September 13, 2018

"What will the Supreme Court look like when neither side has to walk on eggs to win the favor of the one in the middle?"

"It will be a more conservative court, for sure, and maybe a more honest one. Justices may feel more free to say what they really think, and the public will ultimately judge the result by expressing itself in electoral politics."

Writes Linda Greenhouse in the NYT.

I'm going to look closely at 2 phrases — "more honest" and "walk on eggs."

1. Greenhouse writes "more honest," not "more nearly honest," so — assuming she's in control of her writing — she must see honesty as not absolute: the Court can obfuscate and distort and cheat and still be considered honest, but not tremendously honest, such that one can still hope for "more honesty." If you think a Court that obfuscates and distorts and cheats at all is not honest, then you should write "more nearly honest." I assume that most people who follow the Court closely don't think it is possible or even desirable for the Court to be utterly honest, so you're probably stuck with the nonabsolute meaning of "honest," if you're going to use that word at all.

2. "Walk on eggs"? The conventional phrase is "walk on eggshells," and I can't believe Greenhouse means to create a new metaphor so close to the standard phrase. "Walk on eggs" seems very funny to me, because I'm picturing a floor strewn with scrambled eggs, maybe some sunny-side-up fried eggs thrown in there. And it makes me wonder, in the standard phrase, "walk on eggshells," were we supposed to picture whole, uncracked eggs or just the shells from eggs that have been cracked? I think it's the latter — I don't know — which is why "walk on eggs" struck me as silly. I think we're supposed to picture the discarded shells on the floor and a need to walk on them without cracking them. But what's wrong with crunching down on what is trash anyway? Is somebody sleeping nearby whom we're trying not to wake? I'll speculate that's the idea: we're not worried about breaking the shells, but we're catering to the delicate feelings or short temper of some person who'd be disturbed by something as inconsequential as the crack of an eggshell.

82 comments:

rhhardin said...

Honest aj (of women) Chaste.

rhhardin said...

More honest means less reluctant to say something negative about what's really going on with the other side. It's not about truth exactly. More about doing lit crit on the other side's argument.

rhhardin said...

Walk on eggs means whole eggs without breaking them.

If you're on a plush lawn sometime with a raw egg in hand, try throwing it as hard as you can straight down into the grass. Probably it won't break.

So apparently it's a matter of technique. Probably the walk has to be barefoot.

Biotrekker said...

The writer meant “eggshells”. The quality of writing at major newspapers has declined dramatically and editors seemingly exist solely to enforce political correctness, so it’s possible this scribbler doesn’t know any better and the editors didn’t notice or care.

Ann Althouse said...

"Walk on eggs means whole eggs without breaking them."

But no one looks at a whole egg and calls it an eggshell, so where do you get your information?

Ralph L said...

She should have used "forthright" to avoid being althoused.

Tommy Duncan said...

"...we're not worried about breaking the shells, but we're catering to the delicate feelings or short temper of some person who'd be disturbed by something as inconsequential as the crack of an eggshell."

The current term for those people is "snowflake".

Shouting Thomas said...

Congratulations on your fame and good fortune, professor.

You deserve it.

Any grammar corrections I need here?

Ann Althouse said...

I'm seeing some "science" experiments (on YouTube) where people try to "walk on eggshells" by walking on eggs in their cartons, one foot on a dozen eggs, with pairs of boxes lined up so steps can be taken. I don't believe this is the original image. The configuration was devised after hearing the phrase. My question is: What was the original image that led to the phrase? I believe eggshells were once tossed on the floor as eggs were prepared and walking across the room would then cause slight noise as the shells cracked unless you stepped carefully and squeezed the eggshells to muffle the sound. The concern was that there was a person around you who'd be irritated by a trifling disturbance.

Prove me wrong!

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks for verbing my name, Ralph.

I've heard "ralph" as a verb, by the way.

Ralph L said...

If you're on a plush lawn sometime with a raw egg in hand

Happens all the time with me. It might not break if you've put the scythe on its highest setting.

