Flying a kite

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Flying a kite

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1Thrin
Redigeret: jul 21, 2010, 7:33pm

I sometimes (well, quite often if the truth be told) "fly a kite" - not in the literal sense but in the sense of expressing, often as "the devil's advocate" (and how did that expression evolve?), an idea or opinion simply to see what reaction it provokes.

Is this usage (e.g. "I was just flying a kite.") common in other English-speaking countries, and do other languages have a similar expression?

Edited to add: I am Australian.

2Jesse_wiedinmyer
jul 21, 2010, 7:56pm

The two phrases that I think are most similar that I've heard are "send up a trial balloon" and "float an idea", but I believe they are less connotative of playing devil's advocate and more about introducing an idea in the hopes that it will be confirmed or shot down. It's about looking for the feedback that results from putting the idea slightly in the open.

In the U.S., if someone tells you to "go fly a kite," they're commonly telling you to disappear or get away from them.

3MMcM
jul 21, 2010, 10:16pm

> 1 "the devil's advocate" (and how did that expression evolve?)

Advocatus Diaboli.

4TineOliver
jul 21, 2010, 11:25pm

>1 Thrin: Just wondering what part of Australia you're from? I'm from Melbourne and have never heard that usage, I've only ever heard the usage referred to above (>2 Jesse_wiedinmyer:).

Also, my understanding of "devil's advocate" is to take a position that you do not necessarily agree with for the sake of the argument currently discussed - a definition which is narrower than that you give above.

5Thrin
jul 22, 2010, 1:48am

>2 Jesse_wiedinmyer: Jesse.... Yes, I've heard the 'trial balloon' and 'float an idea' here too. 'Go fly a kite' would, I'm certain, be understood here too given that context and tone-of-voice would make the intention clear; it's also probably quite familiar to people who watch USAn movies and TV shows.

>4 TineOliver: TineO.... I'm from near Sydney, but I'm wondering if I might have picked up the 'flying a kite' expression during my years spent living in England and visiting Ireland. Also I realise being 'devil's advocate' and 'flying a kite' don't mean the same thing, but they can both provoke similar reactions to an expressed position or idea which one doesn't necessarily believe in or hold oneself I think. Hmmm.... Am I making sense?

>3 MMcM: MMcM.... Thanks for that link. Of course, given that I had a convent education, I should have remembered that.

6CliffordDorset
jul 23, 2010, 6:06am

"Run it up the flagpole and see who salutes it."

Maybe I spent too long working with the military ...

7henkl
jul 23, 2010, 10:35am

>1 Thrin: ...do other languages have a similar expression? .
Dutch uses "een vlieger oplaten" in the same way.

8MMcM
jul 23, 2010, 11:52am

“throw it out on the stoop and see if the cat licks it up” — Juror #12 (Robert Webber).

9Thrin
jul 23, 2010, 9:57pm

>6 CliffordDorset: CliffordD Interesting. We don't go in for flags and saluting very much here, though I understand that in Australian public schools the pupils used to have to salute our flag.

>7 henkl: henkl Thanks for that. It's actually exactly the same expression isn't it (a literal translation)? It's always fascinating to me to see how related languages have converged or diverged over time. Kind of comforting to see how much we share!

>8 MMcM: MMCM Yes, well, I can't actually see myself using this expression, interesting though it is! I'm afraid I don't understand the 'Juror #12 (Robert Webber)' reference though.

10MMcM
jul 23, 2010, 10:40pm

> 9 It's a line from 12 Angry Men.

11henkl
jul 24, 2010, 2:12pm

>9 Thrin: It's actually exactly the same expression isn't it (a literal translation)?

Indeed it is. We also use "een proefballon (= trial balloon) oplaten" in the same sense.

12ed.pendragon
jul 25, 2010, 2:00pm

In the UK at least an unrelated but seemingly similar phrase "when the balloon goes up" implies impending danger, a throwback I understand to the First World War when barrage balloons signalled an aerial attack; the tethering cables were meant to impede approaching enemy aircraft (certainly this was the case in World War II).

13CliffordDorset
jul 27, 2010, 7:41am

I've always understood that 'when the balloon goes up' referred not to barrage balloons, which clearly relate to bombing by aircraft, but to an earlier (swiftly passing) phase of modern warfare (WWI) in which manned balloons - baskets held aloft by lighter-than-air gas-filled devices - were winched up and down to provide observations of the fall of shells on the other side of 'no-man's-land'. Fall-of-shot reports were telephoned down the tether. The technique was pioneered by the (British Army) officer Colonel Templer. Winching up these balloons was a clear indication that shelling was imminent, and was clearly visible to the attacking forces, who would be ordered to advance when the shelling ceased. The short-lived tactical nature of the technique is related to the vulnerability of both baskets and balloons to the later arrival of gun-equipped aircraft. 'Barrage balloons' (unmanned) prevented enemy bomber aircraft adopting lower and more precise altitudes as they approached vulnerable targets.

