I don’t understand how words work.

I just told Victor that we might need to buy some sandwich stuff before Christmas because no restaurant is going to open and we’re going to starve, and he said we should just try to cook real meal because he assures me that “cooking is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel.”  And I was like, “I am already questioning your logic because who shoots fish? And why would you shoot them if they’re already in a barrel?  Obviously someone has already caught them so the whole shooting thing is just violent overkill and extra work.  And at best you’d end up with a barrel full of fish parts and blood and that would make it even harder to see the rest of the fish, who are all hiding because some maniac is shooting at them. And then you have to remove all the shrapnel from the fish before you eat them, and probably you’d shoot a hole through the barrel because that’s how guns work and then you’d end up with bloody fish water pouring all over the carpet. If you want to convince me something is worthwhile you should say that it’s easier than netting fish which are already in a barrel, or simpler than knocking over a fish barrel so you can pick up the fish.  Or just set the barrel over a fire and make fish soup.  Pretty much anything is easier and more efficient than shooting fish in a barrel.”  And then Victor stared at me and walked off and now I don’t understand how words work AND we’re going to starve to death at Christmas.  Plus, now I’m craving fish.  No one wins here.


And now, the weekly wrap-up:


Shit I made in my shop (Named “EIGHT POUNDS OF UNCUT COCAINE” so that your credit card bill will be more interesting.):


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104 thoughts on “I don’t understand how words work.

Read comments below or add one.

  1. Oohhh. You’re back…wrangling them words and running those sentences that I love to read breathlessly!!

    Clueless on the barrel of fish shooting fun, but, hey, I still say, “Ornerier than owl shit.” with no clue as to what it means. Most people can’t spell ornery and I feel better.

  2. I don’t know about your town, but here there are several restaurants that take reservations Christmas day. There’s probably an app for that or something. Since I cook I’m not actually are how you find Christmas dinner reservations but it’s a thing and you should have them and avoid barely of fish and firearms

  3. I grew up with a lot of these very bizarre sayings, which I use sometimes in company and am subjected to confused stares. My favourite is “cutting off your nose to spite your face”. Aren’t you actually spiting yourself, ruining your face and causing yourself incredible pain, just because you’re pissed at your nose? Maybe that’s the lesson. Thanks, Dad, for a childhood of confusion.

  4. I saw a sign the other day that Rudy’s BBQ was going to be open on Christmas day. Now if only I could convince my Swedish in-laws that BBQ was an acceptable Christmas dinner..

  5. And now I totally want to use a chain gun to make lace curtains out of a steel barrel.

  6. I think it refers to the Old Days, pre-refrigeration, when fish would be transported packed and salted in barrels, so if you shot into the Harrell you couldn’t possibly avoid hitting fish.

    But weird.

  7. When we lived in the Atlanta area, we established the ritual of take-out pizza from the Muslim-owned place on Christmas day. What can be better than sitting amongst wrapping paper, eating fresh pizza you didn’t have to make yourself, made by people who didn’t gripe about having to work on Christmas???

  8. You know Myth Busters did a show on this once and, as I recall, shooting fish wasn’t terribly effective in the first place!

  9. Jenny, if you’re close enough to Austin, Instacart is my new favorite thing in the world!! If not, we will start a campaign to have them extend their territory to you!

  10. Even if you miss the fish, you’ll probably shoot holes in the barrel, so all the water will drain out and you’ll get a lovely pile of dead fish, which will allow you to transition gracefully into a completely different saying about scraping the bottom of the barrel.

  11. Chinese restaurants are usually open on Christmas day. What says Christmas more than fortune cookies?

  12. Great. Now I’m stuck with a mental image of bobbing for apples — because my parents had a large wooden bucket for that, kind of like half a barrel? — only instead of red delicious, I see carp.

    Worst Halloween party game ever.

  13. @Diane,

    It’s kind of stereotypical, since we’re Jewish, but we always go out to eat at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas. This year, we’re adding a Star Wars movie viewing.

  14. Way back in the day, fish were packed into a barrel (after they were already dead) for transport. Think that scene in the Hobbit movies where they climb in the fish barrels to be smuggled into Lake Town. If you shoot into that, you are going to hit a fish.

