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Wu Ting
How would you interpret the phrase “off the cob” and the word “corny”? “Do you know what, Tommy? Next month we should get together at my house. Honestly, it would be nice. I’ll make a lomo adobado. You’ve never seen my house.” He raised his eyebrows. “Oh, but what will the neighbors think.” “They’ll think I have a friend. One person knocking on my door who’s not in the pay of myself or the FBI. You hear about it all the time.” He didn’t answer. Finished with the hand inspection, he wound his watch. “Aren’t you sick of hotels?” “Fed up to the blinkers, if you want to know. Let’s go down to the bar.” “We should get dinner. Some nice oxtail soup and Horlick’s, that’s what you need. You’ve let yourself get run down.” “Oxtail soup and Horlick’s. Cat, you are off the cob.” “Corny, that would mean. Sorry. I guess I’ll go.”How would you interpret the phrase “off the cob” and the word “corny”? Thanks. And this excerpt is taken from The Lacuna by Kingsolver.
Jun 7, 2015 8:49 AM
Answers · 1
Gordon, this book is full of outdated period slang and colloquialisms which I personally need to guess from context--and I'm in my sixties. I can't imagine how much research Kingsolver must have done to learn all of it. I don't even know if it's correct. Notice that the SECOND speaker needed to guess what the FIRST speaker meant! "Corn-on-the-cob" is very popular in the summer. A whole ear of corn--maize--is boiled or roasted (we find that just microwaving works wonderfully) and served with butter and salt. You pick it up in your hands and eat the kernels off the cob underneath. Before eating: After eating: Because you eat it in your hands and you get your hands buttery, it is considered fun and informal. A native speaker easily understands "off the cob" as a reference to "corn-on-the-cob." Thus, off the cob -> corny. We now need a SECOND cultural leap. For reasons I don't think anyone understands, "corny" means "unsophisticated" or possibly "rural." "I like my dad but he's always making corny jokes." "Cat" is dated slang which I associated with jazz musicians. Obviously the speaker likes to use a lot of colloquialisms of the day. "Horlick's" is a brand of malted milk. Malted milk was... rather like a smoothy today, a thick drink that was thought to be nutritious. The speaker is suggesting that the suggestion of a nice nutritious meal ("oxtail soup and Horlick's") is the sort of kindly-meant but stupid suggestion an unsophisticated person would make.
June 7, 2015
Wu Ting
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English, French
Learning Language