Sounds Familiar

Running The Whole Gamut of Emotions is an unusual expression used to describe the full emotional range between delirious joy and abject misery. The simple musical explanation for the word ‘gamut’ is that during the 11th Century Guido d’Arezzo used letters of the Greek alphabet for the original musical scale. The lowest note in the vocal scale was called ‘gamma’ (the third letter in the Greek alphabet) and the highest was called ‘ut’. Subsequently gamma and ut came together, gamut, to describe the entire musical range. These days children use ‘doh, ray, me’ etc to sing out the musical scale and we thank the Greeks again. Can you imagine running the whole ‘doh-doh’ of emotions? I suppose Homer Simpson might. The expression was used to great ironic effect by Dorothy Parker when she described the acting of Katherine Hepburn, “She delivered a striking performance that ran the gamut of emotions from A to B.”

To Box and Cox means to alternate between two situations simultaneously, usually in a half-hearted manner and often with disastrous consequences. Box and Cox, a Romance of Real Life in One Act is the title of a play by John Maddison-Morton, first produced at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in London on 1 November 1847. The play was so popular it was also turned into an opera by Arthur Sullivan and performed in the 1920s by the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. The story tells of John Box and James Cox, two men who were renting the very same room from an unscrupulous landlady, Mrs Bouncer. One of the men worked all day long and the other all night, so were quite unaware of the presence of each other in the room, although they did meet twice a day on the stairs. Eventually the deception is revealed, and, in a farcical scene, the two men play dice for the room. The whole episode ends happily with the discovery that they are, in fact, long-lost brothers.

To Know Where all the Bodies are Buried puts a person in a very strong position with their employers as it means they know all the inner secrets of an organisation. It derives from the cult American movie Citizen Kane (1941) which was produced and directed by, as well as starring, Orson Welles. In one famous scene, Susan Alexander, Kane’s estranged wife, remarks of the butler at Xanadu: “But he knows where all the bodies are buried”. This phrase has been particularly popular on both sides of the Atlantic since the cut-throat business-boom of the 1980s.

It’s a Funny Old World is lifted directly from the movie You are Telling Me (1934) starring WC Fields who says, “It’s a funny old world, a man is lucky if he gets out of it alive.”

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