Cylindrical filaments, rabbits and really smelly fish. Your inquiry might be ‘what do these three have in common?’. Other than being fruit of the creation, not much. But these were the subjects of a conversation that I had yesterday. Have you ever heard the expression or idiom, “have a wild hair”? Or is it, “have a wild hare” or even “have a wild herring”? The whole affair came up after I described a gutsy move I made as having a ‘wild hair’. My friend Suzanne stated, “you mean, ‘a wild herring’.”
I burst out laughing (I’ll spare you an idiom about busting a gut). A wild herring? What was she talking about? Suzanne grew up and spent most of her life except the last few years on the east coast. I, on the other hand, grew up on the west coast so you can imagine the varied opinions we bring to the table. At times I wonder if Suzanne and I know the same English language. It’s a veritable East vs. West most days. We actually share an office so we have lots of time to interact.
Another notion in the room referred to having a wild ‘hare’ placing the emphasis on four legged furry creatures. And even offered a follow up question wondering if a herring is really ‘wild’. Ok, ok, I’m ‘getting off the beaten path’. Now, do you see the connection between cylindrical filaments, rabbits and really smelly fish?
We were having a conversation using idioms, but which one of us was correct? I’ll let you decide. Consider a herring: a small, oily fish found in the shallow, temperate waters of the North Pacific and the North Atlantic. Herrings are forage fish, which move in vast schools. Perhaps a having ‘wild herring’ is akin to one who makes up his own mind, leaves the school behind and goes his own way. There seems to be some logic in it but I question who naturally has one.
Or consider the hare: a fast moving Leporid that can run up to speeds of 45 mph. They live solitarily or in pairs and rarely found in a drove. Hares have been known to be domesticated and turned into pets. Perhaps a ‘wild hare’ is like someone breaking free from the chains of domestication and back into the wild. They do run fast and wild.
Now, consider the most troublesome of the three; a ‘wild hair’ is a filament that grows in an unexpected or inappropriate place (say off your ear lobe or tip of your nose). Having one is an embarrassing event that demands quick action. Removal options include a dermatologist for laser or electrolysis or simply plucking it by hand or a small tool such as tweezers. Have you made up your mind or is the ‘jury still out’?