Saturday, March 3, 2007

Yolking Around

Teetering on the edge of offering unsolicited advice to a friend, I pulled back just in the proverbial nick of time and sent "break a leg" wishes instead. The phrase that flashed into my alleged mind to stifle the well-meant effort was, "Don't try to teach your grandmother to suck eggs."

That phrase has always seemed beyond bizarre to me. Oh, I understand it means one shouldn't try to advise an expert in their own field when you, yourself, don't know diddly-squat about the subject. But -- SUCK EGGS? The mental picture that forms make me gasp in shock. Both of my grandmothers -- and my great-grandmother -- were lovely, gentle women. Sturdy, hard-working, pragmatic -- all of these things, yes. But why, in heaven's name, would they be sucking eggs? In my mind's eye, I see the appalled expressions on their faces as they contemplate the eggs and ask that same question.

It's a very old expression -- in use many long centuries past -- so maybe sucking eggs had an entirely different impact then. Today, if you tell someone to suck eggs, you're not being polite at all. You may, in fact, be setting yourself up for a temporary diet consisting of anything that can be sucked through a straw, including egg nog. But way back in the olden days (heh-heh), maybe sucking eggs was a serious task.

Aha! A bit of research indicates terminology may be the problem. Actually, when it comes to eggs, sucking and blowing seem to be interchangeable terms, sometimes depending on whether one is using the one-hole or the two-hole method of draining an egg shell of its contents. To further confuse the issue, the much-maligned egg-sucking hound dog does neither. He just gobbles up the whole durned egg, shell and all.

Anyway, egg sucking (or blowing) has an honorable purpose, both way back then and right here and now, just in terms of crafting artfully decorated shells. There are numerous online sites explaining the methodology, such as this or this. There is also a neat web site that shows you how to suck eggs into a jug or bottle and even tells you how to get the egg back out again. Well, okay. That might be fun to try once but, dang, I believe I'll pass. Don't think I want to use the egg after it goes through all that and there don't seem to be any egg-sucking hounds in the neighborhood to pick up the slack.

So, okay, I feel a little better about the whole thing. That is to say, not so much like I'm insulting my grandmothers if I use the term. Still, seems to me we could get the idea across just as well by saying, "Don't try to teach your grandmother to make pie crust." Or crochet doilies. Or make lye soap. Or darn socks.

Can't help but wonder, though, now that I've dug into the subject ... did my grandmothers know how to suck eggs?


John Bailey said...

Heh! Thanks, Dee, for a gigglesome moment in a world where people still suck eggs... :-)

Ava said...

I'll take my yolks soft fried with the rest of the egg, and some whole wheat toasted bread for dunking in that wonderful golden nectar. Yum.

I've done the blowing out part to make confetti eggs, but never sucked the contents out. Doesn't appeal to me at all!


bb said...

Blowing eggs I'm familiar with, not that I've done it. The terminology that is. But sucking eggs? Weird. :-)

Dee said...

'Tis a strange expression, Bonnie, no matter what the reality, eh? (giggling with John)

Ava, I googled confetti eggs because I'd never heard of them. What a great idea! You can fill mine with Jelly Bellies. (wink-wink, nudge-nudge)