The other day I was working on Book 13 when I wrote “I made a beeline for the door”. Then I stopped and stared into space as my brain took an unexpected detour.
Why does ‘make a beeline’ mean ‘to go quickly and directly to a destination’? Have you seen how bees fly? They look like little fuzzy drunks staggering home after a night on the town.
If I had actually ‘made a beeline’, I’d have wandered aimlessly around the room, made several erratic circles under a table and around a couple of chairs, gotten into a stranger’s face for no apparent reason, caromed off the window sixteen times before figuring out that I couldn’t exit through it, and at last arrived at the doorway; where I’d need three tries to make it through an opening several hundred times larger than myself.
Whoever invented all these sayings about bees had obviously never watched bees for long. Take ‘busy as a bee’, for example. Sometimes they’re busy, like these guys working away at my sunflowers:
But one summer morning I went out to water my garden, and eight of them were curled up together snoozing in a squash blossom. They weren’t any too eager to get up and start working – after the first spray of cold water they struggled groggily out of the blossom, stumbling over each other like a bunch of hungover teenagers after an all-night party and buzzing complaints as they hauled themselves into the sky. Then they staggered as far as the next flower before plopping down to sleep the day away. So much for ‘busy’.
And let’s consider the time-honoured tradition of ‘talking to your children about the birds and the bees’. Say what?
Neither birds nor bees have sex like humans. Most birds only have one multi-purpose opening for sending or receiving semen as well as for taking a dump and laying eggs. And most species aren’t too fussy about fidelity.
And bees? Yikes! Male bees follow a queen and take turns mating with her in flight. When the deed is done the male bee’s penis gets ripped off, disemboweling and killing him in the process. Unfazed, the next male in line pulls the leftover penis out of the queen’s body and re-enacts the whole grisly scenario. Then the next male takes over, and the next.
So if we actually discussed ‘the birds and the bees’ with our kids, we’d be talking about promiscuous sex and snuff orgies. Try explaining that at the next parent-teacher meeting.
‘The bee’s knees’ is another expression that makes me wonder. Over the years it’s been used to indicate ‘something nonexistent’, ‘something very small’, and ‘something excellent’. Apparently we aren’t too sure about the bee’s knees, either.
So if I should ever mention that I intend to make a beeline for bed to get as busy as a bee, it could mean staggering dozily away to sleep for hours; or zipping straight to bed for something a little more… *ahem* …interesting. (Or downright disturbing.)
But what the heck; having a bit of mystery in one’s life is the bee’s knees, don’t you think?