From Jumping the Shark to Cutting No Ice. The Origin of Yet Another Idiom
Okay, so I may have been more or less the last person on the planet to have learned the derivation of "jumping the shark," but this time I've got one for all of you, I promise.
It comes from The Fortune of War, the sixth in Patrick O'Brian's magnificent series of novels about life in the British navy during the Napoleonic wars. In this scene, Irishman Stephen Maturin, a prisoner about the U.S.S. Constitution, discusses varieties of English with the Constitution's surgeon, a Mr. Evans:
‘Why, sure,’ said Evans, in his harsh nasal metallic bray, ‘the right American English is spoke in Boston, and even as far as Watertown. You will find no corruption there, I believe, no colonial expressions, other than those that arise naturally from our intercourse with the Indians. Boston, sir, is a well of English, pure and undefiled.’
‘I am fully persuaded of it,’ said Stephen. ‘Yet at breakfast this morning Mr Adams, who was also riz in Boston, stated that hominy grits cut no ice with him. I have been puzzling over his words ever since. I am acquainted with the grits, a grateful pap that might with advantage be exhibited in cases of duodenal debility, and I at once perceived that the expression was figurative. But in what does the figure consist? Is it desirable that ice should be cut? And if so, why? And what is the force of with?’
After barely a moment’s pause, Mr Evans said, ‘Ah, there now, you have an Indian expression. It is a variant upon the Iroquois katno aiss’ vizmi – I am unmoved, unimpressed. Yes, sir.’
"Cuts no ice with me" comes from the Iroquois.
Can anyone here at Ricochet claim, with a straight and sinless face, to have known that already? Oh, I doubt that. I doubt that very much.
I will now await a flood of comments, thanking me for the educational service I have just performed.