Idioms, cliches and proverbs

Idioms, cliches and proverbs drive me crrrrrazzzyy!

An idiom is simply a phrase which has a different meaning than its words, such as “cooking with gas”. Literally, it means that we are cooking (a meal) with gas (instead of electricity). But, that is not how we use the phrase, when we say someone is “cooking with gas”, we mean that person is  going fast or accomplishing a task at a speedy rate.

Gas stoves came into use during the 1800s (before that was the wood burning stoves) and this term came from advertising the gas stove as cooking fast, “cooking with gas”.

A cliche is similar to an idiom but is worn out, overused. “Oh, for crying out loud” is a part of our language, definitely overused here in the Midwest, and has nothing to do with crying or saying anything out loud. Actually, it means that the person thinks someone is doing or saying something that is absurd or ridiculous.

A proverb is a phrase that is derived from the Bible and has become a part of our everyday language, such as, “climb the wall” (Joel 2:7). I climb the wall in winter after a long bout of zero temperatures and snowy days. What I am really saying is that I am restless, ready for some type of activity instead of being “cooped up” in the house.

Foreigners may think that we physically climb a wall; instead, the meaning is nearly the opposite.

I can not even imagine how hard it is for people who are learning our language and trying to understand our words, then hear someone say “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, or “bite the bullet”, or “how now, brown cow”. Now really, “how now, brown cow” is suppose to mean something! Eh, “what’s up!”

I will be writing more on idioms, cliches and proverbs because they make up so much of our language (at least here in the Midwest). If you are from the East coast or West coast or the South, do you use these phrases as much as we do in the Midwest? What about the people we encounter who are not from America and are trying to learn our language, do you think that every time we use one of those phrases, our communication is being jeopardized? I would be interested in hearing from you and to know “How do you like them apples?”

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