Go Fly a Kite!

Kite

We’ve all wondered at times where certain “sayings” originated and who came up with them. Right? Maybe it’s just me. Either way, I’m going to share. You’re welcome.

With the windy weather of March heading our way “Go Fly a Kite” is one of those sayings that comes to mind and one that I personally have often sat and pondered.

Was it originally meant literally? Maybe it was a polite way of telling someone to go do something else not involving you. On the other hand, was it a callous way of dismissing an annoying person from your space? If you said the phrase to someone during a thunderstorm, did you harbor untold hatred for him or her in your heart?

With these questions in mind, I went on a research spree that took me across the globe. Okay, you got me. I never left my desk. Still, I gained worldly knowledge that I am happy to share. Turns out the phrase has as many meanings as Walmart has kites. To make certain you are using it properly in a given situation, please, read on.

Primarily, this is a handy grouping of words for when an unwanted relative drops in unexpectedly. You know the ones. Uncle (insert relative name here) from up north is making his annual trek to the Florida coast and is too cheap to foot the bill for a motel room. Lucky you. Your house just happens to be about halfway between his humble abode and a sandy beach. Keep in mind that if you use this phrase to send Uncle, let’s call him Dave, on his way, you will most likely be asked to supply the kite. Uncle Dave never was too bright.

According to the final edition of the Toronto Star, the phrase originated during the stock market crash of 1929. Loosely interpreted, it meant “go do something futile,” supposedly referring to the useless bits of paper being tossed out windows after the crash. It might be difficult in 2018 to find anyone who witnessed said tossing in order to ask if they used the phrase. It is unlikely to be their strongest memory with everything else that took place that day.

In the nineteenth century, flying a kite was a good way to see which direction the wind was blowing. Hmmm. That seems like a lot of trouble. Couldn’t you just wear a hat, turn in circles, then see which way it traveled when the wind blew it off your head? Hat stays put, no wind. Problem solved.

In the same century, a man looking for work would send out letters to strangers, much like our modern day resumes. He might get the response telling him to “Go fly a kite.” This meant, “I can’t help you, but keep sending out those letters.”

The phrase is said to have been used back in 1839 in reference to writing a fictitious check as well as to raise money by issuing commercial paper on nonexistent funds.
Bing Crosby sang about flying a kite by telling us to tie our troubles to the tail thereby tossing them to the wind. That smooth crooner attested that a merry gale would blow them away and they wouldn’t come back. I attest that if you tie too many troubles to the end of a kite you’ll never achieve lift-off.

Let’s move on to the official meaning of the phrase as listed in the Cambridge Dictionary since it is the most simple of all. The dictionary says “Go fly a kite” is a common and frequently used figure of speech for when you want to tell someone annoying to go away. Sounds about right.

Remember, you can totally change the meaning of the phrase by adding one simple word in front of go. Let’s. Suddenly this becomes a fun activity.

Of course, no article about kite flying would be complete without the mention of dear old Ben Franklin. There is much conjecture as to whether or not Franklin actually performed the experiment so closely linked to his history. All I will say is that if Franklin did in fact tie a metal key to a kite string then launch said kite into the air during a thunder storm hoping for a hit, he’d fit right in with Uncle Dave.

Look, we’ve circled back around to Uncle Dave. No wind needed. Uncle Dave, if you’re reading this article, my apologies.
Contact Cyn Taylor at cyntaylor2016@gmail.com

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