The English language is, arguably, one of the most difficult to master. Us proud Amurricans seem to think that any foreigner that sets foot on our soil should have an honorable command of how we speak and be able to converse with those of us who have been here all our lives.
Sorry to tell ya Bubba, but that dog won’t hunt.
That phrase brings me to the subject of this story. American colloquialisms. Those idiosyncratic phrases that just roll off our tongues and usually elicit chuckles from those that understand, and quizzical looks from those that think we’re off our rockers (there’s another one). Our language is loaded with them: ‘Whatever floats your boat’, ‘That’s a horse of a different color’, ‘I’m down with that’ …to name a few. It’s no wonder people think we are weird. Because we are. But my favorite (or perhaps least favorite) colloquialism has to be -
‘He threw me under the bus.’
Hey, I work in the transit industry. I can walk out of my office right now and take the elevator down to the street level, walk over to our main terminal and witness about forty buses pulling in and out. I have yet to see one person brazenly chucked under the rear tires.
Yeah I know. It’s just a phrase. But it sucks.
I want to know where this phrase originated. Is it a mobster thing? Did Jimmy Tree Fingers back in the thirties face-plant some shy under the Number 14 Line in Brooklyn for not paying him? Or perhaps it’s just an urban thing; you know, you’re standing at a bus stop and as it approaches some sociopath wants to get his jollies so he plants a shoe in grandma’s back just as the bus is passing? I don’t know. Educate me.
We even use the phrase in my business - ‘Hey Jerry, how did the meeting go?’ ‘Ah was fine until Frank threw me under the bus.’ Which, if you think about it, being used by transit professionals, is akin to cannibalism. Or something. Do airline executives say ‘He threw me into the turbine blades?’
Nope. Poor transit gets picked on again. On a given day on a given street in a given town, ten thousand vehicles can whizz by of which maybe a dozen or so are buses. Does anyone ever get thrown under a car? A taxi? A goddamn rickshaw?
Nope. Always a bus.