Jill
Two qestions Q1: Does the phrase "get the ax" mean "get punished"? I was flunking four subjects and not applying myself and all. They gave me frequent warning to start applying myself--especially around midterms, when my parents came up for a conference with old Thurmer--but I didn't do it. So I got the ax. They give guys the ax quite frequently at Pencey. Q2: The phrase "cold as a witch's teat", does it have any origins, or is it a literary quotation from somewhere? Anyway, it was December and all, and it was cold as a witch's teat, especially on top of that stupid hill. Thank you all!
Jul 2, 2015 1:30 PM
Answers · 4
I see you're reading 'The Catcher in the Rye'. That's quite a challenge! Some of the 1940s colloquialisms in it are fairly obscure, even for native speakers. 'Getting the ax' usually means getting expelled, or fired from a job. In this case, it probably means getting thrown out of the class. The phrase "cold as a witch's teat" isn't from any particular literary source, but it is a well-known simile which has fairly old origins. To describe extreme situations, especially those to do with heat and cold, it has always been common to refer to either satanic topics (devils, hell, witches) and so on, or intimate body parts (specific male or female appendages). This expression is particularly appealing, as it ticks both boxes. In the 1940s, censorship laws didn't allow obscenities or profanities in published materials, so this colourful language is the nearest that Holden Caulfield could get to swearing.
July 2, 2015
Yes, if you say you "got the axe" then you were more than punished--you were either fired, let go, were thrown out, etc. It generally refers to a job or work. This is used pretty frequently in English. "Cold as a witches' teat" or the more vulgar version, "cold as a witches tit" (be careful, the word "tit" is not very polite) is used much less frequently nowadays, but it isn't unheard of.
July 2, 2015
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Jill
Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), English, French
Learning Language
French