Monday, October 12, 2009

Say What?

I'm guessing by now that it's not a big secret that I love words. I love everything about words. I love how they sound; I love that you can change a meaning just by placing it next to a different group of words; I love that you can say one thing, but mean something totally different just by how you change the sound of your voice when saying a phrase. This is probably why I adore Shakespeare and Thoreau so dearly. For me, they were truly the masters of wordsmith and are the Headmasters of my Circle of Muses (which for the record, also includes Poe, Einstein and DaVinci - I commonly refer to them as "My Boys" and have action figures of each of them on desk at work...true story)....but then of course, I also have a Yoda bobble head on my desk as well.

Anyway it's my love of words that has me going today kids! For those of you who know me, it's not a huge secret that I am a card carrying dyslexic; for that matter, I come from a long line of them. Heck, even one of My Boys was one too! So, as a member of the backwards and jumbled club, I often have to be very careful when reading something for if I just glance, there is a massive chance I'll read something very different than what is actually on the paper.

I tend to have to concentrate when reading. I learned early on to have something low, like music, playing the background at home so I can literally "tune out" the world and focus on what I'm reading. Now, if I really have to concentrate that hard on something, I started wondering about what it must be like for non-native English speakers. Here they are, focusing on the words themselves and we go off and change spelling rules in one place and entire meanings of words in another.

But what about phrases? I wonder what they must think when they are hear us say something like "A bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush?" I get this phrase, but ya know, some of them are so out there, that when you're a literal speaker/reader like me, and as I'm assuming many non-native speakers are as well, some of these phrases just leave me scratching my head wondering "what the hell does that mean?"

So for your Monday morning entertainment, I give you a few phrases that have made me giggle, made me wonder and often times, forced me to look them up because I had no bloody idea what they meant (and my Mother always made me look things up...guess that habit stuck with me). Enjoy!:

* "Shake a stick at it" - Okay, really? What good would shaking a stick at anything do anyway? So why would it matter if you did, in fact, have more of something than you could physically shake a stick at?

* "Throw the baby out with the bath water" - Uhmmmmm, see, this has CPS written all over it for me.

* "A good man is hard to find" - Now this one isn't funny to me, it's just kind of sad. Although the story "A Good Man is Hard to Find", is one that leaves you perplexed in thought, I don't think this phrase should. Is it really that hard to find one? And if it is, what does that say about our society? Eeek!

* "A pig in a poke" - Okay, this just makes me giggle! If you just read the words there and you take it literally, it's kind of funny.

* "A stitch in time saves nine" - Nine what????? I've never understood this one. First of all, for me at least, time is an intangible concept that was created by man, so how could stitching something that doesn't exist save nine of anything?

* "Dollars to donuts" - Again, I know what this one means, but my question remains.....why does this combination of words some how mean "certainty"?

*"Drink like a fish" - Sure, fish are in water, but do they really drink? Go ahead, look that fact'll be surprised!

*"The proof is in the pudding" - When I think of this one, I can visualize someone actually digging into the pudding and searching for the proof.

*"Shake a leg" - So I ask you, how could one possibly hurry up if they are busy shaking their legs? This one always caused me to raise an eyebrow as a kid.

*"Sleep like a top" - Aren't tops in constant motion? (for the record, I did actually look this one up and I get it's still just sounded odd to me the first time I heard it)

"As happy as a clam" - So uhm, how would you know if a clam is happy?

So as you begin your work week, remember to watch your p's and q's as you mingle with others until your heart's content.....for as you lay it on with a trowel, your point might just get lost in translation.

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