Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Expressing Expressions

Have you ever thought about how much the U.S. English language relies on expressions? It’s really tough to say something without using one.

He really put the screws to me.
She raked him over the coals.
That boy opened a can of worms when he told his dad the truth.
The cat’s out of the bag now.
I’m so hungry I could eat a horse!

When I thought about how many expressions I use in a single day it surprised me. They’re everywhere in our language.

Even when the hubby and I sit and talk, I catch us using dozens of expressions. It makes me wonder if this is something that’s been done throughout the ages. “Ach! Me head hurts, my dove. I need some hair off the dog.”


There’s a new show on the History Channel that delves into this matter. I find it very interesting how some words and phrases came about. Some of them are surprising.

So, are you someone who relies on expressions in your conversations? What’s your favorite one?

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Valerie Mann said...

I use expressions all the time. I think it's a compact way of saying something really detailed with just a few words because of the subtle nuances of the phrase. Or could be a nicer way to say the same thing. Perfect example: here in the south, everyone knows that "Bless your heart" doesn't mean that AT ALL, LOL

Faith said...

We use the 'bless your heart' expression here too, LOL!

Valerie Mann said...

Until I moved here, I would have taken that as a kind gesture. Now I might use a more colorful Yankee expression in reply *snort*. Another southern expression I thought was cute until I found out what it meant was "fuss". My son's kindergarten teacher said he had to "fuss" at him for being...well, a six-year old boy. I found out later, it was an ass-chewing <<a Yankee term for "fuss"

Anthology Authors said...

Expressions are very useful, I think, primarily because there is so history and precedence set with it. So, what might normally take a paragraph of description, you can say in a few words with an established expression.

There are some I find very interesting. For instance, to "vent your spleen" means to vent your anger. The spleen is associated with angers, as is bile and the liver. Ancient people knew this and yet our "modern" medicine does not. I often think the ancients were more knowledgeable than we are. (g)

Anthology Authors said...

And, of course, I have a few typos. (head to desk) It should be "so much history" and "associated with anger." (sigh) That's what I get for trying to type while a little voice keeps saying, "Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom."

Valerie Mann said...

I've been watching the Vikings series on the history channel. A man was on trial and his punishment was to "run the gauntlet", in which he had to run between rows of people while they threw rocks and other stuff at him. I was like, "Oh, I totally get that saying now!"

Faith said...

LOL, it's bad when I knew what you meant before you corrected it, Marci!

Val, the history of various expression can be real eye-openers. I want to watch that History show but haven't managed to catch it yet.

Anthology Authors said...

I don't remember where I learned about running the gauntlet. Maybe one of the many historical novels/non-fiction books I've read over the years. Languages, and their sayings, are fascinating. I guess that fascination makes me a nerd. LOL

Well, Faith, sometimes it seems that we have one brain between the two of us. LOL

Jaime Samms said...

You know what's funny. Among my family, there are things we say to each other, not established expressions as far as culture goes, but things like movie quotes. Like when we're in company that doesn't know us well, my husband will look at one of the kids who's acted up say "Hello. My name is Inago Montoya." That's all he has to say and they know their in deep doo-doo when we get home, because they know what happens in the movie when Inago starts saying that. Or the corollary, "As you wish." We say that all the time too, and it's Princess Bride the shorthand, of course, for "I love you enough to risk a broken neck for you." We take things from the card game, Magic the Gathering, and the Lord of the Rings movies. It's a sickness. Or we're just weird tat way.