14ed.pendragon
jul 27, 2010, 8:14am

"I've always understood that 'when the balloon goes up' referred not to barrage balloons, which clearly relate to bombing by aircraft, but to an earlier (swiftly passing) phase of modern warfare (WWI)". I stand corrected -- informed opinion again triumphs over woolly thinking! Thanks!

15Thrin
jul 27, 2010, 5:51pm

>12 ed.pendragon: and >13 CliffordDorset: Well, I've certainly learned something from you both. Very interesting. Thanks. And, ed.pen, I wouldn't call your initial understanding of the phrase 'when the balloon goes up' woolly thinking (I'd call it a theory). Without your idea we might not have heard from CliffordD.

16ed.pendragon
jul 27, 2010, 6:38pm

When I see the phrase "fly a kite" I'm smitten with the irresistably positive song "Let's go fly a kite" from the film Mary Poppins. I've not read the book by P. L. Travers but my dim memory of the film is that the kite-flying sequence was a glorious non sequitur as far as the cohesiveness of the film was concerned. Perhaps it was drawn from an episode in the book.

17jjmcgaffey
jul 28, 2010, 6:31pm

The entire book (and film) is made up of glorious non-sequiturs. From diving into a chalk painting, to feeding the birds and causing a run on the bank...the book has more (gingerbread fingers, the fat man - or maybe those are in later books) but that's one where the film, while not precisely following the book, definitely caught the flavor of it.

Huh. ed, are you British? As I was writing, it occurred to me that an American would probably write movie rather than film. I grew up being taught by both British and American teachers and frequently can't distinguish between the two usages.

18ed.pendragon
jul 29, 2010, 3:03am

Yes, I'm British, and I guess I should have been more sensitive to linguistic nuances but I suppose so long as we understand each other it all adds to the mix!

Where I get more uncomfortable is when the stress is put on different parts of a word shared in common, as in words like "harrass" and "Birmingham", and occasionally with spelling, but since British and American English are both kleptomaniac that's just symptomatic of language evolution.

19jjmcgaffey
jul 29, 2010, 5:15am

No, I was just curious whether I had correctly identified a British nuance. As I said, I frequently can't figure out which of the two 'right' ways to say things is British and which American. It wasn't until I wrote the last 'film' that it occurred to me that it would probably be 'movie' in American - 'film' sounded fine to me.

The ones that drive me nuts are when the same word has entirely different meanings. I went to university in London, and got a serious shock when, in the last week of class, the (British) teacher told us that we would be revising everything we'd studied... in American, to 'revise' is to change (Revise the memo, it doesn't make sense as it stands), while going over the material is 'review'. Things like that are the points at which my trans-Atlantic upbringing gets painful.

20jjwilson61
jul 29, 2010, 11:08am

Movie may be more prevalent in the US but film is by no means odd. Film is just more high-brow; you see film societies but not movie clubs.

21ed.pendragon
jul 29, 2010, 3:55pm

Going a little off the point here (I suppose that's the nature of the beast), but I'll continue regardless... If revise/review can be confusing, then other differing US/UK nuances can be embarrassing. "Stubbing out a fag" in a British context is innocuous (stubbing out a cigarette) but Stateside (as I've heard it reported) the use of the phrase by a Brit was understandably received in shocked silence.

22jjmcgaffey
jul 29, 2010, 5:44pm

LOL. Or 'bumming a fag' - that's worse! I've only seen it in books, but I could imagine it happening for real - actually, one book I saw it in was a WWII memoir.

Or a cousin of mine who went up to Canada to visit his fiancee's family, ruffled her little brother's hair and said "What a cute little bugger!". I _think_ they still got married, but it took a while...

23jjwilson61
jul 29, 2010, 7:56pm

I've heard that declaring "I'm stuffed" after dinner can raise some eyebrows in Britain.

24ed.pendragon
jul 30, 2010, 6:20am

"I've heard that declaring "I'm stuffed" after dinner can raise some eyebrows in Britain." Interesting, this: if you said it in polite company (what you could term "highbrow" company), they might not raise an eyebrow, as the term "stuffed" would definitely be lowbrow. However, in lowbrow company no eyebrows might be raised but a titter might run round the table. (And, yes, that's another double entendre.) Are you following me?

25CliffordDorset
aug 10, 2010, 6:46am

My favourite for killing party conversations in the US is saying loudly that someone was 'knocked up in the middle of the night'. 'Knocking up' in UK English is awakening someone by means of knocking at a door.

Returning to films, calling them 'flicks' was quite common in UK in my youth, presumably recalling the flickering nature of early silent movies.

26ed.pendragon
aug 10, 2010, 7:39am

Yes, 'flicks' for films is for me also a memory from my youth, a term which presumably died a death when film-going in the UK seemed to go into terminal decline in, was it the 70s? the 80s? before multiplexes revived the whole cinema-going experience. Nowadays UK consumers are unlikely to bat an eye if 'movies' is the preferred term used in the media or advertising.

Conversely, in France, if my memory serves me right, if you wanted to buy photographic film you had to use the word "pellicule" as "film" referred to moving images, though I suspect that with increased tourism "film" may have now become more acceptable there; I've no doubt that the Academie Française has something to say about that.

