A small thing. At the end of the Ashes years ago when Shane Warne retired, M., American, came home from work carrying three of the promotional stubby holders that speak with Warne's voice when you put a weight on the interior button. He could understand everything the cricketer said, he told me, except -- and the saying was so unfamiliar that I had to work out the words for him. "Sweet as a nut, boys, sweet as a nut." He still didn't understand it, he said. What did sweet as a nut mean? I explained that it means some activity has gone well but when I tried to think of other examples I dried, I paused, I stopped -- my parents never say sweet as a nut, nobody I know says sweet as a nut, I don't say sweet as a nut, and I wouldn't have remembered that the saying existed at all if we hadn't had the stubby holder saying, "Sweet as a nut."
Reading Jenny Uglow's biography of Elizabeth Gaskell today I came across this extract from one of Gaskell's letters --
We have a pleasant sitting room au premier, two double-bedded rooms (one opening out of the sitting room --) breakfast (coffee bread & butter in our room) lunch any time we like … Bougies, wine & fire extra. We are 2 minutes from the sea, & the house is sweet as a nut.
-- and felt a shudder of surprise from my trapezius down, because I could hear Shane Warne saying the words as I read her letter, and also see M. standing in the dim room by his computer holding the yellow foam rubber cylinder, saying that now he knew the words the man was saying, but what did they mean?