Ralph L said...

Talking to Ralph on the big white phone.

Ann Althouse said...

Another problem with the sentence in the post title, which Meade pointed out to me, is that "the one in the middle" could be read to refer to one of the eggs. "What will the Supreme Court look like when neither side has to walk on eggs to win the favor of the one in the middle?" The egg in the middle. One could dissolve into the absurdity of seeking favor from an egg.

Ann Althouse said...

"Talking to Ralph on the big white phone."

Exactly.

rhhardin said...

Walking on eggs is about Roe vs Wade.

Unknown said...

I want to know what she is referring to when she says “more honest”, but I honestly don’t want to give the NYT a click through.

-sw

rehajm said...

Walking on eggs is another form of the egg-spression. Like people walking on broken glass pins and needles or some other not usually walked on stuff, just another form of 'tread lightly'.

Prove me wrong.

rhhardin said...

You could probably walk on eggs with the right thing under the eggs.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

I believe eggshells were once tossed on the floor as eggs were prepared and walking across the room would then cause slight noise as the shells cracked unless you stepped carefully and squeezed the eggshells to muffle the sound. The concern was that there was a person around you who'd be irritated by a trifling disturbance.

Is this from the same set of language interpretation mad skillz you used when you suggested that 'creepy-ass cracker' was actually 'creepy ass-cracker?'

That's one of my all-time favorite Althousian moments, by the way! :)

tcrosse said...

When showing your fingers, be careful of "the one in the middle" .

Ralph L said...

Perhaps it was a typo of "flavor."
The egg in the middle is the one most likely to be crushed the flattest.
Exactly. haha

Ralph L said...

Walking on eggs is about Roe vs Wade.
Excellent!
Who'd a thunk both pairs would fit?

gilbar said...

respectfully Professor Althouse, you're making some drastic over assumptions when you assume that Greenhouse* has ANY concept of writing; it sure never shows in her work. She just goes to the cliche drawer, and pulls out a handful of type, then sets them down.

Greenhouse* people in greenhouses shouldn't throw eggshells?

tcrosse said...

You can't make an omelet without walking on eggs.

sodal ye said...

Ralph L said... Talking to Ralph on the big white phone

If, like myself, you attended a Brit public school, the correct word is “chunder”. It goes back to seafaring days. For the classic usage google Gap Yah, YouTube. A very good video.

Lloyd W. Robertson said...

The Urban Dictionary says "walking on eggshells" is a synonym for "walking on thin ice." I don't think this is right. Walking on thin ice is a clear danger to yourself--you're trying to reach a destination without drowning or near-drowning (icy water being more dangerous than warmer water). I agree with our host, walking on eggshells has to do with the feelings of other people. I have to walk very carefully, perhaps quietly, without disturbing anything, because if I walk normally I will upset someone. The implication is that there is an unreasonable excess of concern about something on the other person(s)' part. I should be able to make a joke about a Scotsman, at least if I am one, but the tight-asses I work with get upset: I have to walk on eggshells, or it's like walking on eggshells. I don't think it matters whether the shells are still intact, with egg inside, or not. You wouldn't want to walk on them if you could avoid it: it's awkward, even if it's not actually messy. This awkwardness is imposed on you by the excessively delicate feelings of other people.
"Pins and needles" is different: if I'm nervous or anxious, waiting to hear about a job, I might be "on pins and needles," unable to sit comfortably or relax.

Ralph L said...

I thought we were trying to preserve the eggshells, not the feelings of other people.
Greenhouse wants to grind them up for compost.

Ralph L said...

chunder
The American version of that is blowing chunks.
I still smile at Waugh's Thunder Box for the other end.

Eleanor said...

You can walk on eggs without breaking them if you wear snowshoes, which also makes walking on thin ice safer, too.

Eva Zukotynski said...

From the internets: "My guess (based on raising chickens) is that it's based on how hens walk when getting in and out of their nests (with careful steps). Or perhaps it's from when you're trying to find where your chickens hid their eggs, and need to walk gingerly in the area." In that case either eggs or eggshells would be correct.

tim maguire said...

