Long Haul, as we know, owns a cleaning service named Tina’s Sparkling Surfaces. Tonight she is talking about how she fired a woman named Angie. It was awkward, as Angie was recommended by Long Haul’s cousin, but Angie stole on the two jobs she worked, leaving her with no choice.
“And so,” Long Haul says on this Monday night, “I nipped it in the butt.” She is talking to Champagne Mike.
“Nipped it in the bud,” Mike says.
“Yes,” Long Haul says, thinking Mike is repeating her words as a way of agreeing with her. “Exactly.”
“No, nipped it in the bud,” Mike says. “You used the wrong word.”
“You’re saying the same thing I said, you old fart.”
“No, you said butt. B-U-T-T. The correct word is bud. B-U-D.”
“No, it’s not,” Long Haul says.
“Yes it is,” Mike says. “Need I remind you, Tina, that I taught English for over 30 years?”
“No, but you probably will anyway. Doesn’t mean you’re right. Nip it in the bud doesn’t make any sense.”
“It does, in fact,” Mike says. “I will explain in a moment. I first want to hear how you think ‘nip it in the butt’ makes sense.”
“Easy. If you give someone a nip in the butt, you’re telling them to get lost.”
“That may be true in your South Philly sub-culture, but it’s not true anywhere else.”
Long Haul knows that she, and her Italian heritage, are being insulted and ponders how to respond. After several seconds, she says “Fuck you, Mike.”
“Clever. Now may I educate you on the origin of the idiom?”
“I guess you think I don’t know what idiom means,” Long Haul says.
“If you don’t, that speaks poorly of our public education system,” Mike says.
“Of which you were a part of,” Long Haul says.
Mike, in an act of great restraint, does not correct her sentence structure. Instead, he says “It means to put an end to something before it develops into something larger. That part I think you know, because you used it in the proper context. But what it alludes to is destroying a flower before it blooms, not pinching someone’s buttocks.”
Long Haul is clearly thinking. “I thought nip meant a quick drink.”
“It can, for some,” Mike says. “But what it more accurately means is to sever, to pinch off.”
“Hmm,” Long Haul says. “That makes sense. I don’t mind learning. I’ll remember that.”
“I believe you will,” Mike says, with a 50/50 mixture of affection and condescension.
Leigh and Jim have arrived, and stop by for a quick hello.
“Hey, guys,” Long Haul says. “Guess what I just learned.”
“How to evade police by making yourself temporarily invisible?” Jim says.
“No, but that would be good,” Long Haul says. “That the expression is nip it in the bud, B-U-D, not nip it in the butt, B-U-T-T.”
“That’s crazy,” Jim says. “It’s nip it in the butt, B-U-T-T.”
“No it isn’t, Jim,” Leigh says. “Why am I even married to you?”
“Let’s not get into that,” Jim says.
“Oh bollocks,” Anglophile Mike says, and then hopes no one thinks he’s talking about testicles.