Have you ever been happily reading, and come across an idiom, expression, or turn of phrase you’re familiar with, and suddenly the absurdity of it strikes you? Came across one yesterday in one of Jim C. Hines’s Princess series, The Mermaid’s Madness. (Re-reading, they have become comfort reads).
“That earned another chuckle. “He’s prince of Lorindar. He’s not used to feeling powerless.” He climbed to his feet.”
Climbed to his feet. That means to stand up, but it’s a damned silly expression. The more I think on it, the sillier it becomes. I used to have a bunch of these absurdities in my head, but naturally I can’t think of any of them now. Out of curiosity, does anyone else have favourite absurdities of expressions? Or peeves?
Raucous Indignation says
It doesn’t seem so silly to me now that I’m on the wrong side of 50.
Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk- says
Nothing ever beats pulling yourself together.
And I love that series.
Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says
They make sense, I guess, but the way that “needless to say” or “it goes without saying” or similar expressions are actually used ends up just making an argument sound … thoughtless.
It just occurred to me that I don’t mind when someone says, “it SHOULD go without saying that …” because that makes more sense. But then as soon as I had that thought, I was reminded of how people nowadays have dropped the “not” from “I could not care less” … so when they are attempting to express utter indifference, they’re actually saying that their level of care is *above* the minimum (or zero, or whatever).
On the other hand, “raining cats and dogs” makes no sense, but that one never bothers me at all.
That’s why you get Poodles.
No one knows the etymology of that expression, but there are possibilites:
I have to say I quite like “raining like a waterfall.” That’s a nice expression.
Rob Grigjanis says
If I run the gauntlet, will I cut the mustard?
Rob Grigjanis says
CD @3 and Caine @5: A 17th century reference to dogs and cats raining: John Phillips, Maronides (1678);
Maybe it’s supposed to be nonsense.
Raining cats and dogs doesn’t sound that bad… over here the expression is “raining pickaxes”. Ow!
My grandmothers’ expression was “raining pitchforks and little n….r babies.” Yeah, that weirded me out in 1958.
Many, many years ago, I heard a woman in South Carolina describe someone as being, “happy as a dead pig in the sunshine.” The more I thought about this one, the more grotesque sense it made (if it does not make sense to you, it’s explained here), but I’ve always wondered about the origins of something like that, i.e., that something so ugly would become something so casually benign and even humorous. Hell, there’s even a song named that!
One expression that I’ve always disliked is “the pot calling the kettle black.” Despite its simple description of one thing insulting another with an attribute shared equally by both, it’s always struck me as racist since “black” is reinforced as intrinsically insulting, rather than the neutral result of cast iron use over fire (I’ve never bought the idea of the pot seeing its own reflection in the shiny copper kettle, but that interpretation certainly applies to Republican rhetorical tactics).
But the concept is invaluable enough that I’ve resorted to making my own idiom, “like rain calling the river wet.” I’m sure others can come up with a better substitute (assuming others think it needs one), but I guess I like it because not only does it point out the rain’s hypocrisy, but also the rain is actually the cause of the river’s wetness so it’s extra hypocritical, and being “all wet” is already a mild insult, one geared toward attitude rather than state of being. I’m probably overthinking all this… >.>
If we’re talking about alternative sayings, my family is vegetarian, so my stepson likes to say he is “feeding two birds with one scone.”
I like that! I may adopt it…if I don’t forget before I encounter a situation to use it in.
I do not know about the experience of other polyglots around here, but I would be quite happy if they did not exist. And especially if the did not differ from language to language. You need to have your wits about you to deal with them.
I can never thank enough for my understanding of English to Terry Pratchett whose books were the first ones I tried and succesfully managed to read in original language, albeit most of them after I read their Czech translations. There is helluva lot idioms in his books.
I don’t think you are. People seldom challenge idioms because they’ve been around forever. And most of the time, I think they slide right by conscious thought. I really like “like rain calling the river wet.” That’s nifty and concise, and leaves colour references out.
Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk- says
In German it may rain young dogs, or it’s raining so much you wouldn’t send a dog outdoors.
What I find weirdest is when they match perfectly and therefore you never dare to use them, like “something gives up the ghost”.
It sounds too much like a German simply literally translating something, but it isn’t.
Ice Swimmer says
In Finnish it’s raining small locomotives (sataa pieniä vetureita) or old broads and harrows (sataa ämmiä ja äkeitä, ämmä is the old word for grandmother and it’s a somewhat pejorative word for any older woman nowadays, äes is harrow).
Bad weather can be called koiranilma (dog weather), weather into which a wise man send his dog but a stupid man sends his wife. I’m not very fond of the expression koiranilma.
#14 Caine: Thank you.
For those who like language and all its quirks, I just ran across this website and thought I’d share. These folks seem to really know their stuff, and they’re very accessible in their presentation.