This is my second installment of discussing seemingly insignificant things I have noticed and learned by being the at-home caregiver. Last week I discussed the respect I have for clean toilets. This week it's our language.
I have become more aware over these years of how much our everyday speech includes figures of speech. Call them what you want - euphemisms, colloquialisms, or slang but regardless of the title, we say them…a lot of them. The fact that you say these types of things will never come to your attention unless you have a child in the house between the ages of 6 and 12. If you have kids in this age range you know exactly what I'm talking about because you have to stop and explain what it is that you've just said. And it's only through that process that you finally realize how often we say these types of things.
For example, in one recent conversation with my 11-year-old Caroline this issue came up three different times. We were discussing the possibility of going to a future NFL game with another family member and I commented that the crowds are a little crazy. "It will be a real dog and pony show" I said.
"What do you mean 'dog and pony show'" she responded, "I thought it was a football game?"
I explained the meaning of my comment and then went on to tell her that I was waiting for the other family member to respond to my email with possible dates so we would know when we could go. "The ball is in his court" I commented.
To which Caroline again said, "Court? I thought we're talking about football?"
I laughed and again explained what I was meaning. She then correctly concluded, "So, we're waiting on him to give us the date we can go?"
"You got it," I said.
And then, when asked by her why I didn't just call him to find out the date, I explained that there was nothing we need to do because he would respond shortly. We could, as I said, "wash our hands of the matter."
"Why do you need to wash your hands if you're only talking about football tickets?" she said which prompted another explanation.
From "hold your horses" to "katie bar the door" to "seal your fate" to something being a "barn burner" to having several "balls in the air" we use these types of phrases almost everyday. I think it is aspects of our language such as these that make learning English so hard for non-native English speakers! Why don't we just say what we actually mean? Why do we feel the need to tag the idea with some witty comment? I don't know.
But, on the other side, is the amazing reality of how many of these phrases are catalogued in our brains so that most conversations can include them and still continue uninterrupted and fully understood. And, it's amazing how many new phrases are created by each generation! You add the old ones with the new ones and one day we might be able to have whole conversations with nothing but phrases.
That would be crazy, ya' know? You feel me?