Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Episode 54: Bone To Pick (With You) Transcript

Click on “Read More” for the full transcript.

We used Temi to auto transcribe this, then Dan went through and checked it based on the show notes. He tried really hard on it, but this kind of stuff isn't his specialty. So if you notice anything confusing, please comment on this post so Dan can look at it and clarify anything.

Dan:                                     00:00                    Welcome to bunny trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and are the turns of phrase, I'm Dan Pugh
Shauna:                               00:05                    And I'm Shauna Harrison. Each week we delve into the origin and history of an idiom or other turn of phrase and discuss how it's been used over time. This week, things are going to get real because Dan, I've got a bone to pick with you.
Dan:                                     00:18                    I swear I, if I did it, I didn't mean to, and if I didn't do it, then why are we picking on me? What's going on?
Shauna:                               00:26                    Okay. Relax. Bone to pick?
Dan:                                     00:30                    Oh, right. Okay. I get it. I should really look at the show notes before we do an episode. I thought you were mad at me and I was like, what did I do that made you so mad you're gonna wait until we were recording to say something about it.
Shauna:                               00:41                    I need this on record! So they have a bone to pick with someone means that you have an issue with the person, uh, that you disagree strongly with them. Or it can also mean that you have a serious matter to discuss with someone. Uh, possibly at great length.
Dan:                                     00:58                    Mm. Well, I have a serious bone to pick with a specific elected official in the United States of America who is boneheaded
Shauna:                               01:09                    Uh oh. We're getting into dangerous territory now. So Dan, how far back do you think this phrase goes? Like year?
Dan:                                     01:16                    Mm. So bone to pick... To be mad... Let's say 16 hundreds.
Shauna:                               01:24                    Uh, so the phrase, actually it's from the 14 hundreds.
Dan:                                     01:28                    Oh Wow. That's um, well obviously 200 years earlier than I thought.
Shauna:                               01:31                    Yeah. It's on, oh, a bit ago. The full definition of the phrase, according to Oxford English dictionary a is a bone to pick also gnaw, and variants. Originally it was a matter or undertaking, requiring close attention or concentration, a problem to be considered or resolved. And then later, mainly a, an issue to be discussed or settled between two or more parties, a matter of dispute frequently now mainly, uh, in to have a bone to pick with a person. So.
Dan:                                     02:04                    Gotcha. So a bone to gnaw is how this phrase started then.
Shauna:                               02:10                    Yeah. Uh, and I, I really love that. So, uh, you know, people now say, I have a bone to pick with you or that's kind of how you hear it. But uh, yeah, just bone to na
Dan:                                     02:19                    that is very interesting.
Shauna:                               02:21                    Yeah. In 1450 or around that time at Charles Duke of Orleans wrote in poems, "I told you, now write well and fine. When you had seen perhaps you never saw it might well happen, you find a bone to gnaw".
Dan:                                     02:40                    Interesting.
Shauna:                               02:41                    Yeah. Uh, so then it later in 1565, uh, James Calfhill and this is in an answer to the treatise treatise of the cross and he wrote "a bone for you to pick on". And in this time frame it was really more saying something for someone, spend a lot of time on, uh, not necessarily that they were upset about it, but it kind of went back and forth from being related to frustration or anger or being upset about something. Um, but a lot more was spent, was used to say that something was really focused on for or took a long time to process.
Dan:                                     03:18                    I, I know that dogs at this point, like if you toss them a bone and a big one, then you're like, well that'll, he'll be able to gnaw on that for awhile and chew on this or gnaw on this means to think of something I wonder if those origins have some of the same roots.