27keristars
aug 10, 2010, 12:24pm

I recall using "flick" in Florida, too, in the early nineties (I wouldn't recall earlier than that, as I was 6 in 1990) - well, I don't think I ever used it myself, but it's a very familiar word to me in the context of films and one I associate with the big summer blockbusters that were high on effects or action but low on substance. I think my dad (from Chicago) used to use it. But I haven't heard it in years.

28ed.pendragon
Redigeret: aug 19, 2010, 6:47am

Interesting, isn't it, US singular "flick" as against UK plural "flicks". You would always hear the phrase "going to the flicks" here, never the US usage.

29keristars
aug 10, 2010, 3:58pm

Oh, you're right! I didn't even pick up on the different usage, only that it was stated that "flicks" was a UK word, but I've heard it in Florida. I believe that I had heard "going to a flick" or "which flicks did you go to last month?" - but, again, the word is for the discrete films, not a collective (like "going to the movies" even if you're only going to be watching one of them).

30Thrin
Redigeret: aug 10, 2010, 6:16pm

If you were going to see a film when I was a young girl here in Australia (many, many moons ago) you'd be "going to the pictures" (derived, I suppose, as was "movies", from the even more antique "moving pictures"). "Going to the flicks" was also used but was considered rather louche (so of course we used "flicks" whenever we could get away with it). Both terms can still be heard here, but "movies" is the most
prevalent term.

I think you might cause a bit of confusion if you were using Franglaise in France and said that you were going to the flics.

31jjwilson61
aug 10, 2010, 6:50pm

I've heard flick used in a casual sense, as in "we're going to see a horror flick."

32Thrin
aug 10, 2010, 7:15pm

>31 jjwilson61: Yes, used that, singular, way here in Aus. too.

33MyopicBookworm
aug 10, 2010, 10:58pm

In the (UK) circles I move in, saying "I'm stuffed" after dinner is likely to be followed by an offer of a "waffer-thin mint" (Monty Python allusion).

34PhaedraB
aug 11, 2010, 12:02pm

30 >

A common Chicago expression is "going to the show," so common that one radio station has a feature called "Going to the Show" where A Regular Guy does movie reviews.

I remember a Chicago friend returning from Virginia and remarking that folks there said they were going to the "picture show." And of course, we all know you oughta be in pictures.

35ed.pendragon
sep 9, 2010, 6:27am

I'm surprised that nobody mentioned The Kite Runner at the beginning of these posts. Though I must be one of the few who hasn't read it, I'm guessing that the whole concept of flying a kite may be a metaphor for the lot of the Afghan people and their history.

When growing up in Kowloon I remember as (probably) a four-year-old kite-fighting on the flat roof of a block of flats on Prince Edward Road, in the path of planes coming in to land in Kai-Tak airport, and almost feeling that I could touch the undercarriage of the aircraft if I let the kite out to the full length of the string. Except that I didn't dare. Not having spent my pocket money on another kite.

36ed.pendragon
sep 9, 2010, 6:28am

I'm surprised that nobody mentioned The Kite Runner at the beginning of these posts. Though I must be one of the few who hasn't read it, I'm guessing that the whole concept of flying a kite may be a metaphor for the lot of the Afghan people and their history.

When growing up in Kowloon I remember as (probably) a four-year-old kite-fighting on the flat roof of a block of flats on Prince Edward Road, in the path of planes coming in to land in Kai-Tak airport, and almost feeling that I could touch the undercarriage of the aircraft if I let the kite out to the full length of the string. Except that I didn't dare. Not having spent my pocket money on another kite.

37Muscogulus
nov 16, 2010, 10:20pm

> 36 I'm guessing that the whole concept of flying a kite may be a metaphor for the lot of the Afghan people and their history.

No, I don’t think so.

Thirty or more years ago in the U.S., it used to be considered insulting to tell someone to “go fly a kite.” It was equivalent to “scram!”

I’ve never heard of it being used in the U.S. in the sense of sending up a trial balloon, or running something up the flagpole.

I had a British professor in the States who used a memorable expression for tossing out a new idea: “Let me just throw a cat among the pigeons.”

38TineOliver
nov 16, 2010, 10:34pm

37: to "Throw a cat among the pigeons" is also common in Australia. In my general experience it means to state an opinion or make a suggestion that is thought by the speaker to be controversial or in some way troublesome to the subject being discussed. (Similar to "throwing a spanner in the works").

As usual, meanings elsewhere may be different.

39ed.pendragon
nov 17, 2010, 3:37am

#36,37: The phrase I've heard is "set" a cat among the pigeons, as in setting hounds on a fox, obviously an organised field sport practised in places like Trafalgar Square etc.

40JemmyHope
nov 17, 2010, 8:49am

In some circles "flying a Kite" means passing a dud cheque (or check).

41jjwilson61
nov 17, 2010, 10:22am

Check kiting is a form of fraud where you take advantage of the float in your checking account to spend money that isn't really there. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Check_kiting