A Penny for Your Thoughts

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Nov 14, 2015

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”
Rudyard Kipling

The English language is one of the most complex and vivid languages in the world, with over 1.5 million words. Even more complicating, words like “cat” can be a little furry animal or a large, wild animal; or even a bulldozer.

Today, however, I would like to think about idioms or idiomatic expressions. These are words or combinations of words that use language in a non-literal and often metaphorical way. It is estimated that there are at least 25,000 idiomatic expressions in the English language. 

As I begin, I don’t want you to think I am too far outside the box, nor do I want to beat around the bush as I identify idioms. We can find these idioms at the drop of a hat and often they are hardly worth a dime a dozen.

Most of them must be taken with a grain of salt. We should never allow them to pull the wool over our eyes. The best way we can understand them is if we hear them straight from the horse’s mouth. If we are extremely bright, we can kill two birds with one stone because actions always speak louder than words. 

Where can you find an idiom? Sometimes we hear it on the grapevine or between a rock and a hard place. As we look for them, we never want to go barking up the wrong tree nor should we ignore the elephant in the room. 

Sometimes idioms are a piece of cake and other times they are all Greek to me. Sometimes we must go back to square one or simply back to the idiom drawing board. If you are really serious about idioms, you might give an arm and a leg for just one more, because the devil is in the details. 

Remember, though, that curiosity killed the cat. If you cry wolf too often you might be able to cut the mustard. If that happens, please don’t ever cry over spilled milk or put all of your eggs in one basket. It may be better to let sleeping dogs lie even if you spilled the beans and are now feeling blue. 

I was going to write this column a long time ago but I didn’t want to cut corners. And though at times I felt a bit under the weather, I also knew that every cloud has a silver lining that eventually becomes a blessing in disguise. It never was raining cats and dogs. 

I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew but since the ball was in my court, I decided not to sit on the fence or steal someone else’s thunder. There was a method to my madness. 

Is this a good column? Your guess is as good as mine. I didn’t write it in the heat of the moment nor did I want to give the impression I was off my rocker or wasn’t playing with a full deck. 

Is it possible for us to see eye-to-eye and cut to the chase and give each other the benefit of the doubt by hitting the nail on the head? I won’t give up my day job if you won’t be the devil’s advocate.

Let’s jump on the bandwagon, cross that bridge when we come to it, try to have the best of both worlds and realize that idioms are the best thing since sliced bread but only use them once in a blue moon.

To make a long story short and since I’m down to the wire and I would never want to look a gift horse in the mouth or judge a book by its cover or count my chickens before they’re hatched and lest I beat a dead horse or burst your bubble, I think I will quit at the drop of a hat. 

After all, it’s not rocket science. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville, Pa. 
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