By Ariana Dale
Growing up, my family had a vocabulary that was off the charts. Their word usage used to fly way over my head, and I’d sit there thinking I’d only be as smart as them when pigs fly! As I got older and started to understand the ways of the world, I found that my understanding of their crazy antics came more frequently than just once in a blue moon.
The coolest part about idioms is that they rely on an individual’s historical knowledge, and they tell a story with only a few words.
For example, the idiom “Elvis has left the building” is only understandable if you know how popular the singer Elvis, “the King of Pop,” actually was. Additionally, the story goes that this phrase was used to let the crowd know that the Elvis had actually left and that no more encores would be played.
Another cool idiom is “once in a blue moon.” This one essentially indicates that something happens very rarely, as a blue moon only appears once every three years or so.
Okay, here’s one more I bet you didn’t know: You are “the bee’s knees!”
This is generally used to say someone is absolutely superb, and its historical origin is quite extensive and a bit confusing; see here. According to Phrase Finder, the term “bee’s knees” initially was thrown casually about—just one of many “fashionable nonsense terms” used during the roaring ’20s that somehow stuck. (Other such terms include the “cat’s whiskers” and “the snake’s hips.”) It could also be in reference to a famous ballet dancer in New York in the 1920s, Bee Jackson. God knows.
P.S. Idioms are great for casual verbal communication, but I would definitely avoid any of these in an actual paper- you don’t want to sound cliché!
>> For information on the title: A penny for your thoughts?
Ariana is the Post Graduate Teaching Intern (PGTI) for the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) this year. She graduated in the spring with a BS in biology and a creative writing minor.