An idiom is a shorthand way of passing on wisdom.
A stitch in time saves nine.
Looking like a drowned rat.
A pain in the arse.
Not my circus. Not my monkey.
Idioms are ideas. They appeal to the part of our brain where images and feelings collide. The part of our heads somewhere behind the pre-frontal cortex, the bit where meaning hides behind the language. A good idiom can help people add an enormous amount of context and understanding to an issue. They also add colour to conversations and smiles to our minds.
My mother, the un-Sainted Alison, Mother Of All Idioms, had a part of her brain dedicated to these delightful phrases.
You made your bed, now lie in it.
A penny for your thoughts.
He’s a lost ball in the high weeds.
A watched pot never boils.
These were handed down to her from her mother, who was gifted them from my great-grandmother, and back, and back, and back – to before writing was invented.
Some are ageless pieces of wisdom. “A fool and his money are soon parted.”
Some are contextual. “As useful as a chocolate teapot.”
Which makes me wonder why there are not more idioms relevant or created for modern life.
Maybe we’re too busy.
Maybe we believe we only have time to tell the facts – because facts are somehow safer. We don’t want to leave anything open to interpretation. And we overlook the fact that facts are less convincing than we realise.
But, I live in hope. I believe a sentence with a smile is more valuable than a paragraph filled with facts. And, to help people talk a more colourful life, let me get you started with some idioms for the modern age.
Television is not your friend.
I saw Doctor Google. Now I have cancer.
His car goes “Vroom” because he can’t spell “ego”.
Power ties make power lies.
No good comes from a mobile phone after midnight.
I’m not one for social media challenges.
I’m not after a thousand retweets.
There’s no charity at risk here.
But, if you do want your voice to be heard, play with words.
Invent a phrase.
Use it – in a conversation, in an ad, in a speech, wherever.
It may not take off.
But it may make you, and your friends, smile.
And that’s worth all the egos on Wall Street.