I've never walked on eggshells so I can't say for sure what it's like. It seems likely that it is related to fragility. For some reason we're supposed to not break them.

There is another possibility: what if walking barefoot on eggshells is like walking barefoot on legos? You have to be careful or it will hurt. (Could the shell shards pierce the skin?)

Fernandistein said...

"Walk on eggs"? The conventional phrase is "walk on eggshells,"

I bet the authorette is not fluent in Greek. Or Runic.

Despite that, "walk on eggs" is more conventional than "walk on eggshells".

Fernandistein said...

..up until 1989.

SteveR said...

Getting two on the court, in two years, will cover the reason for my vote. I’ll have an egg in my beer.

wildswan said...

Here's video of someone walking on eggs - very carefully.
https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cocktail-party-physics/walking-on-eggshells-anatomy-of-a-science-story/ . The video is halfway down the article and the egg walking begins about one minute in.

The shape and structure of eggs allows you to walk on them - pretty neat. But as Althouse says - the idiom is "walking on eggshells." In "walking on eggshells" the egg structure is broken and ... ?you are just trying not to spread the mess any further and not to have to be the one who cleans them up? Anyhow "walking on eggs" and "walking on eggshells" are two different idioms based on two different circumstances. And which came first - the egg or the shell?

And why did the chicken cross the road? Because of Donald Trump.

Fernandistein said...

But as Althouse says - the idiom is "walking on eggshells."

No it's not. "Walking on eggs" was more common from the 1800's until quite recently.

traditionalguy said...

WaPo admits the issues of rights and freedom of Americans in the Constitution
have been a thumbs up or thumbs down decision
by one man, the Emperor Kennedy,
for 20+ years.

becauseIdbefired said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
becauseIdbefired said...

"Walk on eggs"?

We had one of those team building exercises and we had to discover the goal to make shoes that could carry eggs without breaking them, from various raw materials.

The image I get is you have to walk over raw, unbroken eggs. Humpty Dumpty can't be put back together again, so don't break your relationship with the swing middle that has all the power.

Hmm. Being in the middle is a good place to be.

gspencer said...

"Greenhouse writes 'more honest.'"

Never seen in the same room at the same thing: Linda Greenhouse as a stand-in for any Democrat and the truth/honesty.

Jupiter said...

Ralph L said...
"Talking to Ralph on the big white phone."

Close. Calling Ralph on the white phone.

Ralph? Ralph? Hey, Rrrrraaaalph!?

Jupiter said...

It is encouraging to see that Greenhouse has already reached "acceptance" in her Kavanaugh grief process. Trump is slowly grinding the bastards down. Ah, the keening of their women.

tcrosse said...

Calling Ralph on the white phone.

Also known as Looking for O'Rourke.

Roy Jacobsen said...

Calling Ralph on the white phone.

Also known as Looking for O'Rourke.


Or "Calling the Irishman."

Andrew said...

I'm shocked that no one has brought up the Eggshell Skull Rule concerning tort victims. (Are there any lawyers or law professors in the crowd?)

Trust me, you do not want to walk on the heads of such people. Remember the movie Scanners?

MikeR said...

Walking on eggs seems to be a standard variation, (a) from googling, (b) from my own impressions and experience. Maybe eggshells is the original and makes a little more sense.

Ann Althouse said...

"I thought we were trying to preserve the eggshells, not the feelings of other people."

Why would anyone care about preserving eggshells? And if for some reason you had eggshells you wanted to preserve — such as "blown" eggs for Easter decoration — you wouldn't having them on the floor.

Notice that we tend to say things like, "It's like I have to walk on eggshells when I'm around him." The problem isn't the eggshells, but the person who makes you walk on them. The person is creating an unstable environment that makes you feel as though you are walking on eggshells, but why, if eggshells were on the floor, would you care how you stepped on them?

I'm getting confused about it now!