Shauna:                               03:30                    Yeah, sort of related there. Um, now I also want to take a moment here to mention that there were a references online that discussed the phrase bone of contention as being a possible origin for bone to pick. Um, I, however I'm going to say they were at best contemporaries and um, you know, some of that that came up actually did have to do with the dog concept because that's where that bone of contention sort of came from, was two dogs fighting over a bone. And so people thought that there was some connection there. Uh, but without researching too much, uh, just an initial look, Kinda told me that bone of contention was not really around until the late 15 hundreds. And we're already seeing multiple uses of bone to pick starting in the 14 hundreds. In 1579, Stephen Gosson wrote in the school of abuse, "some arch player will cast me a bone or two to pick"
Shauna:                               04:24                    So up to this point, uh, the phrase has again been used kind of literally to say something that's, people are taking a lot of time on it or, um, as you mentioned, you know, a dog's gonna chew on that bone for a long time. And actually people did at this time to kind of chew on bones, which is a little gross. Um, but, uh, so there's also some debate though on this next phrase as whether it or this next excerpt as to whether it was intended to be used, uh, as a, uh, in a figurative way here. Thomas Hoccleve in Hoccleve Works, uh, the minor poems wrote, "he (referring to God) me gave a bone me on for to gnaw / me to correct and of him to have awe" the minor poems were marked as having been recorded in 1605, but they were possibly shared as early as 1422 and then kind of compiled into this group of, of poems. Uh, but the dating of middle English works, it gets really tricky. So
Dan:                                     05:21                    that is very true and I'm glad I'm not one who has to do it super often. Like, you know, day in and day out for my job. Yes.
Shauna:                               05:29                    So a me too. So this is really where that transition into the figurative use started though, was that this time it started being seen, referenced in literature without having direct quotes in novels and things like that, but was, was referred to in some of those, uh, just kind of mentions, um, definitions and things like that. Moving ahead to 1703 in Sir Giddy whim or the Lucky Amore. This is a comedy we read, "I'll engage to throw him such a bone to pick shall make their eyeteeth crack."
Dan:                                     06:04                    Oh No, not back to eye teeth again. Oh No, I cannot handle eye teeth.
Shauna:                               06:10                    I know like, yeah. Okay. But I had to
Dan:                                     06:12                    How did we not, how did we not use this quote when we talked about it or did we, and I've forgotten it?
Shauna:                               06:17                    I don't think we did. And I was like, I saw it and I was like, I have to include this one because you know eye teeth, Bleugh.
Dan:                                     06:25                    No. I wonder, we might have, I literally had blocked it as an a concept from my brain until you just said that and then it all came flooding back to me. Yeah,
Shauna:                               06:37                    I did. I didn't really like this one though. Because it's saying they're going to spend it, they're going to be so engaged. Right. They're going to be, they're going to spend so much time on this that it's going to go all the way through maturity.
Dan:                                     06:50                    Right? Yes. And for those of you who didn't catch that episode eye teeth were another way to refer to wisdom teeth,
Shauna:                               06:56                    not nearly so awful as the sounds.
Dan:                                     06:59                    Right. But it does sound awful because they thought, you know, it came from up top. So that was why they were wise wisdom teeth because they came from your brain or your eyes, perhaps eye teeth
Shauna:                               07:12                    in 1766 in the gazetteer and new daily advertiser. Uh, this is the February 12th edition and it's out of London. Middlesex, we find the quote, "squintum has said the devil had a bone to pick with foote" and, uh, foot-eh. Foot. I'm not sure how to pronounce his name.
Dan:                                     07:34                    I mean, how's it spelled?
Shauna:                               07:37                    F o o t e with the like accent. Foote?
Dan:                                     07:43                    Yeah. Sure.
Shauna:                               07:44                    I can't, I'm not getting there. Uh, yeah. So he was a satirical writer. Uh, it seems he wrote mostly plays, uh, that didn't always go over well with everyone
Dan:                                     07:54                    Because satire, right? Yes.
Shauna:                               07:55                    Yeah. Yeah. So, uh, in 1817 in the national advocate out of New York, New York,
Dan:                                     08:03                    again, you don't have to say New York the second time,
Shauna:                               08:06                    you know, it feels like I need to, but it's probably because I'm not from the city at all. Um, and so this is an October 3rd issue, 1817, "Canada would be no longer a bone to pick between England and America". And okay. This next quotes, a lot of fun. Uh, academicians have a history of using words.
Shauna:                               08:28                    Is that how you say that word?
Shauna:                               08:28                    Yeah, I'm pretty sure. Okay.
Dan:                                     08:29                    Aca... aca.. Academia you, if you're talking about a specific academic, you'd say an academician?
Shauna:                               08:36                    academician, act, academician. I think so. Like if you are a person who enjoys academia, then you're an academician.
Dan:                                     08:44                    Well, first of all, I've never seen that word before. And then second of all, now I'm wondering how to pronounce it. I mean, you're probably right.
Shauna:                               08:52                    I might've made it up because it's not like this is a quote. I just that
Dan:                                     08:57                    okay.
