Final Word

Shank’s pony of kick the bucket politicians’ choice


For politicians’ world-wide a time has come to get back on shank’s pony/mare or their careers and democracy just might kick the bucket.

Reports, studies, and mounting protests in various forms, world-wide, is mounting that indicate that democracy as we know it, and how it has developed over the last few decades, are in serious trouble. The broad public seems to have lost faith in political parties and the people who represent them, and supposedly the voters.

The picture that, for me, comes to mind is of smartly dressed men and women galloping along on their high horses, while in the distance a crowd is waiting for them, busy preparing gallows for them.

The crowd is frustrated and angry, because they believe the people on their high horses have lost touch with them and do not understand their struggle to survive on the ground.

The time has come for those to the high horses to dismount, to get on their shank’s ponies and properly mix with those on the ground if they want to avoid the gallows awaiting them and where their careers and the system they represent will kick the bucket.

Meet Shank

The reason I chose “shank,” and an idiom that goes with it – getting on shanks pony or mare – implies that your normal “high’ horse is not available and you have to move or travel with your feet on the ground – thus walking.

The word shank, in this context, derives from shanks' nag (originally shanks-naig), dating back to at least the 12th century (deriving from the Old English word sceanca, with probably a Latin connection) for lower part of the human leg between the knee and ankle – what we nowadays refer to as the ”shin” or “shinbone.”

The proverb, to travel on shank’s mare first appeared in writing in the 1770s as “to shank” for walking.

I hope my suggestion that politicians will get on their “shank’s mare” will prove to be more accurate that of The Dubuque Daily Herald in May 1869, which after an exhibition of the velocipede (a predecessor of the bicycle), concluded: “They are a toy, and will never come into general use in competition with Shank's mare."

Kick the bucket

For my prediction of regarding the danger of modern democracy and the careers of politicians, I chose the idiom of “kicking the bucket” because of the gallows that became associated with the revolutions that preceded the replacement of feudalism with democracy.

“To kick the bucket” is an idiom considered a euphemistic, informal, or slang term meaning 'to die'. Its origin is a subject of debate amongst etymologists, however, one of the most common theories is that it comes from hanging as the once preferred method of execution and suicide.

Its earlies recording is in the 1785 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, where it is defined as 'to die.' In a slang dictionary published in 1823, following explanation is given: “"One Bolsover having hung himself from a beam while standing on a pail, or bucket, kicked this vessel away in order to pry into futurity and it was all UP with him from that moment: Finis"

The most common theory, however, about its origin has similar symbolic implications for our political parties and their representatives. This theory claims that the “bucket” in the idiom refers to a kind of yoke (from the French buquet, for a balance to carry things) that was used to hold pigs by their heels so that they could be slaughtered, and was particularly used in parts of Norfolk, United Kingdom.

by Piet Coetzer

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