mind your own bee’s knees
Tags: Atlanta floods, bee's knees, bumble bee, cucumber blossom, female forager bee, idiomatic expressions, lovely, old colloquial expressions, picnics, pollen, pollen collection, Pollinators, quirky British picnic hampers, Southern half-moon pies, Sumter cucumber, totally tubular, vintage turns of phrase, what is bee pollen for
I snapped this photograph a couple of weeks ago, and only looking at it full screen did I realize I’d actually gotten a close-up of the bee’s knee. So okay, it’s a bit blurry. I’m no pro — and that bee was moving constantly. (For gorgeous professional photographs of bees, some of them exotic species unknown to me, check this out.)
But I was excited because if I had it on film, I could now talk about it on the blog.
Cool. Or, to use my new expression, that’s the bee’s knees.
If you’ve never heard it before — and I certainly hadn’t — this idiomatic expression originated in the 1920s, around the same time as “the cat’s pyjamas,”* and was flapper-speak for cool. Or as the kids say now — oh, I have no idea what the kids say now. I am grateful that “totally tubular” went out with Valley Girl speak in the 80s, and it’s probably no longer any of the following, either: dope, wicked, radical, hip, gnarly, excellent, awesome, chill, rad, tight, bad ass or sweet. And I stopped paying attention at that point in the evolution of the language.
To be honest, I got tired. The newer phrases never quite worked for me. I feel stupid saying something is “phat.” (Really, that’s the best we could come up with??) I prefer words that were popular back in 1880. For example, “lovely,” which I use a whole lot.
And now my new expression, of course. F. just rolled his eyes when I used it three different ways in one evening. I mean, come on, it’s a way of saying cool that has bees in it. That has my name written all over it. I think it’s the bee’s knees that I’ve found this perfect little catchphrase for myself. Don’t you?
Just if you’re curious, the bee’s knees are little sacs, sometimes called pollen baskets, on her** legs that she slowly fills up with pollen as she visits all those flowers before returning to the hive. I’d say, from observing in the garden, that this little lady’s are over half full already. It makes me so happy to see those sweet, plump “knees,” to know she’s nourishing her hive and herself while she helps my garden reach its full potential.
Here’s some things I found while researching the origin of my new colloquial find.
The New Bees Knees, a cocktail which I have to try. It includes gin, lavender flowers, and honey. Three of my favorite things, actually. If it’s as delicious as my brother-in-law’s amazing, too-good-to-be-true piña coladas, I’ll be sure to let you know.
Do you crochet or knit or know someone who does? (You know me, hint hint.) Then check out the fabulous hand-dyed and hand-spun yarns at beeskneesknitting on Etsy.
Posh retailer Fortnum & Mason*** is getting into urban beekeeping and getting ready to sell jars of its ultra-rare honey to those few who can afford it. A fun, unexpected and creative way to help with the plight of the world’s bees. (The British government is urging urbanites to keep bees in their gardens.)
* Other phrases that didn’t endure, in case you want to start a new vintage rediscovery trend, or invent your own whimsical twist: the caterpillar’s spats; the elephant’s instep; the gnat’s elbows; the snake’s hip; the eel’s ankle; the monkey’s eyebrows; the cat’s cufflinks. (Cats were popular: their whiskers and meow both became popular phrases, in addition to the cufflinks and pyjamas. Being a cat lover, this makes perfect sense to me. Cats are the bee’s knees!)
** Forager or worker bees are always female. Something I did not know at the beginning of my gardening adventure.
*** Please note: I am not British. I have never even been to England. So if you personally know this information to be incorrect, please, pretty please, correct me. I wasn’t sure what Fortnum & Mason was when I first read the article. Apparently, they sell gourmet items and picnic baskets.
Quails’ eggs, smoked salmon, and champagne in picnic baskets? You Brits are so charmingly quirky.
The fanciest picnic food I ever had was homemade fried chicken, potato salad, coleslaw, half-moon pies, and fresh lemonade. Those half-moon pies are not to be confused with those Li’l Debbie monstrosities, but are thin homemade pastry wrapped in a crescent shape around cinnamon and tart apple filling, then dropped into the deep fryer. Yum. That’s a pretty top-notch picnic, even without the quails’ eggs.
In my book, whatever kind of picnic floats your boat, that’s the bee’s knees. If you’re in a spot in the world with bright sunshine, go take one for the sheer joy of it.
Here in the Southeast U.S., let’s all make plans for a late season picnic if this darned rain ever stops. The Victory Garden might float away in the meantime… but I’m more worried about the poor folks in the Atlanta area dealing with the flooding. My thoughts go out to y’all during this rough time. Be as smart and stay as safe as you possibly can!