Voice: The expression 'spitting feathers' has two meanings that are completely unconnected. It can mean to be extremely thirsty, or it can mean to be angry and upset.
The origin of the first meaning is easy to imagine. Your mouth is so dry that it feels as if it’s full of feathers and you just want to get rid of them. So you spit them out. The origins of the second meaning is a bit more difficult to trace, but certain experts suggest it comes from the idea of a person getting so angry that they spit flecks of sputum from their mouth that look like little feathers! Not a pretty picture, but it makes sense.
Listen to these two people who are both spitting feathers for some reason. What’s got them like this?
Conversation one. Mrs Wong is in a very bad mood when her husband gets home from work.
Mrs Wong: I've been spitting feathers all day! The man from the kitchen company was supposed to arrive to do the tiling at nine o’clock this morning. My phone rang at five past and it was him saying he’d been delayed picking up the tiles from the shop on Lockhart Road. He said he'd be here just before ten.
Ten o'clock came and went. No tiler. He rang at half past to say the tiles had just arrived at the shop and they were unpacking them. He'd be here just after eleven.
I sat here, and of course he didn't arrive. I was really starting to spit feathers by now. No phone call, so I rang him. They'd finally put the tiles in his van and he was just setting off.
Ten minutes later, I got another call. They'd just put the last box of tiles in the van, when he noticed they were the wrong tiles! They had to unload the lot, and load the right ones. He promised to be here at twelve. Nothing. He rang about quarter past twelve to say they couldn't find the tiles we'd chosen.
The supplier hadn't sent them to the shop. But they’d noticed their mistake and the tiles were on their way. He would ring me when they arrived. Two o'clock. Three o'clock. He finally rang me at ten to four saying the tiles had just arrived, and the shop was just sorting them out. He said he'd be here at five.
I was livid and told him not to bother. I've wasted a complete day and missed deadlines at work because of this. I called the boss of the kitchen company and I'm waiting for him to call me now. I fully intend to give him a piece of my mind.
Voice: Conversation two. David arrives in the coffee shop after work to meet up with his good friend, Donna. He’s very pleased to see her.
David: Am I glad to see you! What an afternoon it's been. You know I was giving a presentation for the board of directors? I thought it would last about sixty minutes but they kept me talking for two and a half hours! My presentation went on a bit longer than I had planned, and when I'd finished they started bombarding me with questions.
I hadn't brought any water or anything to drink with me. At the end of my talk I was spitting feathers, but I just had to go on. My mouth was as dry as the bottom of a canary's cage, but I couldn’t stop talking. I felt really awkward.
Mrs Chung could see I was a bit uncomfortable, but she just kept glaring at me. At the end of the meeting she just walked out of the room. So rude.
So I’m desperate for a big cup of tea. I'm still spitting feathers even though I eventually drank some water. I suppose I still feel a bit on edge. I might have a juice as well as tea. What can I get you? It's my treat.