I had occasion to have a meal with friends over the weekend when I heard a phrase I’d never heard before. Its utterer was a farmer, a salt of the earth, say-it-like-it-is kind of guy, which is the best kind of guy to hear phrases from, I think. Here’s what he said:
“I knew she was nine miles of bad road when I met her.”
Understand, I love a good colloquialism. I use them all the time, even if I don’t know their origin. “The bee’s knees,” for instance. I don’t understand why that equates to a good thing, but I like it. I sort of understand “like a mule looking at a new gate,” but it took some time pondering it for me to get it, as I’ve never been around mules. Eventually I understood that a mule wouldn’t necessarily like a new gate being installed and would probably be somewhat dumbfounded by one.
But I got “nine miles of bad road” instantly. It’s such a great word picture! You ever driven on a bad road? You feel every pothole and bump. You wince as you feel the damage your car is taking. You have to drive much slower than usual and you don’t feel like you’ve got the control of your vehicle that you normally would. Every bounce, drop, and noise add up to frustration and irritation that lasts long after you’re off that road. “This should be fixed!” you think. If there’s something worse than driving on a bad road, it’s driving on nine miles of it.
None of the rest of us had heard the phrase before, but we all agreed it was a good one. Just not one you’d want applied to you.