Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Keep Your Eye On It

Our student aide that year was a student from China. She spoke three dialects and perfect English (note to Americans: There’s more to life than just one language), but we found she did not know our idioms.

When I left the office one day, I asked her to keep an eye on the place. In return, she gave me a strange look; “keep an eye on the place?” Yeah, I gotta hit the road for a while. “Hit the road? Keep an eye on the place?”

I was chatting with a friend yesterday and, thinking about what I might write about today, noticed that he used three idioms in one sentence. It’s not until we are with someone of a different linguistic background that we realize how many of these we commonly toss about. One of these days, I’ll have to keep count.

Wonder where they come from? “Just pulling your leg” has nothing I can think of to do with fooling someone; the French “Putting you in a box” is no better. We can hit the hay, hit the road, knock it off, knock her up, get forty winks, tell you a million times.

Your assignment, dear reader, is to keep in your mind for one day just how many idioms you use and how many you have heard others use. At first, you won’t notice any, because we don’t sort them internally as idiomatic phrases. Then you will start to notice just how we speak to each other. It will be clear as a bell.


Anonymous ruthc said...

knock her up
Do the English still use "knock you up" as a wake-up call in a hotel?
Plenty of room for confusion when a Brit asked an American.

August 13, 2007 8:21 AM  
Blogger Tom Carten said...

I had a friend from Dublin ask me to knock him up later in the afternoon. Seems he was going to be in his room and wanted the British/Irish version, not the U.S. version.

August 13, 2007 10:37 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home