I’ve always been amused by idioms and proverbs even though I don’t often use them myself – in fact, I actually tend to mix them up quite a bit. However, it’s really entertaining for me to talk with people who use them a lot. I end up paying less attention to the main point of the conversation and more to the idioms. In Spanish speaking countries people tend to use them a lot and they vary deeply from region to region. If you would like to read some idioms in Spanish you can check out one of our past articles about modismos.
Idioms can be very useful, especially when you want to make something clear. Crystal clear, right? Pretty self-explanatory. However, there are some idioms that I just don’t get. For example – it’s raining cats and dogs. Seriously, why cats and dogs? Why animals? Whoever made that phrase fashionable was very very creative. How about “It’s a piece of cake”? Trust me, I’ve baked some cakes in my time and they’re not easy at all. I also don’t quite get why in phrases like “to look in the eye”, “to turn a blind eye”, and “to keep an eye on” eye is always singular. I thought we normally have two.
There are some other proverbs that are simply funny to me. For example:
• “He’s a big cheese” (influential person). Can’t help picturing it in my mind as a big chunk of cheese with a bow tie.
• I’m as cool as a cucumber (composed and calm). Who exactly thinks cucumbers are cool? And by cool I mean cool in any of its meanings.
• Funny peculiar and funny ha-ha. (funny in a weird sense or in a humorous sense). I guess I just like how they sound.
• To put lipstick on a pig (to make someone attractive superficially). I guess they did that with Miss Piggy. Still funny.
• Give someone a piece of your mind (to criticize strongly.) I can’t help but imagining giving part of my brain to somebody. Gross, I know.
Culture definitely plays an important role in the creation and shaping of idioms. That’s evident in American English with their wide variety of baseball-related idioms:
• It’s a ballpark figure – a guesstimated figure
• To take a rain check – to decline an offer or invitation for something with the idea of leaving it for a later date
• The ball is in your court – it’s your turn, it’s up to you
• To play hardball – to use any means possible to attain a goal
A good example of the relevance of culture in the creation of idioms is the idiom “It’s all Greek to me”. Apparently for English speakers Greek parallels to indecipherable. For Spanish and Portuguese speakers it is Chinese, for Polish it is Turkish… and the list goes on.
Let us know if you have any additions of your own!