  15. Well, I was going to mention both Mythbusters (shooting fish in a barrel doesn’t work so well, unless it’s an Uzi) and Chinese restaurants (a group of friends organize a dim sum gathering every year here in Boston), but it looks as if I was beaten to the punch, damn it. But yeah, there often are restaurants open on Christmas Day, particularly Chinese or Indian ones, so a little Googling should help you find just the right place.

  16. I got stuck on the “cutting off your nose to spite your face” comment which I have heard for forever (okay, 61 years) and always took to mean ‘doing something mean to someone you don’t like, or in revenge, and actually hurting yourself more than your enemy in the process.’ Please don’t start a wave of old sayings. Before I figured out how to stop facebook from sending me email notifications every time someone commented on a post I had also commented on, I had to resign from the group for people who grew up in the same old neighborhood as I did, because every Tom, Dick, and Harry had to comment multiple times on what their grannies used to say and my email was swamped. I’m just an idiot that way. Merry Christmas, and the Bertolli and P.F. Changs frozen skillet dinners are good stock-ups, as well as DiGiorno stuffed crust pizzas. If you go for pizza though, be aware you’ll gain five pounds in two days. Happy New Year.

  17. My Jewish friends swear that Chinese restaurants are open. And I know I’ve eaten at an Indian restaurant one Christmas. Also, some restaurants inside nice hotels are open.

  18. I’m fond of “cuter than boots on a rooster” although it would make a rooster very test.

  19. I hate to have to tell you this, but the brain slice coasters aren’t worth the money. They’re very cheaply made and the paint will start to come off in a wash or two. 🙁

  20. I believe the term references the rain barrel outside an old store. Guys would toss their catch of the day in to keep it fresh(ish). Shooting those fish would be extremely easy. I suppose the store owner then bathed in that water?!? It all sounds awfully unsanitary, even before the gun is used.

  21. Jenny, I totally get your logic! You do too know how words work! And on Christmas, go Chinese. Or fondue. Fondue is sold in foil packets, all you need to do is heat it up and dip bread in it!

  22. Say you have a large barrel of fish you’re transporting from the sea to harbor, and you’ve got a harpoon. Harpoon fishing was quite popular in “the olden days”, apparently. It is much easier to shoot that harpoon into a barrel and hit a fish than it is to shoot it into open water and hit the fish you’re aiming at. The phrase got more confusing when “shoot” started to automatically equal “gun” rather than other weapons.

  23. PSHT. You don’t remember the Christmas Movie? All the Chinese restaurants are open. Maybe you can ask the staff to sing you Fa Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra!

  24. A little off topic, I presented a friend, a perpetual ballet student, the Harold the ballerina shirt for Christmas. She shrieked with delight and said she would wear to to dance class forever. Thank you so much for your nifty little outlook on life.

  25. Amazon delivers and they have a huge grocery department. Rush order it? Good luck!

    Also, I grew up with “slicker than owl shit”. Never heard the ornery part, though madder than a wet hen did come up frequently.

  26. “Easy as shooting fish in a barrel” makes as much sense as “easy as apple pie.” Eating it, maybe. But have you ever tried to make an apple pie? The crust alone makes me want a stiff drink.

  27. Christmas eve I think I will finally put some lights on my tree. And Christmas day I think I will just open a canned ham (yes I actually have one of those in my pantry (just in case?), maybe a can of asparagus, and perhaps fry or microwave some potatoes that I can dump cheese sauce over top of. The really sad thing about it all is that I’m actually a really good cook! But lately… a great big fancy dinner really isn’t what it’s all about. I’d rather take the extra time and drag my daughter and husband for a walk to the lake. And then maybe take a nap 🙂

  28. I can handle shooting fish in a barrel and even cutting of your nose to spite your face, but one of these days a Texan needs to explain, “squat that rabbit and jump another” to me. The first time I ever heard it used I was pregnant and laughed so hard I had to sit on the floor in Cost Plus so I wouldn’t fall over.

  29. I think those bullet-ridden fish would no longer be clean as a whistle. Which also makes no sense, because my guess is that whistles are pretty germy.

