, that picture is cheesy.

What does your title mean?

Anonymous said...

Well i believe the title means " Cut the Cheese" ... Wow ! amazingly intriguing connotation for "say cheese" !!!

Cutting the Cheese said...

Anonymous 12:22 PM is right, it means "cut the cheese" in French. I titled the entry as such because the phrase, when translated to other languages, doesn't hold the same meaning as it does in English. I suppose you could say that we English speakers are lucky to have such a phrase in our vocabulary :P

Stacy said...

Well, I definitely learned something new today! =] And I'll try to remember to say "Feta" when taking another picture.