Kiss Anyone, Just Not the Gunner’s Daughter
“A kiss is just a pleasant reminder that two heads are better than one.” – Unknown
Kissing is a very ancient and widely spread means of greeting and showing affection. Kissing conjures up sweet images of romantic embraces or familial love.
One imagines kissing a loved one, a child, a family member. Yet apparently, according to these often forgotten, helpful phrases, kissing a book, some dust, or even the foot of a small woodland creature can have a much deeper meaning.
For example, a ‘kiss-behind-the-garden-gate’ is a country name for a pansy.
If you ‘kiss the place to make it well,’ you are referring to the old custom of sucking the poison out of a wound.
If you are ‘kissing the dust,’ you are completely overwhelmed or humiliated.
While ‘kissing hands’ seems fairly straight forward, it harkens back to the tradition of kissing the hand of a sovereign or a saint’s statue. If the statue was placed too high to kiss directly, people would kiss their own hands and wave it in towards the saint.
On a less romantic note, ‘kissing the gunner’s daughter’ meant being flogged aboard a ship. Soldiers who were to be flogged were tied to the cannon’s breech. While there is perhaps less flogging going on these days, the phrase can still refer to a stiff punishment.
And finally, if you ‘kiss a hare’s foot’ then you are late. You have missed your appointment and the hare hopped by, leaving its footprint for you to see.
While one should perhaps steer away from getting flogged, these other colloquialisms might just come in handy.