A lot of times, idioms or figurative speeches are not understood for several reasons. It could be because the listeners don’t know what it means or it was used out of context. There are several other reasons too.
Idioms and figurative expressions are fun and can be used to play or fool around while speaking or just push a point a little further. Sometimes, it is used as a style of exageration or sarcasm.
Constant sarcasm used towards people or friends is really not a good idea and it may say you are in fear of something or lacking in confidence and so, the more sarcastic and mean you are, the better feared, respected and trendy you are or seen to be. Not just cool unless it’s (sarcasm) a shared humour between the people.
A good dose of understanding these expressions will help us get by in life, when reading books, when we meet people from different cultures or nationalities, when we work with people. It will atleast, help one not to look dumb, rigid or absolutely sold out with everyone understanding what is happening except you.
Being open to understanding these can be fun and learning it all. “There are just too many things to learn,” a lady and her husband told me some days ago in an event in London. Nice couple from Birmingham. I agreed with them but we just cant stop learning about stuff in life.
“Here’s one more thing to learn that makes the list long,” I told them, “ourselves”. Some ladies and guys said it was true as some people do not truly know themselves or understand themselves even though they ‘think’ they do.
We all laughed.
We do need to not only learn these expressions in English and our monther tongues but we need to learn how to use them, when to use them or not at all.
There are several sarcastic comments or idioms used in life. It doesn’t make the users bad people or bad christians, muslims, jews, buddhists, etc. They just want to get a point out there or perhaps, they are pissed and are expressing themselves. It really doesn’t make them bad or turning away from the Most High above.
So in Nigeria, someone ‘says your dress na die’. It is actually a compliment and has nothing to do with the horrid aspects of death. Same as ‘your dress is something one would die for’. Some people get so rigid and serious and say, ‘you mean you’d die and get buried for that’. As a joke, then it sounds just alright to ask in a reply. I’ve actually heard questions like that in and ofcourse, the sarcastic ones around who may be friends of the person or not would answer saying, ‘how dumb’ or ‘duh’. Duh is actually or mildly sounds insulting as most sarcasms are aimed at ridiculing, mocking or abusing the listener/s.
‘Jump in to the sea’, ‘hit the wall’, ‘hug a transformer’, ‘get lost’, ‘go to hell’ are simple expressions that people use when they do not care about your reactions or they are pissed. It doesn’t mean they are bad people or less principled as some people will quickly jump in to say they are terrible but it may not equally be nice to hear or say.
However, it would be truly so so stupid and idiotic to actually do any of what a person says in a sarcastic reply, rage or discussion. Never actually heard but anyone doing that would be mentally deranged, mildly or seriously in need of psychological help or self esteem lecture.
Doing any of that will just make you one less person off the face of the earth which some people may be looking for a reason to be.You are on your own for most actions taking really.
How we react to issues in life matters and how we reflect afterwards to those reactions matters too.
Some ‘disconnected’ idioms used without a warning in a written conversation like email or chats or face to face can be scary. For instance, just out of the blue telling someone, ‘ you are a dime in a dozen’ which means he or she is cheap and easy to get and yet, the person being referred to is of distinguished personality who at the time of the converstion was discussing how to train people to be independent in life! The listener will wonder where it came from or if you’ve been habouring such thoughts all along.
Another one is saying, ‘ you are going to bite the dust’ in a conversation with someone when the conversation is about surviving in life, people’s attitudes to one another, charity work, war victims, post graduate education, investments, etc. The phrase has no place there when used without warning and is disconnected unless the user really has something to say and chose to just drop the hurtful phrase towards the user.
Dust in itself has no real good thing to remember and dust to dust, ashes to ashes would usually come to mind. This expression has nothing good about it as it ranges from being dead, killed,unsuccessful, defeated,etc. If it must be used in a written conversation or face to face, be sure to make it connected to what you are saying rather than drop it out of the blue like say it after saying having a good night’s sleep or after saying take care. That really makes it disconnected.
Depending on the relationship and your lack of real communication skills or even true advice for what ever situation or reason that warranted the expression before the use of the bite the dust expression or dime in a dozen expression, you will only be very unfair on the reciever and make yourself a person with less intergrity too. You are going to be viewed as such and worse off when you use it on people who have been dealt several blows constantly in life in the form of loosing and burying loved one, not succeeding, health issues, marriage or work issues, school problems, etc.
You may explain your reason much later to the angered friend, relative or person who would be wondering why such a distasteful or negative wish/comment was made in the first place but you would have also left an impression of how much you are lacking in proper communication, logic and what is worse, your wishes or rather, unfair thoughts for the other person [whether it is a mistake or not] are revealed.
‘I’m seeing red’ may not mean one is actually seeing red medically but anger or like. Just imagine calling a ‘spade a spade.’ Hey, spade, this is a spade. That will be hilarious to actually see someone do that. ‘Cloud nine’ making you wonder what cloud three or ten is like? ‘I’ve got other fish to fry and you think of sweet smelling sea side fresh fish or those from the popular sizzling fish and chips shops rather than the fact that I mean I have other things to do.
‘Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face’ and you immediately think something is wrong with the nose or the face or that the person is ungodly for telling you so. ‘Cool as a cucumber’ and you begin to argue or remind the other that ice from the fridge and snow is cooler. ‘A broken reed’ and you think of plans when in actual fact it means someone you cannot lean on. ‘Speak of the devil’ and ignorant religious practicing uptight people feel punched rather than wonder why they’ve been talked about and then, they coincidentally arrive at the same time. ‘Give a knucle sandwich’ which has nothing to do with sandwich but means just giving a punch. ‘Cooking the books’ which means keeping inaccurate accounts in business or taxes.
‘Clean as a breast’ and your silly twisted imagination begins to run wild? ‘Faith that moves mountains’ and they actually think it moved in the past. ‘Drop dead gorgeous’ and the rigid, principled, religious ones would reject it in and ‘send it back’. So when ‘the ground is thirsty’, some forget it’s dryness and imagine its thirst like those of living things. Endearingly called ‘a cow’ or ‘goat’ for something silly or dumb that you have done and you begin to think you are actually those animals or men and women referred to the animals in certain contexts different from the one at hand.
‘Dead broke’ as an honest expression by someone in dire need or lamenting and you begin to say proclaim life in God’s name and all or frown at the poor person who you have not offered anything and perhaps, might not. ‘To give the devil his due’ which should mean to give a person credit for his good qualities and good work however worthless they are or annoying and you begin to think they really meant they are devils and so the person using the expression is bad and ungodly. The list is endless.
Get over stuff people…I’ve been having a good laugh at certain expressions and the discusions with people these past few days.
Communication matters a lot whether it is written or spoken and what ever the literature style used is be it simple, straightforward, idiomatic, figurative, etc, being understood matters a lot. A lot really really matters in life and we can’t always get things right. We can’t be hard on ourselves always or on others. We can certainly choose our expressions and our friends in life and we may be lucky to find the true ones that will stick with us and tell us when we are wrong and yet stick by us.
Communication and especially use of these expressions and sarcasm matters but If one is offended, simply offer your explanations and reasons and make sure you apologise [apology which some people may truly mean or not all].
It will not kill you to do so.