Travel back with me to those long-ago pre-Pandemic days when we went out of the house to do… well, everything. My husband, who has an antic sense of humor, got a screaming goat. This is a toy based on the internet meme. Press on the goat’s back and it screams. It’s a silly object, but one that has become central to our household functioning.
When California went into lockdown, both my husband and I started working from home. He is a recording engineer and tech engineer for a Major Motion Picture Sound Company, and suddenly he and his teammates were tasked with finding ways that they–and the sound and music editors they support–could work from home. He brought home a slew of equipment (my living room looks like the NASA Control Room) and went at it. The task came with a prodigious learning curve that they scaled fearlessly and quickly, but there were moments of frustration. Fortunately, with all the gear, he had also brought home the goat. When he was frustrated, he’d trigger the goat, which would scream. A useful outlet.
So useful that I decided I needed one too. Now, when I’m working from home and the urge to scream hits, I can hit my toy goat and it screams, and in a moment, from the other room, will come an answering scream. And vice versa.
It is a curiously satisfying way, both of discharging irritation and expressing solidarity. So much so that, when a friend became ill, I sent her a pair of screaming goats for herself and her husband. And when I came down to visit my 94-year-old aunt for the first time in 10 months (having been tested, scrubbed, and proved to be as safe as I could be, COVID-wise) I brought her a goat.
It is her new best friend. It makes her laugh, but more, in those inevitable moments when the indignities that come along with considerable age hit, the goat is a helpful outlet.
Since the goat seems to have a calming effect on my family, I wondered where the expression “got my goat” came from. If you get someone’s goat, you upset them. The true origins of the phrase are not confirmed, but one suggestion: apparently, high-strung race horses are often given a goat to keep them company when they’re at racecourses. So if someone takes the goat and your racehorse becomes distraught and therefore loses the race, you become upset. Because someone got your goat.
I don’t know if it’s true, but I kind of like it anyway. The goat, miraculous soother of racehorses and humans. Who knew?