We’ve all said it. “Oh look at you. Aren’t you cute. You look good enough to eat! I could just eat you up!” Well,of course, that is assuming “we” are aunts and grandmothers. Regardless, the phrase is commonly used, and quite well known. I find that strange. Frankly, I don’t walk around, looking for cute things to eat. I certainly don’t have some minimum level of attractiveness as a requirement for my food. “Are the burgers ready yet?” “Nope, not pretty enough.” And yet people say this to children. I never thought the implication of cannibalism was particularly endearing. What are you, a monster? “Adorable baby! I WANT TO CONSUME ITS FLESH!” And are there different levels? What if something doesn’t quite look good enough to eat? Is is cute enough to lick? “Well, you’re handsome. No doubt about it. But I wouldn’t eat you. You look good enough to slip to my dog under the table.”
Someone also came up with the term “Cute as a button.” By extension, this must have been a person who liked to eat buttons. I can’t imagine someone finding the average button “cute” by any means. It is flat and has holes in it. You may happen upon a especially colorful or clever button and find it cute, but typically, flat and holes. The only other thing buttons are known for as a rule is holding clothing closed. A slice of swiss cheese has holes and is flat. It is also good enough to eat. If someone could figure out how to hold clothing closed with it, it would be the most beautiful thing in the world to these people. “Darling, you are like swiss cheese Velcro.” “That is the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me.”
I wouldn’t mind if the only thing effected was “cute” but the whole world of metaphor and simile is completely bizarre. Take, for instance, “snug”. Snug as a bug in rug. I am not convinced that a bug is particularly snug when in a rug. Were I a bug in a rug, I would be completely on edge. Someone might step on me! If someone was sweating bullets and glancing about nervously, then they would snug as a bug in a rug. Unless of course the intention of the phrase is to indicate that a bug, with no intellect to speak of, is incapable of feeling distressed, regardless of how distressing the situation may be. But that would imply that the person was oblivious to the danger of a situation, not that they are comfortable. It would be an insult or warning. “Steve was on the runway, snug as a bug in a rug. Then a plane landed on him. Moron.”
And what about when someone is a third wheel? We say this when they are a hanger on that makes a situation awkward. But if you put a third wheel on ANY two wheeled vehicle it will make it far more stable. A motorcycle with a side car. A tricycle. Maybe not a Segway, but I think we can assume that this phrase was not written with that little freak bicycle in mind. It should be a compliment. “Boy, we were lost until Dave showed up. What a third wheel that guy is!”
The English Language needs an overhaul. Not a doubt in my mind. Hurts like the Dickens? The way I figure it, the Dickens only hurts if it lands on your foot. Or if you have an allergy to 19th century social archetypes. The only weird one I agree with is “That smarts” in reference to something painful. One would assume that something that “smarts” is something that makes you smarter, which means that school smarts, and school certainly is painful.