Tag Archives: Language

I embarrassed myself with two words


I love words, and the origins of words and phrases are an endless source of entertainment. I save the most interesting ones in long term memory, even – a place that barely keeps names or which light switch turns on what light.

I got in trouble over on FB yesterday by congratulating someone on their new job in a large retail establishment. I said that it had to be better than slinging hash, because the last job this person had was in a restaurant.

What else could I possibly have meant? Oops. Yes, hash does have other meanings, doesn’t it? I never thought! Would anyone even call drug dealing ‘slinging’? The phrase ‘slinging hash’ means only one thing to me; a colourful way of saying working, especially cooking, in a cheap restaurant, like a diner. I can’t remember if the restaurant was a cheap one, but I figured it’s a former job, so it couldn’t have been that much fun to work at and a little insult to it would be okay. I actually thought of all that before I used the phrase – and never once thought of anyone not knowing what it meant.

The offended party is early twenties, and maybe never heard ‘slinging hash’ before. It does seem like a 1940’s sort of phrase. Can you even get hash in a restaurant anymore? I don’t eat it, I wouldn’t know. Or perhaps the phrase has grown a whole new meaning in the six years I’ve been over here.

Maybe it’s because I was speaking to an American and I expect all Americans to know the strictly Yank turns of phrase. This is one of the ones I wouldn’t use here, because here ‘hash’ really only has one meaning, and it isn’t corned beef. I’m more likely to use American slang when I can, because I’m quite aware of when I can’t. I think in three versions of English: American, English, and Irish. Like knowing that I can never say ‘ride’ in Ireland, but it is fine in the UK and the US.

In any case, I’m sorry if I freaked anyone out, I was innocently trying to say congrats on a better job.