To help my twelve year old daughter understand fully the power of words that she is beginning to use, I have been giving her some history of their meaning and how they should be used properly. For example, she was upset with a friend of hers that told her she needed to go, “Balls to the wall!” My poor daughter thought it had something to do with boys. I laughed and told her, “No Sugar, it is a WWII aviation term for full power. The controls on the engines had balls or knobs and when you pushed them toward the front dash panel or wall you go faster. Your friend just wanted you to go as fast as you can.” My daughter was relieved and later told me her friend didn’t even know it meant except go faster, it was just something her grandfather always said. My daughter’s friend knew it meant to move fast but didn’t know why.
This got me thinking of all sorts of things we say and although we may have a vague knowledge of what it alludes to we really do not understand the full meaning. Take, “Pull yourself up by the boot straps and get moving!” This is a common saying down here in Good Old Texas and we apply it, meaning that if you are down, depressed, work getting to you, etc. to get up and move past it. The original documented use of the phrase was in the early 19th century, “Pull yourself up by the boot straps and over the fence” to mean to accomplish an impossible action without help. Over the years, it is now translated to mean, “No one is going to help you so you might as well get past it on your own.” What is important is that you can get more accomplished, which may seem impossible at the time, if you push yourself over the proverbial fence. Other phrases that come to mind are, “Cowboy up”, “Suck it up and drive on”, and a personal favorite motivator, “Hey, there is beer in the fridge!” which motivates most folks pretty well.
Here at the Center on Independent Living (COIL) we do a pretty good job of pulling ourselves up by the boot straps and don’t let obstacles delay us for long. We push past, cowboy up and ride! Why? Because we believe that our clients are worth our efforts! This brings to mind one of our team members Steve Saunders. Talk about boot straps! He is quadriplegic from an accident. The accident didn’t slow him down for long. He is a hard charging individual that knows how to help people with disabilities; it’s like he has the inside scoop or something. There is also Nick Scott a paraplegic I met last year who is a champion body builder. He didn’t start body building until after he lost use of his legs! He was overweight, happy on the couch, and didn’t really care about much. He got in an accident and lost use of his legs and spent time reevaluating his life. He picked himself up by the boot straps and decided a change was needed. He is now an inspirational speaker, champion body builder, and started a gym where he helps people with disabilities.
I am always on guard for what my daughter will say next or probably more concerned what her friends will say next. Whatever it will be, I am sure it will be entertaining. So I guess if she has a problem with, “going balls to the wall” I’ll tell her to “pick herself up by the boot straps and carry on!”
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