Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Headless, etc.

I recognize that most idioms and sayings originate generations and/or hundreds of years ago. I also recognize that things were very different back in those days. Based on many idioms, I've come to the conclusion that one of the big differences between now and then is that back then much of people's time was probably spent either killing or thinking about killing animals.

Fortunately these days we think less frequently about harming animals. At least I personally am not obsessed with such thoughts, and yet in every day conversation even the nicest of us might use such phrases as ". . . like a chicken with its head cut off", or talk about "killing two birds with one stone" (bonus!).

When I was young my parents had a little thing they would say whenever they took off one of our shirts. It wasn't until I was a parent and found myself saying it naturally while getting my kids ready for bed that I realized what it even means. Then I realized that saying "Skin the kitty!" while pulling off a shirt is just awful. Like, extremely, terribly bad awful (and my parents aren't that old).

Now, I'm not the biggest animal lover. Baby animals are cute, but full grown ones I'm not the biggest lover of. Love I what is words up mixing. (whatever, Lisa) But even I am strongly opposed to these sayings when I think about it. When I don't think about it, I'm not really opposed to them at all, though.

One time when I was thinking about it, I came up with an alternate to killing two birds with one stone. It's not very clever or anything, but much nicer. I vote we ban all those terrible old idioms and come up with nicer, newer, shinier ones. At least right now that's my vote. Because I'm thinking about it.

12 comments:

Lara said...

My dad is a wealth of old idioms, and a lot of them have to do with farming, too. It is kind of funny that we still say these things so often.

I'm with you. I will stop running around like a chicken with its head cut off and run around like a crazy woman instead.

Alison Wonderland said...

I'm usually right there with you, but I have to say that on this particular topic... well, I just don't care. (Although, skin the kitty (which I had never heard before) is a little graphic.)
But I am with you on the liking baby animals but not so much the full grown ones.

Kazzy said...

I never really thought about it, but you are right. Pretty violent!

Erin said...

I think your family might be the only one who uses "skin the kitty"! Where did that come from? :)

Nathan said...

Lisa, I've thought about the brutality of the two birds idiom, too. Reading your post, I was reminded of a terrific observation in my favorite novel I've never finished reading, Robert Musil's The Man Without Qualities. The novel is set in 1913. Musil observes that by then, people were getting used to factories, but: "One must not believe that people were quick to notice that a skyscraper was bigger than a man on a horse. On the contrary, even today those who want to make an impression will mount not a skyscraper, but a high horse; they are swift like the wind and sharp-sighted, not like a giant refractor but like an eagle. Their feelings," Musil concludes, "have not yet learned to make use of their intellect..."

I suppose we could say that idioms tend not to keep pace with the world in which they are still used.

Heather of the EO said...

That's hilarious, Lisa. I've actually never heard of the skin the cat one. Ew. :)

Heather said...

I had never heard the skin the kitty one either. I overheard my dad explaining another one I had never heard before, "like a dog in the manger." Not brutal, but about animals.
So have you come up with any new idioms?

Melissa Bastow said...

My memory is really horrible so I rarely remember the idioms of my childhood. I guess that's good though, because then I just have to come up with my own that probably make much less sense but don't involve killing animals. Although, on a side note, I recently started calling Number Four "knucklehead" because it's fun to say (say it outloud right now. See, fun.) Number Four doesn't mind but my husband is pretty sure it's a derogitory term. But we couldn't figure out exactly what it means. Your head looks like a knuckle? Yeah, doesn't even make sense.

Moody said...

I like your bird alternative. I think changing up the idioms is a good idea. I wish I had the time to research and do it (not really!) My grandma had one that I'm pretty sure was hers alone, "meaner than cat crap under a bed!" Um, yeah.

AndyPandyJackaDandy said...

Agreed. I also grew up on nursery rhymes and realize that many of them are not very nice (ever read all the way through Jack and Jill?) So I have created several of my own versions for my kidlets. And we may just be roasting 2 hotdogs on one stick from now on!

Heidi Ashworth said...

Today in a post I used the phrase "not what it's cut out to be". It took me aback. I wondered if it meant what I thought it meant so I googled it. They didn't even have it on the idiom site. Weird, but I left it in the post anyway. I have noticed that lots of those things my parents used to say didn't become part of my vocab until I started having kids, particularly when I had a girl (b/c I used to be one). "Pish" is a word my mother used to use a lot and which I had totally forgotten until my daughter was old enough to be admonished with "Pish! Put that dirty thing down!" Um, anyway, I'm talking an awful lot about me. I came here b/c I missed you! Love you!

Loralee and the gang... said...

I have never even thought about how awful those saying are - but then I had never heard of "skin the kitty" before. That one is the worst! I love the "roasting two hot dogs on one stick" alternative. And the "running around like a chicken with it's head cut off" just brings back childhood memories of butchering chickens and not being allowed to let it run around because it would get too dirty (I'm not THAT old, but my dad thought it was important for us to have a little bit of farming experience. The only thing I learned was that I NEVER want to pluck another chicken again...but now I am way off track here).
I think we should all put our heads together and wipe out all the old saying with clever new ones!