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Running ramshod

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A Georgia lawyer, after winning a retrial for his client:

"I'm ready to fight this case again, and committed to making sure something like this doesn't happen again. We need to hold their feet to the fire, and make sure they don't run ramshod over defendants."

Rams generally go unshod, I think, at least in warm weather. The lawyer was probably thinking of roughshod. Someone is always being accused of riding or running roughshod over someone else, as in "Boozman rode roughshod over the children begging for food."

Back in the 17th century, according to The Word Detective, a horse that was "roughshod" wore horseshoes with nailheads projecting from the bottom of the shoe. This gave the horse better traction on slippery ground or ice, but it also made the horse an even more brutal weapon when used against an enemy on foot. Bad enough to be trampled by a horse; worse to be trampled by a roughshod horse.

So to ride roughshod originally meant "to crush brutally."

Over time, it was watered down to its present figurative meaning of "to charge ahead without mercy or regard for the rules." (Senator Boozman, however, still uses real horses. "They're remembered longer," he says.)

It could be that the lawyer was thinking of rambunctious ("hard to control; turbulently active"), or rampage ("violent or excited behavior") or the adjective rampant ("violent in action or spirit"). Rama-lama-ding-dong, not likely.

n J.C. Sarna submits an item headlined "Woman goes on rampage at Bradenton Wal-Mart." The article continues, "A report says Mays' spit then landed on a detective's hand that arrived to speak with her."

Sarna says "Aside from American Sign Language, I didn't know hands could speak."

Some can. "Lovely Hula Hands" are known for their loquacity:

"Lovely hands that tell a thrilling story of life and gay romance ... And my heart so madly beating, gladly understands, all the tender meaning of your hula hands." Probably not what that police detective had in mind.

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