When A Nation Forgets Its Own Idioms . . .

. . . it looks sort of idiotic.

The hardworking staff can’t help but notice that what once were familiar American phrases have become, well, unfamiliar.

Some recent examples:

• Democratic strategist on CNN describing Mitt Romney’s Latino problem thanks to his tough primary stand on immigration:

Well, that’s the box he’s painted himself into.

No – you can get boxed in, or you can paint yourself into a corner. Not to get technical about it.

• MSNBC’s Ed Shultz:

“[Mitt] Romney pounced on [Rick] Perry for changing his tone on Social Security.”

Actually, Perry changed his tune. But why get technical about it.

• Backer of an MBTA plan to scale back The Ride, its door-to-door service for the disabled:

“This is not to punish people who need it, it’s to rout out those people who abuse it.”

Or root them out. Whatever. As long as it saves taxpayer dollars.

• A New York Times piece about ads on school buses featured this teacher comment:

“I know that it’s a bag of worms and people are going to ask ‘What’s next? An ad on the classroom clock?’”

More likely it’s a can of worms, but why get technical about it.

• The public radio guy who said:

“The Elgin Marbles have been a thorn of contention for years.”

The hardworking staff has a bone to pick with that.

• New York Times reporter on the PBS Newshour who said “Nicolas Sarkozy was “not willing to go into the countryside and shoot the fat” with the French people.

• The BU commencement speaker who talked about “getting my feet dirty.”

• The we-don’t-remember-who describing himself as “green-eared.”

• The NPR talk show guest saying “a rising tide fills all boats.”

• The French Open commentator who said “You have to buy your time, be patient, and wait for your opening.”

The hardworking staff is buying our time until more examples come along.

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11 Responses to When A Nation Forgets Its Own Idioms . . .

  1. I love the herring-eaters who await things with baited breath.

  2. Bill says:

    Mayor Menino and city officials are fond of establishing and publicizing various new “drop a dime” programs they have set up, so residents can anonymously call in tips or grievances. Too bad no one under 30 knows what the heck that means: why should I drop a dime? where? will someone pick it up? After I drop it, do I wait for something to happen? Do I have to drop it when someone is there to see it fall and hit the sidewalk? It’s a totally meaningless and archaic phrase, and only reinforces how out of touch these people are with today’s reality. But they keep using the phrase, they are so locked into it as sounding so “cool” and “snappy.”

  3. BP Myers says:

    The same confusion and worse can happen when people forget once commonly used idioms. For instance, I thought the recent brouhaha about David Stern asking Jim Rome “when he stopped beating his wife” was silly. Not his fault Rome is (apparently) somewhat illiterate.

    For all intensive purposes, that is.

  4. Dunno. Seems like for all intensive purposes you’re making a mountain out of mohair.

    I worked with a guy who complained that our competitor was better at promoting themselves than we were, and suggested that we do the same — that from now on we “really talk ourselves up — you know, yank our own chains.”

  5. Bob Gardner says:

    Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation 5 minutes ago. “The question is being begged; what did the fiddlers say?”

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