Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Why We Say: #14

Facing the music. For most of us that does not mean we are a conductor or going to a concert. Usually it means we have messed up and are about to deal with our consequences. Wait a minute–music is considered pleasant. Wouldn’t facing music be pleasant? Not if the band is playing and you’re in the line up for the firing squad. And the band played on takes on a whole different meaning.


“So, Eddie–what’s with the guy in the blind fold over by the wall?” image: morgue file

The scene: a business exec, clad in suit enters suburban home circa 1950s and excitedly greets wife stirring up dinner at the stove.

“Hey, Martha! Guess what, honey? You’re looking at the guy who just landed the Happy Holstein account. Get ready for some serious vacation time once my commission check comes through.”

“Oh, George! That’s wonderful, dear. That’s quite a feather in your cap. You worked hard to get that account.”

Fade out: happy couple celebrates over dinner and raised glasses of cheer and smiles.

George was fairly pleased with himself, and deservedly so. That Holstein account involved many overtime hours to get the right campaign ready for presentation. George placed his figurative feather in his cap for his achievement. If George had lived in the days of Edward the “Black Prince” (think the nice prince Heath Ledger’s William character faced in Knights Tale), he would have received three ostrich feathers for his valor or perhaps he would have fared well as a Lycian soldier who added a feather to his cap for every enemy soldier vanquished. Either way George can be pleased how he absolutely slayed that tough assignment.


George rocks his cap feather. image: morgue file

 a thing that is a complete failure, especially in a ludicrous or humiliating way.
“his plans turned into a fiasco
synonyms: failure, disaster, catastrophe, debacle, shambles, farce, mess, wreck
If George had blown the Holstein account he might have arrived home with the glum, instead of glad news, that his day had been a fiasco. Fiascos should be avoided, especially if one’s profession is a Venetian glass maker. Venetian glass is exquisite and craftsman pride is evident in the end product. If the slightest flaw became detected, the bottle was relegated to a common task which took on the name of “fiasco.” If you think about it, some mistakes can be as transparent as glass.

“Quartet of Fiascos” image: morgue file

A band of feathers and faulty glasses brought to you by Why We Say: a Guidebook to Current Idioms and Expressions and Where They Came From by Robert L. Morgan (if 1953 is considered current…)



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4 thoughts on “Why We Say: #14

  1. I thought “face the music” was describing an elementary school band concert.

    • I imagine many a school band instructor feels he or she is facing the music when students are pointing instruments of hearing destruction at them. We went through two band instructors in junior high.

  2. So if an unlucky glassblower creates one too many fiascos in Venice, the poor dear must walk across the Bridge of Sighs to face the music?

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