When it comes to poisonous things that bite you, Australia has more than its fair share. Within an hour of landing in Melbourne, I heard some lovely stories of spotted little spiders that make your flesh rot.
I haven’t seen any spiders, but during my first day of teaching a tool chest class at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking, I discovered you have to watch your mouth – as well as where you step.
When I teach dovetailing, I like the students to first cut a single practice dovetail to teach them the basics of the joint and to give them something to refer back to during the class.
An early teacher of mine said that all people are born with a certain number of terrible dovetails inside them. Only by cutting them can we get rid of those bad dovetails and get to the good ones.
It’s good advice, which I’ve heard repeated other places, such as the oldtools listserv.
Anyway, I explained all this to the students, and then I said something like: “OK guys, now were all just gonna knock one out.”
Snickers. Small smiles. All around. I didn’t get it. It wasn’t funny.
Later in the day I started asking about Australian idioms – I collect idioms. The students gave me a good dozen of them, including my favorite so far: She has a head like a bucket full of smash crabs.
Then they told me what it means in Australia to “knock one out.”
As this is a family blog, I won’t repeat their explanation. But if you’re curious I’m sure you can pollute your browser’s history with it.
So let me just say this: For my next class here in Australia (also involving dovetails) we definitely will not be knocking one out.
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. More on hoop snakes, drop bears, knit jumpers for penguins and which way the water drains in future entries.