  30. Oh! The new shirt…it is the first one that has really called to me to make a purchase. I am certainly of the misfit clan.

  31. I don’t know if it would be easy to shoot fish in a barrel. Assuming there is water in the barrel it’d be very much like when I would Bob for apples. Bob was an asshole apparently because those apples were slippery and I nearly drowned. Perhaps I should have shot them apples.

  32. I am trying to think of an excuse to buy the calendar even though I already have a basset hound calendar and a sunset calendar. I will keep thinking about it because I really like it.

  33. And then we have “oh my goodness, someone just walked over my grave” which always stops me dead (oh, sorry). I mean, if you were dead, would you CARE? and if you were alive would it MATTER? At least not yet. And if you were dead, well, would you even know? and why would you be sitting there talking about it?

    I love “squat that rabbit and jump another”, if I knew what it meant (and i think I want to) then I could use it in a sentence. Or maybe it IS a sentence for all occasions. Sorta like Hallmark.

  34. People are weird. If you say cooking is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, then why isn’t ordering pizza as easy as electrocuting bunnies in a bathtub. But if you say something like that, people get upset and start making phone calls to the police. Yeah, you talk about going all Ted Nugent on some innocent trout, and I’m the crazy one? It’s not like I was planning to do it. I’m just pointing out that all I would need is a hair dryer, an extension cord, and some unsuspecting rabbits. Finding a bunch of bunnies is probably the hardest part, but then who actually has barrels of fish just lying around, right? Still, It’s better to keep fish in a barrel than monkeys. You don’t want to lift the lid on that sucker after it’s been filled with macaques for a couple of weeks.

    Also, it seems to me if you order a “Blessed are the misfits” t-shirt, you should send them a random size. You know, just to prove a point.

  35. I vote Victor cooks, everything and you just drink spiked eggnog or if you hate eggnog like I do just drink the liquor. That or take you out to hang out with some of the other pagans at the Chinese restraunt. Heck we got them to deliver one Christmas it was like a miracle or something.

  36. Reading your interactions with your husband is like catching a glimpse of my own relationship! If you guys are our future, I ain’t mad!

  37. And this is why you don’t argue hunting or fishing with a country gal. Tell him, Jenny!

  38. Lisa K – my husband always says something is slicker than owl shit. I don’t know how he knows.

  39. Just because I happened to see the sign: Applebee’s will be open Christmas Day. I once went to Outback on Christmas, so I assume they would be open this year too.

  40. I have NEVER head of this saying before until just a couple days ago at work and it didn’t make ANY sense to me either!! At work, I do a pictionary group therapy with patients dealing with idioms. Sometimes, I have patients who have their own that they want to draw like the dude a few days ago who drew shooting fish in a barrel and I was like: “What does that mean?!?!” And he said, “like it’s just easy”…and I was like…that doesn’t sound easy to me…So glad I’m not the only one confused with this saying…haha

  41. I haven’t cooked a meal on Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas since I was a newlywed, and that’s 24 years ago now. Once my son was born, we started going to brunch for everything since it was easier to pop him into his clothes while he was asleep and have him wake up at brunch. San Antonio, at least, has quite a few restaurants open (opentable.com found eight — and none of them are Chinese restaurants).

  42. In Poland we actually eat fish on Christmas Eve (traditionally carp but it’s terrible so my family switched to other fish recently) so you’re not that far off.
    At least with the fish craving.

  43. You should NOT have to shoot your own Christmas dinner, you’re a celebrity. It is pretty difficult to mess up a spiral ham though if the whole fish thing doesn’t work out.

  44. We went to a Chinese restaurant a couple of years ago. We kept quoting lines from A Christmas Story. Fa-rah-rah-rah-rah-rah-rah-rah-rah

  45. My mother used to say “hotter than a two dollar pistol”, which is sort of self-explanatory, but not to me when I was four. I asked her what a two dollar pistol was and she told me it was a pistol that got really hot…
    I haven’t had much internet access lately, but I got both of your books and read them both twice. Thank you so much for them both, they kept me from dying of boredom…

  46. perhaps in Texas the better phrase would be a Turkey Shoot? Apparently is means really really easy. Fish would be salted for storage and packed into a barrel. There wouldn’t be water, so no fish blood soup(sorry) when you shoot the barrel.
    So you don’t have to be a good shot to shoot a fish in a barrel. And since non wild turkeys are dumb as soup(so I hear) that’s probably easy too.
    We catch our fish without guns here in CT, being on the ocean and all.