How can the eggshell correspond to the person? If what you mean is that this person is as fragile as an eggshell so I have to be careful around him, then why does merely being around him correspond to walking? The person is the eggshell AND talking is walking. But talking to a person is normally what you do with a person, and walking on eggshells is not what you normally do with eggshells, and if it were, why would you feel you needed to walk carefully on the eggshells? I wouldn't care. If there were eggshells on the floor, I'd walk around them unless I thought it was fun to crush them, and then I wouldn't be delicate about it.

So maybe it should be walking on eggs? If you were walking on eggs, you would step carefully and try not to break them, but I have a hard time picturing walking on whole eggs. They'd roll out from under your feel. I had to picture a small room with lots of eggs, packed closely wall to wall. Could be a museum installation of some kind. But don't let anyone actually walk on it.

mockturtle said...

"Walk on eggs"? The conventional phrase is "walk on eggshells,"

I had always heard, 'Walk on eggs' long before I heard 'walk on eggshells'.

dustbunny said...

Walking on eggshells is walking on whole eggs because you need to tread carefully or you will make a mess. It doesn’t make much sense to say walking on eggs as people will, as Althouse does, envision fried or raw eggs on the floor. It’s walking on eggshells that contain eggs that requires care and dexterity and is a nearly mpossible task

n.n said...

But I don't know what to do with those tossed salads and scrambled eggs.
They're callin' again.

Scrambled eggs all over my face. What is a boy to do.

Goodnight, everybody.


Linda Greenhouse? Is this the end of the seven trimester baby hunt and trials?

becauseIdbefired said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carter Wood said...

In German, one equivalent phrase is "einen Eiertanz auffuehren," which is "to lead an egg dance" as in dancing between eggs.


From German Wikipedia, translated by Google:

The first evidence of the word can be found in 1795 in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Wilhelm Meister apprenticeship, in which Mignon dances blindfolded between eggs laid out on the floor. Pierer's universal lexicon of 1858 describes this dance as an "art achievement of tightrope walkers and the like. related artists by dancing blindfolded between, out in distances eggs, od. probably after they have such crazy with his feet, running grotesque dances, no one to touch them. " [2]

At present, similar terms such as "dumping" and "messing around" are often used, meaning a wandering or inconsistent tactics in difficult, complex situations. According to the Bloomberg news agency, the expression " German egg dance" flowed into the English vocabulary in 2011 as a loan word to describe the hesitant attitude of Germany in the euro crisis . [3]


Fantastic painting, Pieter Aertsen, Der Eiertanz (1552).

becauseIdbefired said...

The "Free dictionary" cites a number of sources for "Walking on Eggs", including The American Heritage Dictionary of idioms, The Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary, and McGraw-Hills Dictionary of American Slang and Colloguial Expressions.

It means to proceed cautiously.

Walk on eggshells too is meant to mean act with great care so as not to upset someone, but it doesn't make sense. The eggs are already broken, what does it matter?

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/walk+on+eggs

traditionalguy said...

Maybe it’s Faberge Eggs and is a code that
means Russian assets are getting on the Supreme Court. Kavanaughski is way too perfect. He is a sleeper Justice groomed from birth like Trumpski.

becauseIdbefired said...

If you were walking on eggs, you would step carefully and try not to break them, but I have a hard time picturing walking on whole eggs.

Leave them in the carton.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVez0qA66-M

Ralph L said...

Could be a museum installation of some kind.
I'll bet it's been done.

I have 7 expired eggs in the fridge, if there weren't so many mosquitoes outside I'd experiment. My kitchen floor mats are too precious.

Compare with barefootin' on broken glass. It's care taken for self-interest, not the squashing of the delicate.

mockturtle said...

Ralph, eggs are good for much longer than the stamped 'expiration date'.

Earnest Prole said...

For a visual depiction of walking on eggs, see the cover of Pete Townshend's 1972 album Who Came First.

rhhardin said...

If the recipe calls for fresh eggs you need fresh eggs. Otherwise eggs last for months in the fridge. Hard boiled are easier to shell if old.

n.n said...

