This place matters

This place matters

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

You don't know jack

Today, I had occasion to politely request that a man not park his car in the middle of road on a blind curve on the only road into or out of our apartment complex while he chatted with his friend. It seemed more civil than laying on the horn, what with it being night time, but this was, apparently, deeply offensive to him.
He shouted that I should not speak to him, as he does not know me from Adam. I mean, you really can't argue with that logic. Obviously, one should wait until one is on kissing terms with another before requesting that one be allowed to proceed to one's home.
After I got done railing impotently to the cats about the incident, it occurred to me to wonder where the expression "to know one from Adam" came from.
WorldWideWords.org shed some light for me. The expression first appears in print in court records dating to the late 18th century.
What's interesting, though, are the variations on the expression I'd never heard (or heard but never noticed). Seems there's a variation in It's a Wonderful Life, which I've seen roughly 33 times (at least once for every Christmas of my life). When George Bailey goes back to the bar after never having been born, Nick (who would inexplicably have been a douchebag if George Bailey had never been born) says that he doesn't know George from Adam's off ox.
Adam's off ox, according to World Wide Words, is a regionalism, popular only in scattered areas around the Appalachians (this according to the Dictionary of American Regional English). An off ox, my sources inform me, is the ox on the left of a mule team. Oddly specific. That expression dates back to the end of the 19th century.
Popular in scattered areas of the American south is Adam's housecat. There's also Adam's foot, Adam's brother, and my favorite, Adam's pet monkey.
But who is Adam? Probably another guy who has no business asking other people to be allowed to proceed to one's home. 

4 comments:

Megi said...

I always assumed it referred to the Biblical Adam of Genesis and therefore saying essentially "All you know about me is I'm male." *shrug*

Bersercules said...

I don't know jack about Adam, but I liked your post! And for future refference just honk your horn, people are move likely to move for violent loud noises then polite people!

Brigid Daull Brockway said...

All the sources seem to agree with that, though nobody seems to know for sure.

Brigid Daull Brockway said...

I was thinking "perhaps this gentleman doesn't realize that his position makes it impossible to safely go around him." Silly me.
Such situations are trickier out here in the sticks, because some crazy backwards people still have manners. This guy was apparently not one of them.

ShareThis