Monday, September 25, 2017

To Coin a Phrase

As a writer, I try to always be very careful with my basic grammar. There are specific 'do's and don'ts' that we all learned in English classes, year after year. Some people got it, while others obviously were off in a daydream or else chose not to follow the grammar rules. I won't say that I never make the errors, I do. My excuse is that it happens when I am in too much of a rush or else it was a typo. It really does drive me crazy when I see to, too and two or their, there and they're used incorrectly. (not to mention the other ones out there)

There is yet another part of writing that I must always pay close attention to. There are expressions or phrases that many times are used incorrectly. Sometimes they have been used incorrectly so often that we tend to never know the true way of expressing them. I was actually shocked to learn of some of the sayings that I had been using incorrectly. I now know better, so shame on me if I slip up. Many of the sayings that I listed below, I did already know, yet have heard others use them incorrectly or did not know their origin. I suppose that it is what one gets used to seeing in print and hearing? I always like to know where the phrase came from or what the meaning was originally if I am using it.

  • for all intents and purposes  -  I have heard this verbally expressed as "for all intensive purposes." Rarely will you find it in written form, as it does not make it usually past the edited edition. 
  • he has another think coming  -  If you believe it  is, “you’ve got another thing coming,” then you have misheard the expression, “you’ve got another think coming”.   
  • spit and image  -  spitting image  - trick phrasing here because the original was spit and image but throughout the years spitting image has become the accepted phrasing
  • I could care less  -  I couldn't care less  - slightly confusing because of the double negative (not and less - maybe not negative technically but in meaning), but if you think about it does make sense.  
  • Back to square one  -  Early BBC radio commentaries did help listeners follow the progress of football (soccer) and rugby games by dividing the pitch into eight rectangles. Commentators described the play by saying which 'square' the ball was in. The Radio Times, the BBC's listings guide, referred to the practice in an issue from January 1927.
  • What a load of codswallop  -  This is a new vocabulary word for me. It was used in a movie that we were watching the other night. It is most definitely a British slang word meaning nonsense. There are lots of myths about the origin of the word. It showed up in print post WWII in British press. This word is going in my list of favorite words. It is just plain fun to say.
  • Getting up on the wrong side of the bed  - We all use this to express waking up in a bad mood but did you know that long ago innkeepers actually pushed the beds up against the wall on the left side because the left side of anything was considered sinister. This way the guests had no other option except to get up on the right side of the bed. Sinister is Latin for left-handed but there is no other real explanation given in my research.
  • Show your true colors  -  The song, True Colors, by Cindi Lauper, does reflect in a way some of the original meaning of this phrase. It is to reveal one's true nature. Warships used to fly multiple flags to confuse their enemies. The rules of warfare stated that a ship had to hoist its true flag before firing in order to display its country's true colors.
  • Go the whole 9 yards  -  It is to do your best based on World War II Fighter pilots receiving a 9-yard chain of ammunition so therefore, when a pilot used all of his ammunition on one target, he gave it "the whole  9 yards."
  • Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater Simply means hang on to valuable things when getting rid of unnecessary things. During the 1500's people bathed very infrequently. When they did, the whole family used the same tub of water starting with the males of the house and moving on to the females with babies being last. The water was cloudy, as you can imagine so the infants' mothers had to take care not to throw them out with the bathwater. One can't make this stuff up!
As a writer, I like to know where expressions that I use originated from. I feel that if I am expressing myself in a particular way then I should be able to explain, if asked.

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