Slang phrases can be dangerous. Yesterday I used the term "smart alec" when referring to my son, WM. After posting, I looked up the term "smart alec" to see if I spelled it correctly. Turns out I did, but my curiosity to determine the origin of the term lead me to a startling awareness. The phrase "smart alec" comes from the antics of a man named Alec Hoag who among other things was a cheat and a thief. Among his cohorts in crime were two police officers who offered him protection and a beautiful temptress named Melinda who acted as the bait. The woman would lure victims into her chamber which was constructed with a secret panel in the wall. The victim would remove his garments, lay them across the chair, while the gal would draw the bed curtain. Hoag would then open the secret panel hidden behind the curtain to gain access to the victim's personal items tucked away in his cloak. The woman would then give a prearranged signal such as a cough or a sneeze and Hoag would begin wildly pounding on the door of the chamber pretending to be a husband returning home early from a business trip! The victim would be encouraged to hurriedly retreat through an open window to avoid detection! Hoag lost the protection of his police cohorts because he avoided payment a few too many times. After repeated run-ins with the law, precinct officers dubbed him "Smart Alec." Eventually the gig was up and Hoag was arrested.
How on earth could a boy as solid as this ever be identified by his mother as being a "smart alec?"
My apologies, WM. I am proud of the young man that you have become and are yet to be.
So, moral of the story is............. be careful what slang words you use unless you understand where they came from!
I often uttered the word schmuck when someone would cut me off in traffic while driving or when my patience grew thin in any number of different situations until my DIL told me what it meant! Now I just try to be patient and not call people names at all! (which is a better idea all together!).