Idioms that don't make sense

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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby PM 2Ring » Sun Oct 02, 2011 2:42 am UTC

goofy wrote:
Gigano wrote:What about "scaring the living daylights out of someone"? It is said that daylights is 18th century slang for someone's eyes.


You're right. Maybe the two idioms have combined.

My guess is that "living daylights out" is a corruption of "liver and lights out". But of course I could be totally wrong and it could be a case of convergence of two originally independent idioms.
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Oct 02, 2011 2:49 am UTC

PM 2Ring wrote:My guess is that "living daylights out" is a corruption of "liver and lights out". But of course I could be totally wrong and it could be a case of convergence of two originally independent idioms.
I'm pretty sure it's a case of convergence, because the first recorded instance of "daylights" as slang for a body part was the eyes.
Treatid basically wrote:widdout elephants deh be no starting points. deh be no ZFC.


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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby Eugo » Mon Oct 10, 2011 10:54 pm UTC

Oflick wrote:Personally, I can't see much difference between having cake and not eating it, and not having cake and not eating it. Either way you're not eating it.

Actually, the "have XOR eat" exclusion puts me in an awkward position when someone says "have a cake". What am I supposed to do with it, possess it for some indeterminate time? I was told to have it, therefore I can't eat it.

I prefer the Serbian unambiguous one about inability to "both squeeze and fart".

My favourite ridiculous phrase for today is "pretty ugly", a close relative to "far closer".
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby Derek » Tue Oct 11, 2011 12:15 am UTC

Eugo wrote:I prefer the Serbian unambiguous one about inability to "both squeeze and fart".

Is this anatomically true?
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby MHD » Tue Oct 11, 2011 6:58 pm UTC

GhostWolfe wrote:
Felstaff wrote:"couldn't hit a $large_object with a $handheld_object"
It has been my experience that $handheld_object usually refers to something that's relatively easy to hit some other thing with. Assuming even a below average level of coordination, one should be able to hit something as large as a barn as they stand directly before it swinging a banjo.

Though, to highlight the difference between the ease of hitting $large_object & the ease of hitting something with $handheld_object, I tend to say things like "couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a guided missile".

/angell


I prefer "you couldn't hit water if you fell out of a boat."
EDIT: inb4 dry docks and stranding

In Danish we are referring to proper marksmanship when we say "You couldn't hit a barn door if you stood in it," as in you would not be able to shoot through the opening of it.
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby Eugo » Tue Oct 11, 2011 10:17 pm UTC

Derek wrote:
Eugo wrote:I prefer the Serbian unambiguous one about inability to "both squeeze and fart".

Is this anatomically true?

I can offer no proof, only empirical evidence.
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Oct 13, 2011 11:16 pm UTC

Treatid basically wrote:widdout elephants deh be no starting points. deh be no ZFC.


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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby Anonymously Famous » Fri Oct 14, 2011 2:11 am UTC

I saw the headphones, and part of me thought that he was going to use them as ear protection as he proceeded to shoot fish in a barrel. I am somewhat disappointed.

I might just start using the phrase "shooting cake in a barrel" now.
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby Grop » Fri Oct 14, 2011 4:55 pm UTC

This, or fishing cake in a barrel.
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby Fire Brns » Fri Oct 21, 2011 6:01 pm UTC

Oflick wrote:"It's like comparing apples and oranges". They're pretty similar. I guess it rolls of the tongue better than "it's like comparing apples and irony", though.

In German they are much more simmilar: Apple is apfel and orange is apfelsine. Blam! Comparison sucessfull.
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby Anonymously Famous » Sat Oct 22, 2011 3:49 am UTC

Does the -sine suffix mean anything in particular?
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby Lazar » Sat Oct 22, 2011 4:33 am UTC

It's an adaptation of the Dutch appelsien, meaning apple-(from)-China. But in southern Germany and Austria they call it "Orange" instead.
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby Judah » Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:43 pm UTC

Anonymously Famous wrote:"He made it by the skin of his teeth."
I think this expression carries a general sense of "by the narrowest possible margin", like "by a hair". However, it originates from a misunderstanding of a Biblical quotation: "I have escaped with [only] the skin of my teeth" (Job 19:20), meaning that only the 'skin of Job's teeth' have escaped unscathed. (As you might recall, Job was smitten with proverbial suffering.)

