A word salad of excuses. Unfortunately, I don’t remember where I read this line, but I do remember the expression. My mind immediately saw a vivid picture of all sorts of red, green and gold excuses tumbling around in a beautiful bowl, just waiting for you to reach in with the salad tongs and pull one out.
Expressions are often part of our daily conversations. Make a long story short; In the heat of the moment; A dime a dozen; Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. We may automatically know what the speaker/writer means when they use these old chestnuts, but it can make English a difficult language to learn and become prolific using. Foreign students are routinely confused by idioms and expressions commonly used in everyday conversation. Our language is figurative, chockful of metaphors, hyperbole and personification. You literally cannot take it literally.
There are expressions I associate with specific people. When I hear ‘little black dress’, I think Coco Channel. And I never hear ‘Is the Pope Catholic?’ without thinking of Mr. Smith. And apparently, there are those that associate certain sayings with moi. A few years ago, I spent some time being grandmére aupair to my three frisky grandsons. It was an awesome experience, even if they did try my patience at times. They must also try their mother’s patience at times. One afternoon that proved to be particularly exasperating, she threw up her hands and said, “What would grandma Stormy say?” They looked at each other and said, “Good night nurse!” That is way better than some expressions they could have picked up from me!
Expressions, sayings, idioms – they are all brilliant parts of our English language. I love our American English language, particularly how it is a melting pot of different cultures. While French was one of the main influences, Latin, Spanish, Greek, and Hebrew along with others, have had an influence. We can thank the French for the word Lingerie and the Italians for Piano. Another strong influence comes to us by way of our southern brothers and sisters. Some of the great sayings include: Flashy as a rat with a gold tooth; All hat and no cattle; Heavier than a dead preacher; and She’s so tall she could hunt geese with a rake.
I have long kept a list of favorite words. Diaphanous, talisman, insouciance, and dalliance are just a few that always fill my head with rich images. I receive a daily email from Word Genius. While some Words of the Day won’t be part of my working vocabulary any time soon, I have found some keepers that I am endeavoring to add to my inventory. When I do discover a new word I want to incorporate into my glossary of favorites, I am grateful for the “pronunciation” button provided. Had I had that button back in 1975, I perhaps could have avoided an embarrassing moment. I was out for a get-to-know-Stormy lunch with some officemates, when I mispronounced a word, adding an “m” to voluptuous, making it volumptuous! One of my lunch buddies decided it wasn’t stressful enough to just be the new girl, that I needed to be publicly humiliated for my faux pas. At that moment, I knew two things. I would never mispronounce that word again and I would remember that kindness is more important than wisdom.
There are over one million words in the English language and it continues to grow. New ones are added each year. Some have simple definitions; some have beautifully precise meanings. These words are stitched together to make sentences, paragraphs, and expressions that result in great novels, remarkable poetry, our daily newspapers, steamy rom-com beach reads, and your children’s first books. And that is a homerun.
C’est la vie.