Why We Say #26:rolling and ruling
Two quick “r”s before moving on to the S section:
As a teacher I must adhere to a couple of musts and one of those is taking attendance. I still find myself referring to it as “taking roll” which brings to mind me in a drill sergeant uniform and yelling out last names of my students as they stand at attention at their desks before sitting down to receive instruction. Now there’s a movie in the making, I know there is. Kind of a GI Jane meets Dead Poets Society. Wait a minute–I think Michelle Pfeiffer did it already. Never mind.
Seriously, taking attendance or taking roll, is a must-do within the first ten minutes of class. I have to scamper over to my desk computer and make sure all my darlings are in plus before dishing out my lesson du jour. So where did roll call come from?
Back in the day before books were bound, important documents were rolled up sheets of parchment, eventually become rolled paper. When a group assembled and the need to know who was present and who was not, the one taking attendance would unroll the paper and call out the names. Aah–so attendance and roll taking are in cahoots. I have a role in taking roll. I’ll take mine with cinnamon, thank you.
Teachers make judgments all the time. Sometimes I have time to make a quantitative decision based on fact and experience, no science involved at all, while other times I take a rule of thumb measurement and hope for the best. Seat of the pants decision making–but that term is somewhere in the S zone coming up.
Rule of thumb–an odd little expression that harkens back to the days when people measured not with accurate tools but with their body parts. Yes, the ark was built with elbow power (check out cubit sometime). In this case thumbs and fingers measured a given unit. It probably wasn’t as accurate as a measuring tape or a ruler, but if those are invented yet a person improvises. Yes, improvised decisions are called rule of thumb.
You know something–why we say these sayings do make more than sense. Although putting a crown on my thumb would be kind of weird.