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I don’t want to open a can of worms but I have to ask this question. Have you ever said an idiom or expression and wondered what its hidden meaning was.

Idioms appear here there and everywhere. We quite often use idioms in our day to day life without giving a thought about their interesting origin. An idiom is an expression whose meaning is unpredictable. For example, “That’s as easy as pie” and “piece of cake. “Pies I know are not that easy to make. Perhaps they meant as easy as eating a pie.

I’m sure you all have heard of ” You’ve got ants in your pants.” It’s meaning today is that you are restless. You can easily imagine where this saying came from. What if you actually had ants in your pants? You would find it difficult to settle down. You’d keep squirming to try to get rid of the ants.

If an expression or idiom becomes overused it is called a cliché. Once these expressions were brand-new and original but today they are ancient and stale. Here are some examples of cliches:

  • “I’ve got butterflies in my stomach.” This means to have a fluttery feeling, usually caused by nervousness. If people are anxious, have stage fright, or are troubled about what will happen next, they often experience dull spasms in their stomachs. Some people call this sensation the flutters. Others say they have a nervous stomach. Once a clever writer imagined butterflies in his stomach when he felt panicky or uneasy and that creative metaphor caught on. I’ve heard this idiom said over and over again without really knowing where it came from. My sisters say it to me when I touch something that is theirs,
  •  “You’re as dead as a doornail.” This means I am hopeless and in a whole lot of trouble. A book in the mid-1300’s first used this expression. Its origin is a doornail, which is a metal plate, being hit so hard and so many times it got the life knocked out of it.

Idioms come from all different sources, from the bible to horse racing, from ancient fables to modern slang. Famous authors and storytellers such as Shakespeare made them up to add spark to their writing.

I never knew idioms could be found in the bible. Here is one that is in the New Testament. It is call “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Its meaning is somebody who appears to be harmless could be really dangerous. That is why your parents might say to you “Don’t trust strangers they could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing”. The idea behind this saying is when people think of a wolf they think of a dangerous animal but when people think of a sheep they think of something soft, cute, and cuddly. So if a wicked wolf wanted to fool people into thinking he was a nice guy he might dress in a sheep’s costume.

Now I’m going to “jump to a conclusion” and hope that you have learned that behind each idiom is a story that can be meaningful and funny at the same time. “I know I can’t teach an old dog new tricks” but I hope next time somebody asks you “penny for your thoughts” you might be able to “blow your own horn.”



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