Friday, May 23, 2014

EDITORIAL >> When you’re in a tight jelly

While I was having breakfast the other day at one of our local eateries, the server brought individual packets of both jam and jelly with my toast and it got me thinking: Why are we always in a jam and never in a jelly?

I think crime would drop tremendously and the world would be a happier place if the worst that happened to us were to get in a jelly.

Getting into a jam just sounds so much more ominous. Being a single-syllable word it sounds harsh and curt and implies drastic measures need to be taken to get out of the jam.

But imagine being in a jelly — it would be hard to stay mad. You just can’t yelly at each other when in a jelly; it would be a bellyful of laughs.

The only time jelly every got in a jam was in the Tommy Roe song, “Jam up and Jelly Tight.”

Tight jelly? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

Ever tried to get jelly to doing anything tight?

And how in the world did the world decide to pick on poor jam anyway. I mean both jam and jelly serve the same purpose, to add sweetness to the world of food. But take jam out of that world and it becomes mean, hard and backs us into a corner.

Historians, who have time to ponder such idioms, have determined that the origin of the phrase “in a jam” is unclear, but date the word “jam” back to the 1700s.

These experts have figured out that being in a traffic jam has increased the use of “in a jam” (along with excessive middle finger flexing) to talk about a problem or dilemma.

In addition to functioning as a negative noun in the context of “traffic jam” or other phrases, “jam” can also be a verb. In describing something that is excessively packed and unable to move, might say that is “jammed up.” Someone might also describe their own efforts to pack more things into a tight space as “jamming in.”

But jam is not the only food item to have an alter-ominous side. Look at the pickle.

Shakespeare himself wrote about being in a pickle. Why can’t we be in a cucumber?

A pickle is old, wrinkly, shriveled up from being thrown into the briny deep. It implies that we are knee deep in the brine ourselves. We lash out, claw out, fight back hard to get out of that pickle.

But a cucumber — that’s a different story. Solid, vibrant green, meaty — a vegetable at the top of its game. If we were in a cucumber we wouldn’t fight our way out, we’d be saying, “Wow, this stuff is pretty good.” Liken it to living in a mansion. Who would give it up for a one-bedroom 8-foot wide trailer?

So who do we call to get us in a jelly or in a cucumber and make the world a better place? Does it require a letter to Daniel Webster’s great-great-grandson or do we have to get the federal agriculture department involved? Maybe it’s time to start a letter writing campaign to one of our senators.

In the meantime, when it looks like you are about to get into a jam — think jelly and smile. — Rick Kron