|Saturday, March 10, 2001||
RECENTLY, the micro light aircraft of the Air Force evoked the comment, ‘flying on a wing and a prayer’. The expression harks back to World War I, when airplanes were still a novelty and untested in war. The expression was first used when an American pilot came in with a badly damaged wing. His fellow pilots and technical team were amazed that he had not crashed. He replied that he was praying all the way in. Another pilot then said, "A wing and a prayer brought you back." The spontaneous expression became a permanent description of any mission that has faint chances of success.
In times of trouble,
pilots can always pass the buck and blame other factors. Passing the
buck as an expression originated from the very simple practice of
using a marker called a buck in card games. The player who was the
dealer kept the marker or buck with him. When it was the next player’s
turn to deal, the ‘buck’ was ‘passed’ on along with the
responsibility of dealing the cards. This marker, the buck, gave its
name to the buck slip, which was the routing slip in offices before
the days of computers. One memo was typed along with a carbon copy,
then the copy was passed around to the people listed on the buck slip.
Each person signed next to his name on the buck slip and passed the
memo on to the next person on the buck slip. A tactic used to delay or
delegate something was to pass the memo onto the next person, without
signing the buck slip; hence, literally passing the buck.
Incidentally, Harry Truman made the expression popular by placing a
placard on his desk which read ‘the buck stops here’.
Looking into the origin of expressions gives a better idea of the intended meaning and effective usage follows. Having the upper hand is one such expression which originated with the advent of the game of baseball. In order to determine which team would bat first, a player from each team would come forth. One player would hold the lower end of the bat and the player from the other team would place his hand above it. They would continue alternating hands this way until the last hand on the bat would be the upper hand and that team would get to bat first, having got the upper hand.
The repetition of words has a place of its own in the growth of the lexicon of Hindi. The function and significance of repetition differs with different words and in different sentences. It implies distribution in expressions like sau sau rupaye; variety as in acche acche kaprhe; intensity as in wah wah; reciprocity as in bhai bhai ka prem; adverbial sense of manner as in thik thik baat karna; continuation as in chalte chalte and last but not the least, repetition of an action as in karte karte nipun ho gaya.