Shauna:                               08:58                    But I'm going to go with it. Academicians <Dan starts laughing> have a history of using words. <Shauna joins in the laughter>
Shauna:                               09:05                    Okay. Oh Geez.
Dan:                                     09:09                    Sorry. Go ahead.
Shauna:                               09:10                    In a very playful manner. I don't know if you've noticed this with scientists, but they throw as much random, uh, funny pun type stuff in their, uh, into their papers as they can. Uh, anyway, I happen to like this one a bit. In his 1850 essay, Henry Rogers wrote "many a bone in these lectures, which a keen metaphysician would be disposed to pick with the author." In 1884, Henry Rider Haggard in Dawn wrote, "I considered that I had got a bone to pick with Providence about that nose. "
Dan:                                     09:45                    Ah, yeah. Well that's fair. I a look at my nose and I have a bone to pick with providence and with my, uh, brother who broke my nose less times than I broke his growing up. Uh, not from fighting, but from mostly playing football and rough housing. Um, and then also, you know, just from, um, the amazing number of things, I'm allergic to in this area. So as far as my nose goes, I have bones to pick with many, many entities.
Shauna:                               10:13                    Fair enough. Yeah. So in this quote, providence is capitalized and so I'm not sure if it's referencing providence in the, that fate concept or if it's a person a, which actually makes me want to read it and find out
Dan:                                     10:28                    like you think providence was his mother's name or something
Shauna:                               10:32                    maybe
Dan:                                     10:33                    seems awful weird. I choose to believe providence was probably to divine fate of some sort or non divine fate, whatever fate in general.
Shauna:                               10:43                    Hmm. So in the Pennsylvania magazine history and biography, and this is from 1941 uh, there's an excellent quote. "The merchants for their part had a bone to pick with the customs office. "
Dan:                                     10:56                    Well, so it's good to know that nothing has changed since 1941.
Shauna:                               10:59                    Some things just kind of stay the same.
Dan:                                     11:04                    Well, today's show is sponsored by our patrons on Patreon. You make bunny trails possible. We'd like to thank all our patrons and especially our lagomorphology interns, Charlie Moore, Pat Rowe and Mary Lopez. is a subscription service that allows you to support content creators you love. It's free to sign up and to follow along. If you're in a financial situation that allows for monetary support, you can get additional perks for as little as $1 a month. Features like early access to episodes, behind the scenes content, bonus episodes, and more are all available at
Shauna:                               11:41                    In 1999 the song Bone 2 Pick was released by Angie stone and some of the lyrics to this song. Uh, well we, we just can't have them on this episode. The portion with our phrase goes like this "cause I got a bone to pick with you. Ain't nothing new under the sun and I got to talk to have with you. So baby, if it fits then wear the shoe. "
Dan:                                     12:05                    Oh. Oh Wow. She's got a couple of them in here. The shoe fits and she a re modified. Oh Wow.
Shauna:                               12:13                    Yup. Ah, I it was pretty good. also, she sounds very upset.
Dan:                                     12:19                    Yeah, well it's a song about, you know, frustration I would think because it's called bone to pick.
Shauna:                               12:24                    Yeah. Uh, all right. So in uh, 2017, a Goodreads, by the name of T.A. Moore, she released the book Bone To Pick from the series Digging Up Bones. And this was the first in that series. Cloister Witte is a man with a dark past and a cute dog. He’s happy to talk about the dog all day, but after growing up in the shadow of a missing brother, a deadbeat dad, and a criminal stepfather, he’d rather leave the past back in Montana. These days he’s a K-9 officer in the San Diego County Sheriff's Department and pays a tithe to his ghosts by doing what no one was able to do for his brother—find the missing and bring them home. He’s good at solving difficult mysteries. The dog is even better…
Dan:                                     13:11                    I um, so you, you said he's a canine officer and then I had to stop and figure out is, is, is Cloiset Witte the dog? But you did start with Cloister Witte is a man. So then I was like, wait a minute. And then I realized, oh, he's probably like a canine handler. Okay. I'm following. All right. Right.
Shauna:                               13:30                    So are they all called officers? Okay. So if you're on the canine unit, are there also humans that are considered part of the Canine Unit? I don't know how that works.