The skin of one's teeth are his gums.
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby bigglesworth » Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:46 pm UTC

How is that a misunderstanding?
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby Judah » Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:56 pm UTC

bigglesworth wrote:How is that a misunderstanding?
Because as the expression is commonly used, it means that one['s whole body] has actually escaped, whereas Job would have meant anything but.

PM 2Ring wrote:
goofy wrote:
Gigano wrote:What about "scaring the living daylights out of someone"? It is said that daylights is 18th century slang for someone's eyes.


You're right. Maybe the two idioms have combined.

My guess is that "living daylights out" is a corruption of "liver and lights out". But of course I could be totally wrong and it could be a case of convergence of two originally independent idioms.
That sounds very unlikely to me: I can't imagine someone mishearing "liver and lights" as "living daylights".

Rather, I think that "the daylights out of" is more or less equivalent to "the lights out of" (no liver involved), and "living" is an intensifier (see definition 8 here: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/living).
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby Anonymously Famous » Sun Oct 23, 2011 1:13 pm UTC

Judah wrote:
Anonymously Famous wrote:"He made it by the skin of his teeth."
I think this expression carries a general sense of "by the narrowest possible margin", like "by a hair". However, it originates from a misunderstanding of a Biblical quotation: "I have escaped with [only] the skin of my teeth" (Job 19:20), meaning that only the 'skin of Job's teeth' have escaped unscathed. (As you might recall, Job was smitten with proverbial suffering.)

The skin of one's teeth are his gums.

You know, it makes sense that the skin of one's teeth is one's gums. Is there a source for that?

No matter the origins, the modern use of the idiom still doesn't make sense, though. :)
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby Eugo » Tue Oct 25, 2011 8:08 pm UTC

Judah wrote:
Anonymously Famous wrote:The skin of one's teeth are his gums.

There's this kind of idiom which did have sense once, but it was forgotten. I've recently started saying (in forums in English) just "there are graffiti" instead of "there's writing on the wall", for several reasons, but mostly because it means the same and I don't want to use a worn out phrase.

I have discovered that the meaning doesn't mean much (pardon the pun (don't execute it!)); people just don't understand what I said.
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby Qaanol » Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:18 pm UTC

Well, here are a few idiomatic expressions that, while they make perfect sense, don’t mean what they originally meant.

“Have an axe to grind” originally meant, as near as I can tell, trying to flatter or curry favor because of an ulterior motive.

“To each his own” originally was a shortened version of “To each his own is beautiful”, in essence restating the choice-supportive bias, meaning the tendency of people to convince themselves that what they have is great.

And “Murphy’s law”, oft-quoted as “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong” was, to the best of my knowledge, originally phrased as “If there’s more than one way to do something, and one of them will result in catastrophe, someone will eventually do it that way”; hence more a statement about people doing things without thinking them through, rather than mere chance.
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby Drab Emordnilap » Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:44 pm UTC

In reference to having and eating cake:

I've always understood that the idiom was originally "you can't eat your cake and have it too", which makes more sense. If you eat your cake, you can't subsequently possess your cake; if you want to have some cake later on (maybe to share?), don't eat it now.
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby Eugo » Mon Mar 26, 2012 7:38 am UTC

Drab Emordnilap wrote:In reference to having and eating cake:

I've always understood that the idiom was originally "you can't eat your cake and have it too", which makes more sense. If you eat your cake, you can't subsequently possess your cake; if you want to have some cake later on (maybe to share?), don't eat it now.

That's not a problem, but it makes me think twice (actually, many times) about the real meaning of "have a cake". What am I supposed to do with it - possess it?
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Re: Idioms that don't make sense

Postby Makri » Mon Mar 26, 2012 8:08 am UTC

The meaning of "have a cake" as "eat a cake" is an idiomatic expression. German doesn't have it (and a natural question to follow "I had a cake" is indeed "Well, so what did you do with it?", although I get a feeling that an idiomatic meaning is beginning to develop; it's there in certain contexts like "have for breakfast".), and it may be speculated that English didn't either at the time when "eat a cake and have it" developped. I don't have any idea about whether that's actually true, though.
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