Them's Fightin' Words

Can't say as I've ever really fought tooth and nail. I'm sure at one time or another I've used the idiom as braggadocio, just a little hyperbole to enhance whatever story I was relating, an embellishment for effect, something to keep people listening by adding import to the tale. But to actually bite and claw my way in the midst of some rough and tumble fracas, to attempt to rip, tear or gouge an opponent's physical being while participating in an out-and-out, head-to-head dust-up?... nah, never been there; never done that. Although, there was an incident where I got really irate and threatened to bend the finger of a stranger in line who was jabbing it in my face, falsely accusing me of taking "cuts", but that's another story for another day.

The phrase “ fighting tooth and nail” was first attributed to Sir Thomas More’s "In A Dialogue of Comfort and Tribulation" published all the way back in 1535 which garnered more attention when used by Charles Dickens in his 1850 novel,"David Copperfield". It means to fight vigorously, with all intensity, even to the death if necessary. It literally conjurs up the image of wild animals biting and clawing to the finish. That said, it's often employed more currently in a less life-threatening way, meaning to resist, oppose or stand up against someone or something with great intensity or tenacity as in campaigning for office or fighting for a social cause or maybe just giving it your all when it comes to voting online as many times as possible for your "Dancing With the Stars" favorite (just own it, okay?).

So yeah, through the years we've managed to water down all those great, jarring, barbaric phrases in favor of something a bit more genteel, a tad easier on the ears, eschewing "crossing swords" in favor of "dissing" somebody. Preferring not to "lock horns" when "throwing shade" can get the job done. No longer "at each other's throats" when for half the aggravation you can be "at odds" with them. Instead of "going for the jugular" just "ghost" your opponent; that'll show 'em!  So does that mean those tough-guy, in-your-face ultimate mano a mano depictions have gone by the wayside? Not really, we'll always have the UFC, super hero flicks, "Call of Duty" and "The Real Wives of New Jersey" (clearly the bloodiest of the four). But if you're looking for the jargon, those over-the-top, adrenaline-inducing metaphors, look no further than the USA's three major sports: football, baseball and basketball (keep at it, soccer enthusiasts!).

Indeed, sports has always been our proxy, the ultimate rhetorical device for all that is associated with fighting and war. The one great arena where you can still use the battle terms of yesteryear. Guy hit's a towering homer or a QB airs one out it's a "bomb". Wanna screw with the passer bring in an all-out "blitz". Turning a ground ball with a man at first base into two quick outs is a "twin-killing" but if there's a guy on third watch out for the "suicide squeeze". Throw strike three past the batter and you've got yourself a "punchout" but if they're hitting everything you're throwing, yeah, you're "getting shelled". It's fourth down, c'mon D, get into "beast mode" 'cause it's "war out there". If you're into college hoops you're gonna love "March Madness" where every game is an "elimination round". And, of course, if you're on the gridiron and the score is tied after regulation play then welcome to "Sudden Death"!

Okay, so that's what we've settled for, this fusillade of gung-ho, full-throated battle cries from amped up TV commentators as we all nosh chicken wings while scarfing down beers on a Sunday afternoon. The best of both worlds. The sports version of the mullet: civility in the front and barbarianism in the back... And yet, something's missing, right? Somehow it doesn't quite satisfy. If only there was sport that took us back to the day's of yore. A pasttime that would quench our thirst for supreme domination to the point where only one man/woman was left standing. If only there was... "Fighting Tooth and Nail"?

Alright, so here's how it's goin' down: Even though the term obviously meant "teeth" and "nails" we'll take it literally, forcing the fighters to choose their own weapons as in, "Brutus has opted for the nail on his right hand ring finger and will be using his front right incisor. Gunther, being the southpaw has chosen his left thumbnail and his favorite canine, the left eye tooth." There will be no clocks in the forest as there is no electricity. Likewise, no time outs because, I don't know, it just doesn't feel right. And if you're watching from home, nix the wings and brews in favor of wild boar and the strongest mead you can find. There will be no cheerleaders as we need no distractions. No announcers necessary as the action will speak for itself. No special effects necessary as the adrenaline will pump itself... Oh yeah, I know what you're thinkin', "We are totally onto something here!"