Dan:                                     13:37                    I also don't know how that works. But I know that the canine, the dogs are officers, so that is 100% accurate. And the, their handlers are officers when, when it's a police canine unit and not like a, you know, a arson investigation unit which may be attached to a fire department instead. But yeah, but I don't, I don't know what the appropriate term is but let's assume it's canine officer. Cause I'm sure you just read that synopsis, you know, Verbatim. So
Shauna:                               14:05                    I did except for the parts where I can't talk properly cause you know, I do that.
Dan:                                     14:10                    I would have fixed those in post so no one would have known.
Shauna:                               14:11                    Ah, darn it. Uh, all right. So then we also had a wonderful post on Twitter, uh, from a lovely lady. I'm just going to go with "Hal" and not share any more details. Uh, she says "I have a bone to pick with you." Uh, and she tagged Venmo that and then shared a picture of the front and back of her debit card.
Dan:                                     14:37                    Oh No, I see the picture here. She has her, the three digit code on the back is six, six, six. Oh yeah. Venmo probably also has a comment to make to you immediately. We're gonna go ahead and de-activate your card and issue you a new one. Right. For a variety of reasons,
Shauna:                               14:57                    I guess. Congratulations. You're getting a new card. I really don't know. But I was like, okay honey, you like, a lot of people don't like that number. Um, but if it is your special pass code, like access number to, all of your money. Don't tell anyone.
Dan:                                     15:14                    Oh yeah, definitely. Do not take pictures and put it on, on, uh, social media or whatever. Yeah.
Shauna:                               15:21                    Yeah. I, yeah. So I, I really loved this phrase a, it's like this chill, but kind of pointed way to let somebody know that you've got a problem with them. Uh, and it also never strayed too far from its origins, uh, but it Kinda just float along with changes in culture, in society. Um, but it, but it stayed pretty true to what it originally meant, which was cool.
Dan:                                     15:44                    I do, I do like bone to gnaw, better than bone to pick with you, but I, I, I think bone to pick with you flows better in today's language than bone to gnaw.
Shauna:                               15:55                    Yeah, definitely.
Dan:                                     15:57                    Because that just seems weird.
Shauna:                               15:58                    Yeah. Yeah. Does that's a little bit too... cannibal-y...
Dan:                                     16:03                    It doesn't have to be human bones goodness gracious!
Shauna:                               16:05                    Although, can I say to you, I was actually surprised that this one wasn't in a Shakespeare play somewhere.
Dan:                                     16:13                    Oh yeah. Well that's actually why I went with 16 hundreds cause I was like, oh, I mean it's probably just something that Shakespeare stole along the way like you did with 90% of his stuff.
Shauna:                               16:23                    Yeah, only turns out... no. Well that about wraps us up for today. Thank you so much for joining us. Don't forget to find us on your favorite podcasting app and leave us a review. We are now on Pandora by the way, so that's pretty awesome.
Dan:                                     16:36                    If you have a suggestion for an idiom or another turn of phrase or you just want to chat, you can catch us on social media, mostly on Twitter, @bunnytrailspod or on Patreon at You can get copies of our transcripts, listen to the episode and get links to everywhere we are and everything we do at
Dan:                                     16:54                    One thing that I want to leave you with is to go check out the most recent episode of The Allusionist Show, uh, that is available wherever you get your podcast as well. It is a relatively short episode, but it is an absolute lot of fun to hear the "new rules" and talking about different rules of speech and how those have changed over time. One of my favorite parts was when Helen Zaltzman and the person she was interviewing were having a conversation about how, how in England, in the, in the UK, they were using i-z-e and i-s-e at the ends of several words like realize and that kind of stuff, uh, in UK for a long time and for hundreds of years they'd been doing that.
Dan:                                     17:35                    But then as word processors and uh, you know, like Word and like these autocorrect formatting type things started coming out. It talked about how, how I had to pick one or the other. And so for in America it was i-z-e and in the UK they made it for a British English. They made it i-s-e. And because of that, then there was this national resurgence with i-s-e being the predominant way that that was used in, uh, in British English. Despite the fact that for hundreds of years it's been, both has been acceptable and frequently used. So it was very, it's a very interesting episode. I definitely recommend that you go check it out.
Shauna:                               18:12                    Yeah. Shes... She's really awesome and tells a wonderful story.
Dan:                                     18:15                    Well, thanks again for joining us. We'll talk to you again next week. And until then, remember,
Together:                           18:19                    words belong to their users.

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