Storytelling

A Lick and a Promise

One of my all time favorite phrases is “A Lick and a Promise“, as in

I’m going to give the floor a lick and a promise.

This usage refers to quickly wiping up the floor, but having the intention of cleaning that same floor more thoroughly later on. But I am so turned on by that phrase that I want to drop to my hands and knees and scrub the floor myself, a stiff brush in one hand, up to my elbow in hot, sudsy, dirty water with my other hand.

One of my coworkers used the phrase today in a meeting, referring to some task that she was committed to doing, but not having adequate time to do it properly just at this moment. She said, “I’m going to give the requirements a lick and a promise.” I bet you are.

The first time I heard the phrase was from the lips of my mother-in-law. I about shit when I heard it, stunned and disbelieving my ears. She is devoted to her religion, curses very infrequently, and was in her late seventies at the time. I understood that she was talking about the floor, but the phrase crashed into all sorts of other ideas in my head. My wife’s mother? A lick and a promise?

At the time, I was so shocked that I told my father about it. He reported that his own mother used the phrase herself quite often. Apparently it offered my father very little in terms of titillation to hear his mother say it, and so he was slightly perplexed at my reaction. My grandmother? Gramma? A lick and a promise?

I suppose there are a number of phrases that sound dirty even though they really aren’t, but none of them effect me like A lick and a promise? Consider:

  • Stump Grinder
  • Waxed Beans
  • Bone Dry
  • Weiner Schnitzel
  • Tongue Depressor
  • Ben & Jerry’s
  • Screw Driver

All of these are used in the course of normal American English, and, if you really think about it, can probably have other connotations that are impolite. But those things never occur to me. Except for my favorite. I guess it’s just one of those things.