As a writer I often like to use idioms. These are common phrases or terms whose meaning is not real, but can be understood by their popular use. However, what I find to be fun to test is the “popular” or “common” usage piece of it. Over the last two years, I’ve been interested to note which expressions that come naturally to my mind (and therefore get written into my books) aren’t known or familiar to readers and friends.
In some cases, the phrase I’ve used is one I grew up with in the south, and therefore isn’t known to folks outside of that region. Some are older expressions that I’ve picked up reading historical romances and watching old movies. Some are linked with my age group (no, I’m not sharing my age). And some I’m honestly not sure why they aren’t more widely known. Here are a few – both the expression and their meaning.
Are there any you don’t recognize? Is it because of the reason I mention?
- fixin’ to (about to do something)
- down yonder (over there)
- a ways (a little way)
- all y’all (everyone in the room or being discussed)
- dull as dishwater (to be boring)
- don’t get your dander up (don’t get irritated or angry)
- carry a torch (have a crush)
- gas pump jockey (someone who pumps gas for you)
- dumb dora (stupid female)
Generational (Generation X)
- jump the shark (a tv show has gone a bad direction and might be getting ridiculous even – referencing a Happy Days episode where Fonzie jumps a shark on skis)
- gag me with a spoon (sarcastic phrase meaning something is nauseating or unpleasant)
- hair bands (those rock/metal bands from the 80s who had more hair – and hairspray than most women)
- Din-O-Mite (means excellent – is a reference to The Jeffersons)
Are there any expressions you use that cause other people look askance at you (ha – there’s another one – it means to look at you questioningly) when you say it?
I used to work with a lady from Iran. She freaked out the first time I told her I had been putting out fires all day at work. I had to quickly explain what that meant.
That’s hilarious. I hadn’t thought about how some phrases can actually be alarming if not understood.
There was only one of those I wasn’t familiar with. One that gets tossed out in this area on occasion is the phrase “red up your room”, or the house or whatnot. That tends to confuse non-natives, who seem to expect some bizarre coloring ritual instead of cleaning.
That’s one I haven’t come across before. I find the local ones tend to throw people the most.