By Colin Dunne
Cliff is back, eager and has a bag full of useless facts and answers to un-asked questions. Have you always wanted to know why London City Council waits for the students to return to school before starting road construction? Ask Cliff. Want to know what an ombudsperson does? Ask Cliff. Even if you want to know the highly guarded and no doubt shocking Caramilk secret, Cliff will do his best to deliver the goods. Just send your problematic ponderings to Rm. 263 of the University Community Centre or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To kick things off for the new year, Cliff decided to answer a question that has been on his mind for years and has proven more annoying than a hungry dog on Sears catalogue day.
Where in the world did the expression "tongue-in-cheek" come from and what does it mean?
According to the Oxford Dictionary of Current English, to speak with one's tongue in one's cheek is to speak "insincerely or ironically". Upon consultation of The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, Cliff learned the phrase was first used in 1845 by Richard Barham, in his The Ingoldsby Legends.
It is a mystery as to why he chose these words to describe insincerity, but the expression took hold and spawned a now dead tradition of physically lodging the tongue tip against the inside of the cheek to warn the listener of irony.
Speaking of tongues (as opposed to speaking in tongues), the term tongue oil is mid-19th century slang referring to the way that booze loosens the tongue once the drinker becomes inebriated, blotto, sozzled, in his cups, or pissed as a newt. After copious amounts of tongue oil, you may start walking on rocky socks or have a nose to light candles at.
Cliff, having finally satisfied his curiosity, feels as happy as a clam at high tide and so bids his readers a good night while he goes to see a man about a dog (has to go pee).