Walking on eggs absorbs the tell-tale sounds. It has to be only the shells, or you have a fool for a baker. My guess is that this is not about Trump, but a quiet admission that Greenhouse has scrambled eggs all over her face.

n.n said...

Hard boiled are easier to shell if old.

Fresh eggs and EGGLETTES.

Wilbur said...

Why did the chicken walk halfway across the road? She wanted to lay it on the line.

Boys Life, 1964

Darrell said...

Walking on eggs is an abortion dog whistle for Lefties.

Richard Dolan said...

"so you're probably stuck with the nonabsolute meaning of "honest," if you're going to use that word at all."

The word is a bad fit to describe the compromises that are inevitable in a collective decisionmaking body. With Greenhouse, it's safe to assume she is targeting the textualists as semi-demi-hemi-'honest' rather than the living constitutionalists. Since the textualists are more often on the winning end of the sharply divided cases, and thus have to work out an opinion that the least convinced member of the majority is willing to sign on to, that's not entirely unfair even if 'honesty' isn't the best way to address it. With a dissent, there's much less need to compromise.

Yancey Ward said...

Looks like Greenhouse into the phase of acceptance now. At least she can count.

Ralph L said...

Ralph, eggs are good for much longer than the stamped 'expiration date'.

I know, we had some scrambled Tuesday and I didn't talk to myself on the big white phone, but I bought another dozen (and heavy cream) to make a pound cake or two.

n.n said...

Walking on eggs is an abortion dog whistle for Lefties.

She could have been a beautiful hen.

PM said...

She sells See's on the seashore.

Howard said...

Althouse, in her ongoing catfight with legal pundit Greenhouse, lays an egg like the left does everyday attacking the Cheetos colored Pillsbury dough boy

Ron Winkleheimer said...

"Walk on eggs"? The conventional phrase is "walk on eggshells,"

I think its regional. Anyway, you can walk on eggs without breaking them.


http://www.mykidsadventures.com/walking-on-eggs/

tcrosse said...

Cheetos colored Pillsbury dough boy

OT: After Pillsbury was acquired by General Mills, the Doughboy was darkened to be a sort of whole-wheat color, presumably to distinguish him from the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man.

R.J. Chatt said...

"I couldn't care less" is another one of those expressions best left unanalyzed. Why not say, "I don't care at all?" Saying you couldn't care less than not caring is sort of saying you do care. I intensely don't care. etc.

Personally this thread reminded me of when I was a child and how I reacted the very first time I heard the expression, "walking on eggshells." I was also confused by what it meant along the same lines. You can't walk on eggshells. Therefore being around someone who is like walking on egg shells means you can't be around them. They might seem hard and intact on the surface, but they shatter easily and the result is a mess. And then there's Humpty Dumpty and all he represents, an irreconcilable catastrophe.

R.J. Chatt said...

Of course I meant walking on eggs, but then if you are barefoot eggshells also applies.

rcocean said...

If Trump hadn't won, we'd be knowing right now, what a SCOTUS that "doesn't have to defer to someone in the middle" would be like.

Here's a clue: Read the Sotomayer dissent in the 5-4 travel ban.

rcocean said...

Eggshells used since Eggs is ambiguous.

Never heard the phrase "walking on eggs". Always 'eggshells'



Howard said...

They both poseurs next to Michelin Man

tcrosse said...

This talk of eggs and eggshells is very Problematic for those Womyn who do not have Ovaries.

madAsHell said...

I've never heard of "walking on egg shells'. It has always been "walking on eggs".

Eggs have some value. Egg shells not so much.

Drinking fountain or bubbler??

tcrosse said...

Drinking fountain or bubbler??

Scuttlebutt.

madAsHell said...

Scuttlebutt?? The beer??

tcrosse said...

Scuttlebutt?? The beer??

Nautical expression for a drinking fountain. Also for gossip.

Danno said...

It is clear that Greenhouse ain't no Althouse!