Thursday, August 29, 2013
Have you ever barked up the wrong tree only to add insult to injury? Perhaps you bit off more than you could chew and flew by the seat of your pants just to call it a day when the shit hit the fan. Have you ever busted someone’s chops when they spilled the beans about some secret? Of course, you might just hit the road when someone you cared about through thick and thin dropped a dime on you and you got all bent out of shape for having an Achilles’ heel.
Does any of this make sense? Well, if you haven’t figured it out, the above paragraph is full of idioms. Idioms are a string of words that have a ‘figurative meaning’ which is separate from literal meaning. According to Wikipedia, there are over 25,000 idioms in the English language. Now, English idioms are comical, thought provoking, bizarre and down right befuddling if you don’t know the context around their meaning, but I’d bet you would find you use them much more than you realize. A few people I know remind me that I often employ idioms and clichés far too often for their liking, instead of being direct and specific. I wonder where that comes from. To be honest though, there’s something whimsically fun in saying “don’t beat around the bush” rather than just tell me; I’m all ears, rather than I’m listening, or “Don’t have a cow” instead of please don’t over react. Idioms and clichés command power and have longevity because they either have a kernel of truth to them or touch on an emotional, social, or psychological level that resonates beyond their first utterance.
It doesn’t matter if you’re fit as a fiddle or sick as a dog. Sometimes you just have to bit the bullet and hit the road at the drop of a hat before you wind up pushing up daisies if you want to get something done. Through thick and thin, idioms have been with us, evolving, growing and persevering through social, economic, and cultural changes. Now I’d say they’ll be here alive and well long after all of us have kicked the bucket. To me that just takes the cake. Why? Well I love language, I love the intricate and dynamic nature of its usage, the flowing subtle or abrupt nuance each word brings to a sentence and the strange and interesting ways words originated. Quick story: one of the most memorable classes from college for me was one I didn’t take. Strange, right? Well, for two years I tried to get into this one English class called ‘the origin of words, idioms and phrases’ and for two years I couldn’t do it. The class was always full. Doesn’t that just burn your ass? I always figured everyone wanting to get into that class thought as I did. It must be pretty damned cool.
Honestly, I’m not pulling your leg, I’m on the straight and narrow here. You might say idioms are a dime a dozen, but sometimes, using them is right as rain. Think about it. A language without colorful metaphors and whimsical idioms and clichés would be such a drag. I’d rather live it up enjoying the vibrancy of our language. It’s better than being high and dry up shit’s creek without a paddle. I think one of the best things about idioms and the evolution of our language is it does not stop. Ever wonder why catch phrases from celebrities and TV show characters are so prevalent? It’s because they capture the essence and meaning of the day’s important or relevant feelings. Idioms have meaning because they sum up a lot of what we are feeling in a neat little package. Just make sure you don’t get bogged down in the muck. Sometimes putting things in your own words is a much better course of action.
If I’m driving you up a wall don’t jump down my throat, I’m almost finished. The thing about idioms is, if you really think about what they are saying, where they came from and how they are used, you can get a better understanding as to why they are used, why they have staying power and just how comical they can be. Just don’t overdo it. You might make someone as mad as a hatter.
Bonus points if you can identify all of the idioms in this post!
Thanks for reading.
Questions and comments are welcome.
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