Monday, December 24, 2007

Till, if and when, the cows come home?

"I could dance with you till the cows come home. Better still, I'll dance with the cows and you come home." - Groucho Marx

My favorite "Far Side" comic ever was the one which depicted a car full of luggage carrying cows piling out of a car, while a woman inside of a house was peering out from behind a curtain; the caption had the woman shouting, "The cows have come home! The cows have come home"!

According to one website, the expression "Till the cows come home" refers to the fact that cows are notoriously languid creatures and make their way home at their own unhurried pace. The phrase has been used by mothers everywhere along the lines of, "You can sit there and whine until the cows come home but you're still not getting any pudding unless you finish your liver". Thus the meaning is that the poor child isn't going to get anywhere no matter how long he whines, and after all who knows HOW long its going to take those blasted cows to get home! Not to mention that when they do, the kid is only going to have to go milk them and then still face a plate of cold liver when he gets back into the house. Unless he decides to stay in the barn with the cows just to spite his mother.

The variant phrase, "WHEN the cows come home", I suppose would indicate a degree of tenacity as in, "You can do your best to drive me away but I'll still be here when the cows come home".

Could it be that within this rather peculiar and bucolic phrase we find layers of deep metaphors for life? After all, life often requires great patience and tenacity, a necessity for delaying gratification, acceptance that we don't always get what we want, and maybe too there is something to be learned from the cow's unhurried pace!

On the other hand, this could all be simply the waste product of a male bovine.

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