  47. And just to get back to the food motif here for Christmas…buy a few big potatoes, some decent steaks and some type of green vegetables. Toss the potatoes in the oven, steaks on the grill and the frozen vegetables in the microwave. My mom insists on beets too. Don’t know why. Slap em on the good china and break out the wine. Christmas Day is done. Easy clean up too! Leaves more time for presents and dessert.

  48. Your logic is undeniable! As a side, I just got to the part in your book where (SPOILER ALERT!!) you go to Australia and drive a right hand vehicle. We are in a right drive country right now and have been, for the last 4 months, continually misfiring the wipers when we mean to signal a turn. WHO KNEW THEY FLOPPED THAT TOO?? The gas and the break aren’t reversed (THANK GOD) so why wipers and signals? As I’m sure you realized then, you are guaranteed in these vehicles to always make a memorable arrival. (just so you know, our Southern Hemisphere toilets flush straight down, not reverse swirl here. disappointing, I know.)

  49. One of my favorite xmas memories was one year where both my wife and I were still in the Army. We were stationed at different locations and I traveled across the country to where she was to spend the holiday. We were kids, in a hotel room, and broke as could be. Our dinner that year came from a gas station and was a loaf of bread and some lunch meat to go with it.

    Since then we usually (like most folks here) enjoy Chinese food. That or we go to someone else’s house that has the skills to turn ingredients into food. Magic.

  50. You would think Victor would have learned by now and answered “Yes Dear.”
    Not the brightest bulb in the box…
    Yeah, I know. How could you tell if a bulb is bright if it is a box?

  51. Also, why “drunk as a skunk”? I mean, yeah, they rhyme. Ok. But are skunks known for their alcoholic tendencies?

  52. Hi Maggie 🙂 Grampa ALWAYS said the ornery part. I’ve heard ‘slick as snot.’ ‘Slicker than owl shit’ certainly makes more sense, even if I’ve never tested it’s consistency, personally. Happy to defer to your husband’s experience with it, but on here is the first I’ve heard it was slick. Always assumed owl shit was ornery and snot was slick…because I was a good girl and didn’t argue. Plus, all the owl shit I ever saw did look a little ornery, ‘specially if you could identify the mouse hair and bones. (Grampa also called us all ‘Susie’ because I think he didn’t want to work that hard to remember all of our names.) Isn’t ‘ornery’ fun to say tho??

  53. And I really like Michelle’s idea of going next door to establish a new tradition of a neighborly feed. They probably want to talk a little more about the bobcat, anyway. Good time to bring that up, if it hasn’t been. I know my neighbor would feed me if I could get her a bobcat hookup.

  54. Up here, it’s “slick as snot on a doorknob.”

    “Shittin’ in high weeds” and “piss up a rope” are two of my personal favorites. If something is going well, we’re shittin’ in high weeds, now boy! And if something goes wrong—well, piss up a rope takes the place of an f-bomb.

    Between my ex and my papa, I’ve a bunch of these old sayings that I like to lay on some of my younger clients. They try to look them up in the Urban Dictionary, then have to break down and ask me about them. They think I’m nuts …

  55. True story: before I ever heard the expression I saw an episode of a TV show (but have no clue which one because I was too young to understand how TV works) that had a scene of two guys fishing in a toilet. And the worst part was one of them had put actual fish in there, like catfish or maybe trout. I got the impression one of them had never been taken fishing and this was in New York where eating fish from a toilet would be safer than eating fish from the Hudson River.
    Anyway originally I heard the expression as “easier than catching fish in a barrel” which makes more sense than shooting them and thought it came from that TV episode, although Io never wondered why people didn’t say “easier than catching fish in a toilet”.

