Why Bother to Allow Some Idioms to Die?

Why Bother To Allow Some Idioms to Die?

Idioms are expressions that have a meaning different from the literal pattern of the language. These figures of speech are peculiar to a particular people, country, class or community. For instance, the Germans add a little color to the equivalent of our idiom, “The early bird catches the worm,” by saying, “The morning hour has gold in its mouth.” 

Some idioms have been around for a very long time. For instance, “A penny for your thought,” is quite an ancient saying dating back to around the 1500s. 

It holds a special meaning for me. My grandmother often used this figure of speech as an invitation, encouraging me, the shy child, to share my thoughts with her. 

Other idioms, in my opinion, have outlived their shelf life, and should be allowed to die a natural death. 

       Please Don’t Say

Two idioms that give me the same feeling as someone scraping their fingernails down a chalkboard are; “It is what it is” and “It takes a village to raise a child.” Ugh!

First of all, “It is what it is.” Its origin was taken from an article that described the harsh reality of frontier life on the Nebraska prairie. Back in the 1800s, frontiersmen and women had backbone, grit, determination and perseverance. They did not give up, shrug their shoulders, give in or turn around and walk away from the challenges they faced. No. They toiled, labored and endured the harsh winds, the deep snow, the droughts as well as the floods. They carved out their lives and made their living regardless of the hostilities they encountered in nature. 

Today though, these words are used in politics, sports, business, the military and psychology as a verbal shrug. It speaks of loss and our inability to change anything about that loss. Talk about a fatalistic point of view by a whole bunch of educated, yet feeble people. It would be better for all if this little ditty died since it only points out a person’s weakness. 

Secondly, “It takes a village to raise a child.” These words are quoted all too often and again, in my opinion, should be allowed to die. This particular phrase came from an African proverb and was used in the context of an African village. It does not hold its true meaning here in America. 

African villages were made up of family members. A village had history, roots, stability and a respected leader. Children learned from their ancestors who taught them how life should look in their village. Relatives showed children how to maintain not only a stable and sustainable way of life, but the legends and stories that made their way of life possible.

Not so true in America today. What it takes to raise a child this day in age is similar to what it took Nebraska’s frontiers men and women to carve out a way of life amid the harsh reality of the prairie;  grit, determination, perseverance, selflessness and commitment. Those ingredients come from people with a backbone and values they’d willingly die for. 

Why bother to allow some idioms to die? Some phrases are just not worth repeating since they point to what seems to be our weak kneed, mamby pamby way of shirking our responsibilities. But, that’s just my opinion.

Why Bother With Colorful Language?

Why Bother With Colorful Language?

“They’ve made their bed and now they have to sleep in it,” my grandmother would remark in a serious tone to no one in particular while watching the evening news.  I could never quite wrap my head around what she meant. 

But now I know. She was speaking in a language, that at the time, was foreign to my ears. After all, back then I was just a young whipper snapper trying to wrap my brain around what anybody said. But now I understand what she meant, even though the words were not directly related to their meaning.

My neighbor Diane spoke in the same way, naturally coloring her language with idioms. “I usually find it best to tend to my own knitting,” she’d say with a chuckle. I imagined her sitting in a rocking chair knitting, but she didn’t knit, instead, she kept her nose out of other people’s business. She was a good neighbor to have in the neighborhood. 

It is interesting to note how certain groups have their own special idioms that go along with their job and maybe even their gender. My husband, a foreman for a construction company, often brings some of his lingo home with him, and then forgets I’m not part of his crew. “I’m smelling what you’re stepping in,” he’ll say when I tell him of my idea of steak for dinner. 

When our sons collided while riding their bikes, skinned a knee while running or bruised an elbow falling off their skateboard, my tender hearted husband would hold them on his lap and say, “I’ve had worse on my lip and kept on whistling.” If that didn’t help, he’d help them rub some dirt on it. 

Maybe idioms also go along with particular personalities. I am not one who beats around the bush, and I wonder why others do. I have little patience for those who do not see the writing on the wall or get to the point. But I appreciate anyone who will take the bull by the horns and get things done. 

Sometimes life throws us a curveball and we forget how to make lemonade from all the lemons in our lives. But, one friend recently encouraged me by saying, “Keep your chin up and your tits out.” I found her words to be much more inspiring than the usual, “Hang in there.” I found the resolve to  stiffen my upper lip, find my boot straps and pull them up. 

In her last years of life, my mother’s cultured ways fell away as dementia settled in. Her personality changed into something a little more crass, or maybe her dementia uncovered more fully what was just below the surface. 

She was not an excessive drinker, but she’d always enjoyed her scotch and soda on ice when she got home from work. Living in a care facility in her later years, she never could understand where her scotch and sodas had gone. “Doesn’t that just frost your balls?” she’d say to me whenever she was told, “No Darleen, we don’t serve scotch and sodas with dinner.”

  Why bother with colorful language? I think it’s worth it. Idioms, not money or love, are what makes the world go round.