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Posted on Jan 19, 2024 in Blog, Languages

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

Once Bitten, Twice Shy

From time to time, my blog posts have focused on English-language idioms that language learners have told me they find useful. Today’s is one of them, prompted by two nuisance snowstorms in my area in a week. (Nuisance snowstorms, for all you readers in warmer places, are ones that make roads and sidewalks slick and treacherous but don’t pile up snow or reduce visibility to zero.)

Charlie and his favorite “litter mate,” Maddy.

The expression “once bitten, twice shy” comes from people bitten by dogs who avoid dogs in the future for fear of being bitten again. Or as my late husband’s father used to say, “You know he doesn’t bite. I know he doesn’t bite. But does he know he doesn’t bite?” ¬†Richard’s father, in fact, had been bitten by a dog as a child and was afraid of them ever since.

I love dogs and have had good experiences with them. My sweet bichon frise, Charlie, never bit anyone in his 15-year life. What I don’t have good experiences with is ice and snow.

I didn’t grow up in a cold-weather place. The only time I saw ice and snow in Houston (outside of the skating rink at the Galleria) was the morning after my father had left the sprinkler on overnight and the temperature dipped below freezing. We awoke to a snowy front lawn — the only snowy front lawn in the neighborhood, which briefly made us an attraction for the other kids until it melted. Oh, and our pipe froze and cracked.

When I went to university in the Northeast, ice and snow were new experiences for me, and I quickly paid the price for my ignorance. I suffered frostbite the winter of my sophomore year. Yet not having a car saved me from the worst consequences of my lack of preparation.

Since then, I’ve driven one car into a ditch during a snowstorm while showing off my four-wheel drive. In that case, I didn’t skid; rather, in 14 inches of snow I couldn’t see where the road ended and the ditch began. Nine years later, I flipped a car during an ice storm on the Northway near Saratoga Springs. The ice storm was supposedly winding down after my family had been confined to our house for three days. I was getting antsy and took chances. I was lucky to not be injured, though my husband’s car was totaled.

My Lego sigfig (signature figure) broke her leg long before I did.

The worst, though, was what happened to me four years ago, in a slushy nuisance snowstorm while I was coming home from the 2020 Women’s March. I slipped on a patch of ice and broke my ankle. Although I heard the bone(s) snap like dry twigs, I remained in denial for six more days. A night-long emergency room visit, surgery, and a year of rehab followed.

Now when the snow falls, I stay inside. I don’t care if it’s one day or two weeks. If the sidewalk isn’t completely clear, I don’t try my luck without my ice cleats and maybe not even then. I walk around snow piles. The injury has left that ankle weaker for the purpose of balance and stability, but even more of an issue is the fact that I’m nervous on slick surfaces. Lack of confidence makes walking even more treacherous.

On the other hand, being stuck inside means I have more time to get work done. If you’re expecting anything from me, you will have it in hand quite soon.

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