Just Being An Idiom

There I was, ambling along drive after drive, delivering local newspapers on my weekly round, until suddenly, out of nowhere appeared a wild eggshell! Carefully, I stepped round it, so as not to dreadfully upset my near-neighbours with a messy drive. Then it hit me, and then chuckled to myself, looking like a silly fool. It isn’t hilarious but it’s the little things make you happy.

The irony of the situation was due to the unorthodox meaning of the idiomatic expression. The meaning of ‘walking on eggshells’ indicates stepping carefully so, to avoid anybody crying, by not ‘walking on eggshells’ I was stepping carefully.

This foolish epiphany led me to wonder about the true origins of such idioms. They are idioms for the fact that they hardly make sense in terms of real-life situations. There are the obvious terms such as ‘like a fish out of water’ which is difficult to re-enact as a human as we, most of us, have the ability to swim, and I certainly haven’t ever seen a fish with legs or a tank of water attached to its gills! It is similar to someone having a ‘short fuse’ – a metaphor for one’s anger levels: the shorter the fuse gets, the more likely the circuit, or in this case one’s head, to blow.

Another idiom with a fairly obvious concept is ‘finding a needle in a haystack’ since I would find it easy to believe the ratio of the size of a needle and the size of a haystack is fairly high. However, why a needle? Why a haystack? It could be anything like a fish in a lake (this is not intentionally fish-themed) but it is due to descriptive writing in a poem. As was having ‘butterflies in the stomach’ and that ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ but that’s just boring.

Where are the ones with real substance? I found one rather interesting one. Today I asked my family: how long do you think is the time period for a blue moon to occur? Foolishly, my brother answered with a thousand years! I suggested to them that in natural conversation it is simply contextual and they agreed. There is, actually, a time period.

There are normally 12 full moons every year, so three moons per quarter. In the second quarter, the three full moons that appear are called Pink, Flower and Strawberry in the Farmers Almanac. When there happens to be 4 full moons in that quarter, the moons are called Pink, Flower, BLUE and Strawberry (in that order). Therefore if your irritating relatives with that petulant child, who  wore his dirty shoes on that cream sofa and you never had the heart to order him to take those bleeding shoes off, who live on the other side of the world, come to visit once in a blue moon, well, you better prepare soon, because they’ll be at your doorstep in 3 years. That’s right – a blue moon occurs every 3 years – how disappointing.

‘Straight from the horse’s mouth’ also has a more substantial background. The tips from horse racing regularly circle round and you want to get those tips from those in close contact with the horse and its recent form. This phrase indicates one better than this inner circle, as if it comes from the horse itself, but I don’t know why it’d tell you anyway, it wants to surprise the other competitors.

From talking animals to, well, non-talking animals, as in, if they could talk, they can’t anymore, because they’re all dead. On that light-hearted introduction, ‘raining cats and dogs’ comes from times when streets were flooded and along with the water, literally flowed unfortunately-deceased cats and dogs, and so a new phrase was born. I seriously hope that the song ‘It’s raining men’ didn’t follow a similar derivation!

Just thought I’d let the cat out the bag by hitting the nail on the head.

Don’t feel down in the dumps – Have a nice day!

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