As many of you may know, I am fascinated with the Christmas tradition in the town of Galve, Sweden in which they build a giant statue of a goat. What could bring more yule cheer than a goat? Perhaps a Llama, but not much else. Anyway, there is another tradition in which some scoundrels try to sneak in and burn this goat up without being caught. This year was a momentous year in the history of this town in that it was the first in many years where the goat did not get burned down. Yea Goat!
This all flooded back into my mind when my I was speaking with my business partner about an issue that really was bothering him. As he was describing his frustration, he said to me:
"This whole thing really burns my goat."
"It burns your goat?" I asked.
He got a little flustered and told me that his grandmother used to use this metaphor often. I suspect it is a mixed metaphor between the sayings "it gets my goat" and "it burns me up." But the image of someone going and burning up his goat was funny to me.
The only thing that would have made it better would have been for him to use the term "literally" with it, as in "This whole thing literally burns my goat." People often use the word literally as if it means "a whole lot. It does not mean that, but instead means that what you are saying is not a metaphor, but to be taken literally – as is said. This is funny to think about when people say things like:
"I was literally sweating bullets." Really? I have never heard of such a medical condition. What caliber are your sweat glands?
So what about this goat? Was it badly burned? Did they have to send it to the burn unit? My nurse subsequent sent me a note explaining the origin of the expression "it gets my goat":
A 20th century Americanism said to have originated in the practice of stabling a goat as a soothing mascot with a highly-strung thoroughbred racehorse. The horse could be made fractious and prevented from winning it its goat was taken away.
So there you have the soothing nature of goats once again confirmed. I wonder if this may be a new approach to ADHD. Children with goats are well known to be high achievers, so perhaps instead of stimulant medicines, we can prescribe a goat. I think I feel a meta-analysis coming on.
Unfortunately, I don\’t have time for that kind of research. To do so, I would have to literally burn the candle at both ends, and would literally end up fit to be tied.