Today is Thursday, July 10, 2014

Shoot the Mystery (but Certainly Not the Messenger)

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By ANNE DONNELL

You are so clever! What a delight to read your "Ask Anne" column.  Now I have a question for you. A friend of mine asked me a question to which I had no answer.  Perhaps you can enlighten me. She is reading a book that refers to "shoot the moon," as in the game of Dominoes. Since my family has always been ardent Domino players (my mother who will be 90 the day before Thanksgiving can tell you immediately what will "make" while playing Double Twelves), she asked me what it meant.  I have never heard the term used in Dominoes. The only thing I can think of is the speaker was a poker playe, and she was betting the pot. Do you have any other ideas?  -Coffee High Fellow Alum I did NOT write the above – honest! A gift to me this holiday season. And Coffee High is a real school name, not a joke about teenagers and caffeine. 

ONLINE DEPARTMENT: (Thanks, JA) “Words of Wisdom” • A day without sunshine is like night. • On the other hand, you have different fingers. • 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot. • 99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name. • Remember, half the people you know are below average. • He who laughs last thinks slowest. • Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm. • The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap. • Support bacteria. They're the only culture some people have. • A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.• Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.• If you think nobody cares, try missing a couple of payments. • How many of you believe in psycho-kinesis? Raise my hand. • OK, so what's the speed of dark? • When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane. • Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now. • How much deeper would the ocean be without sponges? • Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines. • What happens if you get scared half to death, twice? • Why do psychics have to ask you for your name? • Inside every older person is a younger person wondering, "What on earth happened?" • Light travels faster than sound. That's why some people appear bright until you hear them speak. • Life isn't like a box of chocolates. It's more like a jar of Jalapenos. What you do today, might burn your lower intestine tomorrow.

I have a handy (actually cumbersome) guide, QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, that came up trumps. QPB is the abbreviation for Quality Paperback Bookclub, from which I loved to order for many years BK. (Before Kindle, Amazon’s electronic book. That I love.)

[ATA (According to Anne) – Come up trumps (and this is from online “The Phrase Finder”) means, “to complete something well or successfully, especially in circumstances in which it isn't expected.” Origin: Come up trumps is a variant of the older phrase turn up trumps, which has been in use since the early 17th century. The word trump in this context is a corruption of triumph, which was the name of a card game, similar to whist, that was played in the 17th century.

[“Similar to whist” could be somewhat lacking for you in, say, relevance or meaning.  But, it’s Christmas season, a time of mysteries. And, I’ll have to add that my long ago bridge playing days were awash in a lack of curiosity. I had no idea trump had anything to do with triumph, and the way I played it didn’t.]

Shoot the moon rated an entry in QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, an entry combined with shoot the cat, shoot (or toss) one’s cookies, shoot the crow, shoot one’s cuffs.  Shoot the cat is British, and shoot one’s cookies is American; they both mean throw up.  These two expressions are early 19th century, but, another mystery, why cat? 

Shoot the moon means “to move out of a residence at night without paying rent.” So does shoot the crow.  (More mystery -- why crow?) You might prefer skip town.    Shoot one’s cuffs simply means pulling out cuffs to show from beneath the arm of a jacket.

I had a sneaky feeling something was lurking out there in cyberspace, something enlightening. Sure enough, ole Wikipedia, the People’s Online Encyclopedia has an entry on Dominoes. (Hey, don’t swear any oaths on what Wikipedia says, but it could be right and often sounds convincing.) Under “Variations” an unknown author notes, “Shoot the Moon is another variant. In this game, no domino has a special value, and all tricks remain worth one point. If a team is denied the possibility of winning, or set, then they instead lose the amount they bid from their total. The game is played to 21 points, and the minimum bid is 4. The name of the game comes from ‘shooting the moon.’ If a player states during the bidding phase that they will shoot the moon, then they must catch all tricks. Doing so is worth 21 points. Failing to catch all 7 tricks results in a loss of 21 points. This is the highest possible bid, unless another player elects to ‘shoot it over’ the player who is shooting the moon; this makes their own bid worth 42 points. There are no special contracts in this game.”  

OK, I’m a bit mystified here, but we’ve tied shoot the moon with Dominoes. Good work, let’s go Christmas shopping. http://www.pagat.com/whist/whist.html (rules of Whist). LOL! 

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