Thursday, June 10, 2010

Theme-y on Thursday: The Wolf Is At The Door

The wolf is at the door. (Idiom)

Meaning: The threat of poverty is upon us.
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I remember my mother shrieking this phrase at my father at night when my brother and I were in bed. I can't remember if it would have been right before or right after payday. Whenever it was, it made a fearsome image in my head as I lay there in the dark. I could almost see the wolf at the door. He would be brownish and mangy and have long, needle-like teeth. He would be lurking at the kitchen door, of course. His claws could rip the screen easily. Was he strong enough to break down the door?
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One day, I tried to engage my mother in dialogue: "Mom, I'm worried about the wolf, too."
"What wolf?"
"The wolf. You said that there's a wolf at the door. Where does he go in the daytime?"
"Shut up! You were eavesdropping again."
"You were talking kind of loud --"
"You're supposed to be asleep, not listening. You're poking your nose in grownup business where it doesn't belong. Shut up and butt out." My mother looked pretty fearsome, so I worried a little less after that. The wolf would be really stupid to mess with her, poking his snout in where it didn't belong.
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My students have been bringing animal idioms to me all semester on Vocabulary Day, so it was only a matter of time before they brought me the wolf is at the door. Thanks, guys. Memories of Mom, overeager students with their eyes on the prize -- no matter what, all roads lead to Bookville, so I thought I'd try to get a theme-y thing going on in which I could tie some book titles to this unwelcome intruder. It's the English major in me.
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1. Hunger - Knut Hamsun. The wolf (I guess it would be ulv in this case, since the action takes place in Norway) has made himself at home on the narrator's shabby welcome mat and he's ready to pounce. The guy in this novel gets knocked down, but he gets up again -- sometimes right at what seems like the last possible moment.
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2. Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell. Orwell meets le loup in France and it follows him across the English Channel. Although he has some grim times, he sorts the wolf out with his razor-sharp wit and unflinching humor. The knowledge that he could get a respectable job at a moment's notice makes the reek of wolf-breath a little less potent.
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3. How To Cook A Wolf - M.F.K. Fisher. That wolf had better watch out; there's something about Mary. Fisher writes about food so beguilingly that the wolf might still think he was being seduced only seconds before she carved him up and served him. Excellent tips for those on a limited budget that want to avoid a "poor and deprived" mindset.
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4. The Complete Tightwad Gazette - Amy Dacyczyn. Pity the poor wolf who dares to show up at Amy D.'s door. She'd kick his furry butt all over the place with what she refers to as "black-belt tightwaddery". This book is a great resource for people trying to get out of debt and those just starting out like graduates and newlyweds.
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Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf? Tra-la-la-la-la...

3 comments:

therubycanary said...

I loved How to Cook a Wolf.

Care said...

Theme-y Thursdays! love it.

nathaliefoy said...

Have you read Neil Gaiman's The Wolves in the Walls? A great play on idioms.