Idioms, like cliches, serve a purpose. A good idiom is an economical, evocative and effective way to communicate a thought, feeling or point of view in a folksy way. “High as a kite,” “Sweep it under the rug,” “It takes two to tango” — these are good, solid idioms.
Many others, however, have overstayed their welcome. Some just don’t make sense. Here I think of, “Sick as a dog.” Case of an idiom without application. My dogs almost never get sick. When they do, it lasts for about as long as it takes them to puke up a fur ball. A minute later, they’re back to eating each other’s feces.
To stay with the domestic-pet theme, if it’s “raining cats and dogs,” I don’t think, “I better take my umbrella and my rain slicker!” If I look out the window and see cats and dogs hurtling from the heavens, I think, “Katie, bar the door, it’s the !@#$% apocalypse! And call the roofer!”
Others are just meaningless. An example is the oft-used “He doesn’t suffer fools gladly.” Such high standards!
But the most egregious are the expressions whose incivility, revolting imagery or sheer vulgarity demand they be pulled from the portfolio and put out to pasture:
“Can I pick your brains for a minute?” No, you may not.
“Let’s not beat a dead horse.” Agreed. And while we’re at it, let’s leave the living ones alone, too.
“I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass.” Party pooper!
“Party pooper.” Let’s not invite him next year.
“We really screwed the pooch on that one!” Stay right there while I call the ASPCA.
“Keep your eyes peeled.” Ew and ow.
“You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting [fill in the blank].” Who’s out there swinging dead cats? And can we please leave the animals alone? For five minutes?
Have your own entries to the catalog? Please send them. And thank you for sharing.