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Tan and clean



Cathleen Compton wants to know "how the hunting and skinning term 'tan your hide' morphed into an a** whipping." I want to know what I'm going to get if I can't answer. Because I can't, or at least I haven't found an explanation that is generally accepted as the right one.

My first guess is that somewhere in the process of tanning animal hides, the hides are beaten by the tanner, to soften them up or something. But I'm not sure of that. Maybe the "a** whipping" aspect is derived from the fact that an animal, or person, that has had its hide removed, tanned and hung on the shed, like the poor fellow in "Tie me kangaroo down, Sport," has been just about as thoroughly vanquished as is possible.

A real glutton for punishment could not only have his hide tanned, he could get his clock cleaned too, and his plow. The origin of these terms is obscure also. One theory concerning the clock is that both clocks and people have faces, and that to clean one's clock is to rearrange one's face. A plow also has been compared to a face, in that the plow is out in front of the operator, leading the way, and possibly getting into things it shouldn't. Another theory, applied to both clock and plow cleaning, is that once these devices have been cleaned, they'll stop causing trouble and work properly again.

"BALTIMORE — Die-hard Edgar Allan Poe fans waited hours past when the mysterious figure called the 'Poe Toaster' normally arrives at Poe's grave on the writer's birthday. But the tribute-bearer was a no-show for a third year in a row."

For years, the Toaster has left roses and cognac on Poe's grave. The tradition is ending, apparently, but life goes on. The Baltimore Tourist Authority is said to be planning new events to take the place of the Poe Toaster's annual appearance, including a Poeboy sandwich-eating contest, and demonstrations of Poe-mouthing.

Civic activists in nearby Washington have invited Poe Toaster fans to participate in their city's annual Toe Poster festival, in which images of toes are posted throughout the city, and the winning artist receives the Republican presidential nomination.

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