A seriously kicked can

A seriously kicked can (Orin Zebest on Flickr)

There's a new game in town. 

Or, actually, there's not.

But judging from the enthusiasm with which Gov.Martin O'Malley has embraced his latest catchphrase, you could see why someone might think so.

The governor doesn't want to play kick the can. Anyone even casually following his Twitter account (@GovernorOMalley) knows it, what with his dropping the hashtap #Can'tKickCan into dozens of Tweets -- sometimes nearly a dozen in one day.

Stop kicking the can down the road is the theme for his proposal for a statewide gas sales tax. As in, we can't keep putting things off, kicking the can down the road, we need money from a gas tax right now. (Or as in this, one of his actual Tweets: "Everything has a cost. There's no way to construct a $100M bridge for $10M. #CantKickCan")

The governor's spokeswoman Raquel Guillory isn't giving credit for the line to any one person. And no -- you can't buy a Can Kicker shirt anywhere yet that we know of.

The thing is, O'Malley has latched on to a phrase that had people yawning long before he started using it.

Obama has been accused of can-kicking.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said last year there's only so far we can kick it.

House Speaker John Boehner has accused Congress of having its way with cans.

On NPR's Marketplace a few months ago Kai Ryssdal said the phrase had reached serious cliche status, calling it "horribly overused." Reporter Nancy Marshall Genzer couldn't figure out exactly when people started using the phrase to mean putting something off. "It's as old as procrastination," she said.

Of course the phrase comes from the classic kids game where one person kicks a can away from someone else and then tries to hide while that person goes after the can. Or something like that. It's been a while since we played. But the point is kicking the can gives someone time to run away.

Yet O'Malley might be surprised to know his beloved can he can't kick is not only a kids game.

Kick the Can is an anti-soda campaign. There's even a Kick the Can game on Facebook (played 9,450 times) where you can kick a can in a field. (It's not particularly fun.)

It's the name of a cookbook, with recipes for "Homemade Low-Sodium Soups that ROCK."

It's the title of journalist Jim Lehrer's stab at a coming-of-age novel about a guy blinded in one eye by a game of kick the can.

It's an episode of the "Twilight Zone" about, according to IMBD, an old man who belives he's found the secret of youth in childrens games. 

And, it's even a Texas program to encourage people to get rid of water-wasting toilets.

Whatever it is, the governor and his followers can't get enough #Can'tKickCan. Others wish he'd just kick the habit.

Consider these Tweets:

Dan Long ‏ @LongWayOut15: "If I see #cantkickcan 1 more time, I'll scream. I think we should put @GovernorOMalley and the other @mddems in a can and kick it out of MD!"

Sean Agnew ‏ @seanagnew: "@GovernorOMalley you're right.. we #CantKickCan, but we can #KickYouOuttaOffice"

Tony DeFranco ‏ @TonyDeFranco: "Substance aside, #CantKickCan is the dumbest hashtag ever."

jill.rosen@baltsun.com

@BaltInsider