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

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Inherited Idiosyncrasies – Peeling Oranges · 20 April 2024

Trying to peal oranges with a continuous peal is a strange idiosyncrasy that I inherited from my dad.

I am not sure that you can actually inherit idiosyncrasies, but it does not really matter. I am going to say that I did. After all, if we had a discussion about it, it would be a silly argument about nature versus nurture, and since I am just writing a blog, I would win the argument anyway. After all, a blog is, by its very nature, just a one way street. I know. People have the opportunity to comment and such, so it can be interactive. At least to a certain extent.

At any rate.

It has been a few years since my dad passed away, but I still think of him and my mom often. Often times I think of my dad when I peal oranges. I know. It is a strange time to think of him, but it will make sense in a moment.

My dad used to like to peal oranges in one spiral peel. I think he started doing it with the Mandarin oranges. You know, the little ones that are practically bite-sized. For some reason, their peels seem to hang off them like baggy pants or something. And for some reason, my dad decided that he was going to peel them in one spiral peel from the top to the bottom. I would say that he saw it on a YouTube video, but those were not a thing back in the day. I know. It seems like videos and the internet have always been around, but that is not the way people learned things back in the day. I am not sure how Dad learned about peeling his oranges, but I know it was not through the internet.

At any rate.

The interesting thing is that it was pretty easy to do the spiral peel thing with the little Mandarin oranges. But to do so on a navel orange or any other type of orange was something altogether different. Their peels did not hang off of them like baggy pants. They were held tight on those oranges. So the spiral peel thing was not a thing with them. At least not a sure thing. Still, my dad often tried it on them. At least I think he did.

What I know for sure though is that I tried to copy my dad. On many things, but especially, on peeling oranges in that spiral fashion. Which is why I am not going to debate whether I inherited the idiosyncrasy or not. Yes, I know that I watched him peel those Mandarins and other oranges. Yes, I learned that behavior. But I am sure I inherited the notion that I could do it whether my dad could or not. Which is to say that regardless of the type of orange, I try to peel it in one long spiral piece from top to bottom.

I must say that I am proud of myself when I accomplish the spiral peel on a regular orange. I know. It is not that great of an accomplishment. Still, I get pleasure out of doing it. Partly because it is a fun thing. And partly because even being proud of myself when doing something silly is one of those idiosyncrasies that I inherited from my dad.

Well, I did not really talk much about inheriting idiosyncrasies, but that is okay. I really just wanted to remember my dad for one of the strange things he taught me. One of those idiosyncratic things that I inherited from him.

By the way, if you decide that you want to spiral peel oranges from now on, you can say that you inherited the idiosyncrasy from me. And you can say so whether we are related or not.

© 2024 Michael T. Miyoshi

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The Cross Dangling from My Neck · 13 April 2024

I wonder about the cross dangling from your neck. You see, I have a cross dangling from my neck too. I do not display it prominently. It usually dangles beneath my shirt rather than over it.

Many people are sporting crosses these days. Tattoos and jewelry are most noticeable. And when I see them, I always want to ask the wearer, “What does that cross dangling from your neck mean to you?” I want to ask the question because I want to have a discussion. And I want to know because I had to ask myself that question when I started wearing a cross.

I had been contemplating getting a cross when I received it as an anniversary gift from my wife. As I was contemplating the cross, I wondered why I wanted one. I wondered if it would just be a meaningless symbol or if it would be something more. More than that, I wondered how I would answer somebody when they asked me, “What does that cross dangling from your neck mean to you?” I wanted to be sure of my reasons for wearing the cross before I took up my cross. And I figured out two reasons for wearing my cross.

First, I wear the cross as a reminder to me of whose I am. Yes, whose, not who. I know who I am. I am just a guy striving to become a mediocre man. I am normal. Average or below. Like I said, striving to be mediocre. But whose I am is much more important than who I am. For I belong to God. Jesus is my Master and I am not ashamed to say it. The Bible uses the word “slave” or “servant” to describe a follower’s relationship to Jesus. We cringe from those words today. But perhaps we should not. Perhaps we should rather embrace them. At least when talking about our relationship to the one who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. You see, Jesus died for every bad thing that I have ever done or will do. Everything that goes against God has been paid for. The cross is the symbol that tells me the debt has been paid. God is appeased. I am free. And that goes for all followers of Jesus.

So since the cross means that my debt has been paid, since it is my bill of sale, I wear it to remind myself that I am not my own. God has paid my ransom. I am His. And as such, I will do what He says to do. He is the Master. I am His slave. Which is perhaps why people do not want to follow Jesus. The free gift of life costs too much. But does it really? Is obedience out of gratitude that much to ask when we weigh it against the reward? Life forever in God’s presence seems to be more of a gift than I could ever hope for. So first and foremost, I wear my cross to show that I belong to Jesus.

(I must digress for a moment. We Christians have co-opted the most vicious form of torture and death that the world has ever known to be a symbol of life. But in reality, the symbol could have and maybe should have been an empty tomb. After all, the empty tomb shows God’s resurrection power. The empty tomb is the symbol that tells me Jesus’ words were true. He is God. The empty tomb gives Jesus credibility. The empty tomb is the lynchpin of the Christian faith. Without it, there is no Christianity. But how do you depict an empty tomb? How do you wear an empty tomb around your neck? You do not. But a cross? That’s the ticket. It is easy to make. It wears well as a piece of jewelry. And it is full of meaning. At least to the wearers who rely on resurrection power.)

The other reason I wear my cross is so that others can tell me when I misbehave. When I am not acting like Christ would want me to act, people can point to the cross and ask if I am really His emissary. The cross is an invitation to others to hold me accountable to God. Now I know that some people do not know exactly what that means, but that is okay. For in inviting others to hold me accountable to God, I am inviting others to a conversation about what God really says. And I welcome that with open arms and open mind.

Nobody could ever really give a full description of their take on theology in a short blog post. After all, there is so much to say about grace and forgiveness and a whole lot more. And even though I will probably not ask many people what that cross dangling around their necks means, I certainly invite others to ask me. Your answer might be different from mine, but I still ask the question, “What does that cross dangling from your neck mean to you?”

© 2024 Michael T. Miyoshi

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