Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Botched Clichés

There are so many upsetting things going on in the news that I can't deal with them all, so instead I'll head off in another direction.

When I was a kid, I didn't understand some of the figures of speech or clichés people used. The most confusing for me was, "A stitch in time saves nine." I pictured this as somebody, most likely God, stitching His way through the Fabric of Time. I had no idea why He would stitch time and what effect those stitches would have in the world and what His stitching would save nine of. Nine seconds? Nine minutes? Nine people? I'd get overwhelmed from pondering this (much like the recent news), and I'd have to push it from my mind so I wouldn't go crazy.

It wasn't until I was much older, probably when I had to do some mending, that I figured out it meant something more mundane than God and time. If you get a little hole in the seam of your clothes and you sew it up right away with a little stitch, it saves you from having to sew up a lot because you let the hole get bigger because you're too lazy to nip it in the bud.

Another misunderstanding I had was the (incorrect) saying, "Don't kick a gift horse in the mouth." In my mind, a gift horse fell into the same category as the goose that laid the golden eggs. Somewhere out there was a horse that, when it opened its mouth, wrapped gifts came out. You wanted that horse to keep on giving gifts, didn't you? And if you kicked that horse in the mouth, it would quit giving you the gifts. So don't do it!

Again, in teenagerness or early adulthood, I got this one straightened out. It's really: "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth," of the "Beggars can't be choosers" variety of saying. A gift horse is a horse that somebody gives you for free. And people who understand about horses (which certainly wasn't me) know that you can tell how old a horse is by looking at his teeth and how worn down they are. If someone gives you a horse, don't bother to look at his teeth. You don't want to know.

The rest of these are things that other people said.

I shared a cubicle with a guy who would say, "If it was a snake, it would've kicked me." Love it!

A British guy I worked with, a supervisor of some sort but not mine, was talking to a group of us about some work-related matter, and he said, "That opens up a whole new can of beans." We laughed at him later, when he wasn't around.

Finally, a guy I worked with who was from Costa Rica had come to America not knowing much English. He said he learned English by reading the New York Times every day with a Spanish-English dictionary close by. His English was excellent by the time he had moved to California and started working where I did. One time, though, he needed to vent, and he did. Then he finished by saying, "There. I had to get that out of my chest."

All I could think of was that first main scene in the first Alien movie where the horrible alien beats its way out of the guy's chest, and I didn't want to laugh, because my co-worker was really a nice guy (not like the British supervisor, who was a pain in the neck), but oh my goodness!

What about you? What botched clichés or figures of speech have you said or heard?

1 comment:

Tsofah said...

Almost every episode of NCIS has Tziva David saying such things! Of course, one of the co-workers "corrects" her. Still, it's hilarious!