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TWTS: Life can be tough, but sometimes it’s peaches and … gravy?

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Remember when there wasn’t a pandemic constantly threatening our health and well-being? You know, back when masks didn’t outnumber everything else in our wardrobes and we didn’t have to weigh the risks of going to a movie or a restaurant?

For a lot of us, those “before times” probably seem like peaches and cream compared to right now. Or maybe to you they seem like peaches and roses. Or rainbows and kittens.

What about “peaches and gravy”?

“Peaches and gravy” may not sound like the best combination if you’re looking for something to eat. As words though, they’re just another phrase to describe a delightful state of affairs, maybe even something that’s too good to be true.

Though not as popular as its more palatable counterparts, “peaches and gravy” gained prominence in 2003. That’s when Brad Miller of the Indiana Pacers described his team’s struggles at the time by saying, “It’s not going to be peaches and gravy all the time.”

Some commentators described Miller’s use of this phrase as a “malaphor” or a merging of idioms that combine to produce something nonsensical. Their assumption was that Miller was combining “peaches and cream” with “gravy train.”

Professor Anne Curzan isn’t convinced that was the case.

“It’s true that we don’t right now have any record of ‘peaches and gravy’ before 2003. But I think there’s a chance Miller was using a version of a phrase that already had a lot of variants,” Curzan says.

Those variants include, as mentioned, “peaches and cream,” which goes back at least to the late 1800s, and “peaches and roses,” which goes back at least to 1854. If you look in databases, you’ll also find “peaches and ice cream.”

Peaches don’t have to be part of the equation. All you really need is two things that tend to be associated with bliss. Professor Curzan’s personal preference is “puppies and rainbows,” but you might say “unicorns and rainbows. Or, if you’re Lesley Gore, you might say “sunshine and lollipops.”

What’s your favorite variant? Better yet, what’s the strangest variant you’ve ever heard?

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Rebecca Kruth is the host of Weekend Edition at Michigan Radio. She also co-hosts Michigan Radio’s weekly language podcast That’s What They Say with English professor Anne Curzan.
Anne Curzan is the Geneva Smitherman Collegiate Professor of English and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor at the University of Michigan. She also holds faculty appointments in the Department of Linguistics and the School of Education.
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