Sunday, October 09, 2005


A phrase was used this morning in the course of conversation: "throwing one's weight around." Just what does this really mean? Does it connote an overweight person, shifting body mass from left to right, and/or up and down? Is the literal meaning that of a person taking a lead weight they own (after all, the phrase refers to their weight) and launching it into the air, shotput style, or to a buddy, playing catch with it?

We understand what it means to shift one's weight, as in leaning on one leg and then the other. Or on an airplane, where load balancing might be of concern, and some of the baggage might be moved from one cargo hold to another.

Where, exactly, does this phrase come from, "throwing one's weight around?" Is it a wrestling or boxing term?

One can "throw a game," or "throw in the towel." None of this should be confused with being n the throes of a dilemma.

From the throw we scale it back a bit to the toss. One never "tosses one's weight around." One can toss a ball round, or toss something into a trashcan. Toss also can be used to indicate upchucking (which has nothing to do with how much wood a woodchuck would chuck, as per below). There is the figurative toss, as in tossing around an idea. One can also toss a salad, but it is highly unlikely that one would toss a salad to another.

And then we have trifecta: the literal, figurative, and computerspeak toss, as in, say, tossing one's cookies.

If one eats too many cookies, one might just have to toss them, or to put it another way, throw one's weight around. Or is that throw-up one's cookies?

That might be properly described as being in the throes of nausea.