A Hairy Situation: Words People with Hair Loss Can’t Use
There are phrases in the American lexicon that just don't apply to to those who are balding or suffer from hair loss.
“Choose your words wisely and with care,” we are told. Good advice, especially for a writer. But there are some words that really can’t be used by those who are high up on the bald spectrum. Losing your hair is bad enough; losing part of your language is just adding insult to injury.
You know the kinds of phrases I’m talking about: those that make specific mention of hair or are in some way related to hair.
Granted, not being able to apply these phrases to oneself can sometimes be a boon. Let’s take the expression “split hairs,” meaning a tendency to waste a lot of time on insignificant little details rather than looking at the big picture. It’s OK to lose that one; who wants to be thought of as a nitpicker? (“Nitpicker” is another phrase that can’t really apply to a bald person, since it literally means someone who picks head lice out of a nice head of hair.)
It’s also great to know that though you may not have much on top, you’re tops in the bravery department. After all, how can something “make your hair stand on end” or “curl your hair” if you have no hair to stand or curl?
Your progeny don’t miss these hair-centered words
The benefits don’t just apply to yourself; your kids must feel pretty good about themselves, knowing that without hair, you’re not able to complain about all the “gray hairs” they’ve given you. Also, they must be very well behaved, since you obviously can’t tell anyone how their disobedience really makes you “tear your hair out.”
On the downside, it’s a little bit unfair that no matter how much pride you take in your appearance -- and justifiably so, I might add, you stud -- you can no longer be referred to as “clean-cut.” You’re also right to be peeved that no matter what a favorite of the boss you are -- and again, deservedly so -- it’s no longer appropriate for your rivals to snidely refer to you as the boss’s “fair-haired boy.”
Listen, I know that you are far from uptight, that you are about as “loose” as it’s permissible to be. That doesn’t change the fact that neither of us can “let his hair down” anymore, no matter how hard we try. Then again, we’re admirably unflappable, as witness the fact that no one ever “gets in our hair.”
It’s a plus that we need never worry about a “bad hair day,” but for someone as precise as I, it’s a burden to no longer be praised for having “not a hair out of place.” On the other hand, since I can no longer win “by a hair,” I take that to mean that my triumphs are all pretty decisive.
There are times when some bald guys really wish they could “wash that man right out of their hair”; things are made worse by knowing that they can’t put these men off with the excuse “I can’t go out because I have to wash my hair.” Perhaps they can take comfort in knowing that at least these troublesome men won’t be able to “harm a hair on their heads.”
The roads are safer when my language is de-hairified
On the very positive side, my road rage has subsided considerably since I lost my “hair-trigger temper”; on the negative side, it’s now a real challenge to maneuver those “hairpin turns.” Still, even if I have an accident, I know I won’t “have a brush with” the law.
Speaking of which, if I were so inclined to lead a life of crime, it would be pretty darn easy. After all, how could the police catch a bandit that no one has ever “seen hide nor hair of?”
Although I’ve put a considerable amount of effort into creating this piece, I’m sure there must be plenty of phrases I’m overlooking. Still, that’s understandable: After all, how was I to “brush up” on my idioms without enough hair to make that brushing worthwhile? Likewise, how could I go over all this with “a fine-tooth comb?”
Perhaps this article was really just a “hair-brained idea,” which, by the way, does unfortunately still apply to a bald man, as “hair-brained” is simply a variation on the original “harebrained” -- and thus it refers to a bunny, not a baldy. Ah, well!
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