Idiotic Idioms, Mixed Metaphors, and Yogi (Berra)-isms · 11 May 2024

I love language. It is obviously the way we communicate, whether in oral or written form. And the way we communicate can be so interesting. Especially, when we communicate so colorfully. Especially, when we use idiotic idioms, mixed metaphors, and Yogi (Berra)-isms.

I already talked a little about idiotic idioms. You know. Those silly sayings we use that are supposed to communicate something in a unique or pleasing way. Packed in like sardines. Filled to the gills. Dead as a doornail. Idioms like these have been used for a long time, but people may not know their origins or they may not have as much universality as they used to. So they might not pack quite as much punch as they used to. But we still use them. And new ones are being made up, seemingly all the time.

Another interesting way we communicate is through metaphors. Those are the turns of phrase that color our communications. They are similar to or like similes, but different. (Similes usually use the word ‘like’ in their comparisons. Life is like a box of chocolates. That is a simile used by Forrest Gump. Over and over and over again. Or maybe people just quoted the character over and over and over again. At any rate, people mix up similes and metaphors, so I thought I would throw in a simile.) Metaphors make comparisons similar to similes, but they go one step further. They say that one thing is more than just like another. They say that the one thing is the other thing. Fútbol is life! That is a metaphor used by Dani Rojas in Ted Lasso. Over and over and over again.

Mixed metaphors are slightly different than regular metaphors. They convey meaning through an equality like metaphors do, but they do so in unpredictable and silly ways. Well, sometimes they convey meaning. Usually, not the meaning we want to convey. Although people can actually use mixed metaphors to great effect. My favorite mixed metaphor is: We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.

Think about it. Burning bridges is not something most people want to do. After all, the sense of the notion of burning bridges is that you cannot get back to where you were before. Whether that is a place (if you were taking things literally) or a job or a relationship, you do not usually want to burn bridges. So thinking about burning bridges when you get to them (whether instead of or after crossing them) is ludicrous. If you want to burn bridges before crossing them, you will obviously need to find another way to cross. If you want to burn the bridges after you cross them, I suppose you should make sure to leave behind only the people you want to thumb your nose at.

At any rate.

I like mixed metaphors, especially burning bridges, because they make people think about what you said. They wonder if they heard you right or not. Which means they are a good way to check to see if people are listening.

Which brings me to the person who had perhaps the best mixed metaphors and malapropisms (swapping one word for another, usually in a funny way, usually unintentional) or just funny quotes in history. Or at least he said enough funny stuff for people to continue to write about them. Yogi Berra was a great professional baseball player and manager. And he had a myriad of Yogi-isms. Those quotes that made you think about what he was saying. They often made those who heard the quotes wonder if they really heard what they thought he said.

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
“You can observe a lot by just watching.”
“It ain’t over till it’s over.”
“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”

You can find Yogi-isms all over the internet. People are still writing about him decades after he said them. Probably because he was entertaining. Probably because they were true too. And, of course, people remember what he said because he was such a great baseball player, which gave him a forum for people to hear what he said in the first place.

Speaking of which. I am not sure where I was going, but I hope I got there.

I love language. And even though I am a native English speaker, I still wish I understood English better. After all, there will always be idiotic idioms, mixed metaphors, and Yogi-isms to both color the language and make us wonder if we really heard what we just heard.

© 2024 Michael T. Miyoshi

Share on facebook



May the Fourth · 4 May 2024

I almost passed up an opportunity to write about Star Wars Day.

Our middle son, Thing 2, hates Star Wars Day. Rather, he hates that his birthday coincides with Star Wars Day. Rather, he hates that people think May the Fourth is Star Wars Day. Maybe “hate” is the wrong word. Loathe is probably closer to how he feels.

(By the way, if you are like me, you might not know why May the Fourth is Star Wars Day. And by like me, I mean, clueless. After all, if you have even heard of Star Wars, you know that the line, is, “May the Force be with you,” comes up over and over and over again. (When somebody greets me with, “May the Force be with you,” I usually want to say, “And also with you,” but that is another story.) Anyway. May the Fourth sounds a lot like May the Force. Which is why May the Fourth is called Star Wars Day. And being clueless, I need to be reminded of this almost every year.)

At any rate.

I had to comment on Star Wars Day and my son’s birthday because they fall on the day my blog post is posted. So what better subject to write about on May the Fourth than May the Fourth. It makes perfect sense. Then again, I do need to make sure that my son says it is okay to write about it. After all, I like people who are featured in my blog to approve of my post before I post it. Not that it always happens that way, but usually. (And it did this time.)

At any rate.