    And I’m shocked Victor hasn’t seen the Mythbusters episode where they determined that water is pretty damned good at stopping bullets. Seriously if you shoot fish you’re just wasting ammo and possibly stunning the fish but otherwise leaving them unharmed.

  56. You know you are not wrong… why would you shoot fish in a barrel when you clearly already have them. If you want to be real clever, you could just leave the fish for a while and they will eventually over populate the barrel and there will be so many fish it will be over flowing and then you can just pick one off the top of the water and you won’t have to make a gross mess at all.

  57. Thank you! I never understood some of the weird sayings that people have, where the hell did they ever come from and I worry about the people who thought them up…hoping you find something to eat for Christmas….<3

  58. Just wanted to say Merry Christmas to the tribe, I love to come here and see what yall are talking about. This is the only comments section that I have found that is not filled with anger and hate talk and that is amazing. To the good people of the tribe God Bless you and have a great New Year. Jenny: you got good peeps in your web but you already knew that.

  59. I love these expressions. I was at the post office yesterday where the line was ten deep and someone said to the woman who works there, “You’re busier than a one-armed dry waller.” ???

  60. We go out to eat-Chinese food, specifically Dim Sum. Not all Chinese restaurants are open in town on Christmas so check the one you have in mind first. Or I think Jack in the Box is open. They are for Thanksgiving.

    As for the saying fish in a barrel. I love messing those sayings up like: don’t count your chicken before you call wolf. Keeps everyone on their toes.

  61. I laughed so hard I startled my office. Mythbusters actually shot fish in a barrel, and you are absolutely right.

  62. What I think is odd is that no one is discussing the fact that if you shoot into a barrel you are in a whole other world of trouble. At this point you have rendered a once perfectly suitable barrel useless as you will never be able to use it again. Never mind the fact that you now have a bunch of fish gasping for their lives as the water drains from the bullet holes. So essentially at this point you are now being accused of cruelty to animals because instead of killing the fish quickly, you are making them suffer. So here you are trying to transfer the fish to another barrel, killing them some other way or watching them die slowly. Who even cares about eating fish at this point, because you have essentially lost your appetite and now have to dig a hole to bury all the poor fish so that your neighbours don’t call the authorities for firing a firearm without cause or for cruelty to animals and if you don’t get rid of the fish quick enough they’re likely going to call the cops because they see you digging in your backyard for some unknown reason, because everyone has those nosey neighbours. Basically, you should just eat a peanut butter sandwich at this point and forget the fish for a while.

  63. Just popping in to say Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you and your family. Fur babies included, heck, taxidermied fur babies too 🙂 Stay safe & happy in 2016 and thank you for another wonderful year of enjoyment from reading your blog & books!

  64. Gotta tell you, have used your cards from zazzle as my christmas cards for two years running and people think I am the funniest person alive because of it. Last year it was the coked up deer head, and this year it was the Juanita souffle one. I just have Merry Christmas printed inside them to make them seem official. THANK YOU for actually being the funniest person alive.

  65. I realize it’s now after Christmas, so all of you have done whatever it is that you’re going to do for Christmas, but I have a little advice if you go the “Jewish Christmas” route (movie & Chinese). If you’re in a large city where many people aren’t near family or a place that has a large Jewish/non-religious population, either make reservations or go early. We buy our movie tickets ahead of time and make reservations, but last year, as we were entering the movie theater for an early evening showing (around 4:30-ish), they were announcing that all tickets for all shows were sold out for the rest of the day, and there was a 1-hour-plus wait for those without reservations at the Chinese restaurant when we arrived for our 7:30 reservation. While it’s always busy, last year seemed busier than ever. We had a few drinks before the movie, and even the bars were packed.

    We also spent a lot of time making up jokes on “so, a Jew, an atheist, and a Chinese guy walk into a bar/movie/Chinese restaurant on Christmas Day…”

  66. So…anyone else notice that the “most often bought” combination for the brain coasters was coasters and a Nessie (as in Loch Ness Monster) soup ladle?

    What the actual fuck, Amazon? How is brain slices and mythological monster soup utensils a valid package? Oh god…maybe Nessie’s a zombie…

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