Letting the cat out of the bag
Sit in a room full of 6-year-olds after they have been quiet and still for a few hours and what you’ll get is conversation. Straight forward, say just what you think conversation. Kids are honest, even when they shouldn’t be. They haven’t yet learned subtlety or tact and unlike adults they don’t know about locution.

People don’t always say what they mean, or what they mean isn’t always what they say. This is why there are idioms, so people can say what they really want to say without really saying what they want to say. Okay, let’s not mince words here. Idioms are a hard nut to crack and can drive a person crazy. At this point you may have raised an eyebrow because idioms are not your cup of tea, but people use them every day. In fact, I have already used five.

An idiom is a commonly used phrase or expression that when taken literally, or word-by-word, has little or no meaning. For example, ‘quitting cold turkey’ does not mean your Aunt Wanda does not want leftovers from Thanksgiving, but that she is suddenly stopping a habit of some sort. If a person is ‘hot under the collar’ they don’t necessarily have a fever, but instead are angry or upset. Another example is the idiom that says ‘people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.’ Okay, they really shouldn’t throw stones, but it also means you shouldn’t judge others for something you do yourself.

Idioms can try the patience of those who are not familiar with them, or who aren’t native speakers of the language. This is why it is suggested when learning a new language to also learn the language conversationally, along with some common idioms. Without this knowledge you could easily be in hot water or over your head.

Many idioms, especially those from cultures other than your own, can tickle the funny bone and make it hard to keep a straight face.

In Germany, where we might say someone is living in the lap of luxury, they would say, living like a maggot in bacon. We say die laughing, but in France they prefer bang your butt on the ground. In America, if you are well suited or two peas in a pod, in Mexico you are like fingernails and dirt. Italians don’t make mountains out of molehills, they get lost in a glass of water instead. In Colombia if you have been swallowed like a postman’s sock you are hopelessly in love or head over heels. Sounds ridiculous, right? But I’m not pulling your leg, in fact, in Russia I wouldn’t be hanging noodles on your ears either.

Whether your native language is English, Spanish, Russian or Dutch, there is always a way to say what you want to say without really saying anything at all.


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