I love Star Wars Day. Okay. Maybe love is too strong of a word. I do enjoy it though. Mostly because it is my son’s birthday. But loving Star Ward Day? I mean really. I am not so much of a Star Wars geek that I go out of my way to recognize May the Fourth as Star Wars Day. Half the time I need to be reminded that it is Star Wars Day. (Oops. I said above that I almost always need to be reminded.)

“What day is it?”
“May the Fourth.”
“And also with you. And Happy birthday!”

Star Wars Day is usually only a second thought. But I suppose it is the thought that counts. I suppose. Some people think it is the gift that counts. Some other people think it is the people who count. Rather, the people are the ones doing the counting.

Okay. This is getting silly. Of course, if you have read my blog for long, you know that I rarely say anything intelligible, let alone profound. Or maybe even worth reading.

At any rate.

I hope you enjoy Star Wars Day. I hope that you have a happy birthday. And remember. May the Force be with you. On May the fourth and on every day.

Happy Star Wars Day.

(Are you glad that I did not miss the opportunity to comment on Star Wars Day?)

© 2024 Michael T. Miyoshi

Share on facebook



Idioms Can Be Idiotic · 27 April 2024

I do not know if other languages have many of them, but English has so many idiotic idioms.

Idioms are quaint little sayings that we take for granted when we are native speakers. We just know that other people know what certain phrases mean. Even though they do not seem to have anything to do with the subject we are talking about.

“Packed in like sardines.” (Lots of people in this place.)
“Filled to the gills.” (Overate.)
“Dead as a doornail.” (Dead.)
“You know the drill.” (You know what to do next.)

I do wonder sometimes why we use idioms. I mean really. Would it be any different to just say “There are lots of people in this place,” instead of “They’re packed in like sardines”? They convey the same meaning. And people who do not know the idiom, might wonder who packs sardines where and what it has to do with the crowded restaurant you are at. They may never have even seen a sardine tin. Or for that matter, they may not even know what a sardine is. Still, we expect that people understand our English idioms. Even when they are idiotic. (The idioms, not the people.)

I suppose that my favorite idiotic idioms (if such a thing is possible) are:

“Filled to the gills.”
“Dead as a doornail.”

Think about it. Why does filled to the gills mean that you are so full of food that you cannot eat another bite. If you actually had gills, you would not be eating with them, you would be breathing with them. And if you could actually eat so much that you were filled to those gills, you would then not be able to breathe. Which, I suppose might be the point. When I overeat, I can barely breathe. After all, my stomach is pressing down on my diaphragm, which is, of course, part of our main breathing apparatus. The diaphragm moves down and up to draw air into and push air out of our lungs. So when that diaphragm cannot move much, you cannot breathe much. Still, I think filled to the gills is an idiotic idiom.

I have a love and hate relationship with my second favorite idiotic idiom. Dead as a doornail. Really? Think about it. Dead is dead. So why compare death to a doornail? After all, the doornail is dead in the first place since it was never alive. Rather, you could argue that a doornail cannot be dead because it was never alive. And what is a doornail anyway? Just a nail in a door. So you have a state of being or not being (dead) being compared to an inanimate object (doornail), so the idiotic idiom is in and of itself redundant, and the comparison is to something specific (again, the doornail) that nobody has ever heard of. Of course, by nobody I mean not that many people. After all, it is never true that nobody does not know something. And by never, I mean rarely. Which just goes to show that generalizations using never and always are never (meaning rarely) true. (Which might mean that any and all idioms referring to all, none, everybody, nobody, always, and never are idiotic as well.)

Then again, I really do like Dead as a doornail. I think it is funny for all the reasons I listed above. It is a beloved idiotic idiom. At least to me.

(By the way… If you use Google to look up words, there are now usage statistics. They are rather funny. And after seeing the usage graph for doornail, I am not sure I believe them. Then again, Google may be surveying documents and books and blog posts to count the number of times a word is used. And there are thousands and thousands more books now than there were in the 1800s. So if a word is still in use today, it ought to have more usage numbers, just by virtue of the volume of works out there. By the way, I thought of this because of the graph below the definition of the word doornail when I looked it up.)

Well, I might have beaten that dead horse. Which is also a strange idiom. After all, did you beat the dead horse in a race or did you beat the dead horse with your riding crop. Either way, the idiom does not make that much sense. Ah well. I suppose that is the thing of it. Idioms do not really need to make sense. At least not today. They just had to make sense sometime in the past. After all, they would not have become idioms had they not made sense to some of the people some of the time. Or more probably many of the people for many a time.

I know I started out bemoaning idiotic idioms. But now that I think about them, I am rather fond of idioms. Especially, the idiotic idioms.

© 2024 Michael T. Miyoshi

Share on facebook