Saturday, January 3, 2009

Be careful with idioms (and idiots too)

Is Twitter all it is cracked up to be? (means: not as good as people say it is)

My teenage son laughed when I used that phrase. "Are you on crack cocaine?" he said. I began to wonder if he was on to something or if I was simply trying to crack him up?

"cracked up to be" is an idiom. Do you know what an idiom is? No, it is not something just for idiots, usually.

Dictionary says an idiom is "a group of words which, when used together, have a different meaning from the one suggested by the individual words, eg it was raining cats and dogs"

A better definition: a natural manner of speaking to a native speaker of a language. Remember, not everyone speaks and reads English.

Examples of idioms:

A Dime A Dozen: Anything that is common and easy to get.
A long row to hoe:
a difficult task that takes a long time. Must derive from gardening?
all in a day's work: to understate an important achievement
ball breaker: someone who is unreasonable and excessively difficult to have dealingswith
bite off more than one can chew: to be overly ambitious, to take on more than is possible to deal with
Busman's holiday: A busman's holiday is when you spend your free time doing the same sort of work as you do in your job.
cruising for a bruising to behave in a manner that is likely to bring about bodily harm in theform of injury inflicted by others
Don't Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth: When someone offers you a gift, take it!
everything but the kitchen sink practically everything including that which is not necessary
feel your oats to be full of energy, fueled up
handle with kid gloves to be extremely delicate and careful with someone
in a jiffy very quickly
join the club "I understand your problem and sympathize"
Long in the Tooth: Old people (or horses).
Never Bite The Hand That Feeds You: Don't be a damn fool.
Son of a Gun: A scamp. "I'll be a son of a gun!"
Til the cows come home: A long time.
When Pigs Fly: Something that will never ever happen.

Here is a list of many more idioms: .

The problem with an idiom is that someone who is not very familiar with English, for example, may not understand what you are saying when you use an idiom. This is particularly problematic on the Internet and not necessarily in your local newspaper.

Idioms also create serious problems if you put up your ad in another country. For example:

In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" came out as "Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead."

Also in Chinese, the Kentucky Fried Chicken slogan "finger-lickin' good" came out as "eat your fingers off."

And this one that is especially telling in today's economy:
When General Motors introduced the Chevy Nova in South America, it was apparently unaware that "no va" means "it won't go." After the company figured out why it wasn't selling any cars, it renamed the car in its Spanish markets to the Caribe.


I get the feeling that many idioms were common in the past but are not used by younger people now. How many of these do you recognize?

What about Twitter, you ask? I will address the question "Is Twitter all it's cracked up to be" in the next post, that is unless I am joshing you or if I am telling you a cock and bull story.

Greg Cryns

All About Paso Robles

1 comment:

  1. That's such a nice video! I found lots of idioms here, some idioms is really helpful for me. great job Greg!

    With thanks,
    Interesting Facts