Reflections

Common Sayings That Are Stupider

Ha! And you thought we were done with these?

A few months back, we explored the fun of the English language in Common Sayings That Are Stupid. Now, we covered a lot in that one session. However, we’ve only scratched the surface on the fantastically terrible colloquialisms, idioms, and proverbs that seem to exist purely to complicate the art of communicating with each other. Plus, everybody likes a sequel, right?

So, since we’ve nothing better to do, and we’re all in another COVID lockdown, let’s take a look at some more common sayings and delve into their deeper meaning. Either way, this will help you to better understand why people use certain terms that sound like complete gibberish…or help you to understand why people look at you like a bloody idiot when you are trying to sound educated.

The cat’s pajamas.”

I’m almost certain that everybody has, at one point, heard about the cat’s pajamas. No? Well…are you in for a treat!

This odd phrase is comparable to several others, such as the bee’s knees, a popular 18th century saying, in that it usually refers to something that doesn’t yet exist. Besides the fact that it conjures up some awkward and disturbing imagery, this saying, in particular, originated in the early 20th century to describe something that is top of the line, new, and of the utmost excellence. Rising to prominence in the 1920s, it was used for several other things in the era of the flappers, including the name of dances, songs, and…*shudder* a style of furry underwear.

Unless you want to channel some serious out of date hipster vibes, maybe you should skip this one. You catch me, hepcat?

“A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

A relatively common proverb that may not come up too often. But then again, these things have a habit of showing up at the most unexpected times. This saying, seemingly originating from the 15th century, suggests that what you currently have is more valuable than taking the risk for something better, which may never come. The full origin of this phrase is largely disputed, but it may be a reference to falconry; the practice of hunting using a well-trained bird of prey. So, in theory, the bird you have in your hand may indeed be worth more than the two that aren’t. They may also end up eluding you entirely.

Take risks? FORGET IT! This isn’t exactly the most inspirational quote. And while I know falconry is still a thing, maybe you should just leave the birds alone. They carry disease, and they have sharp beaks and talons. Stop messing with them!

“The elephant in the room.”

An oldie, but a goodie! The first recorded instance of this phrase seems to come from the New York Times in 1959 when they wrote: “Financing schools has become a problem about equal to having an elephant in the living room. It’s so big you can’t ignore it.” Having said that, there are suggestions and references to the elephant that go back even further, even as far as the mid 18th century.

This expression usually refers to a controversial or uncomfortable issue that everybody knows about and nobody wants to discuss. I’ll be honest with you though, if there really was an elephant in the room, there’s no way we’re not discussing it! Why is it here? How did it even get in here? Who’s going to clean up after it? Do you know how dangerous elephants can be?!?! RUN!

“Bite the bullet.”

This phrase has some very dark meaning behind it. The term suggests that an individual needs to accept an inevitable and unavoidable pain or uncomfortable situation.

While its origins are hard to pinpoint, it may have come about from several of the US wars, including the War of Independence (1775), the War of 1812, the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and the American Civil War (1865). The term may be comparable to biting down on a piece of wood while the soldier is undergoing treatment for whatever wounds they may be suffering. Some of those treatments included amputations, a severely painful procedure. The bite, in theory, would take their concentration away from the pain they would have to endure at the hands of the surgeon. Apparently, in the absence of wood (something in short supply I guess??), a bullet is used as a battlefield alternative since it would be soft enough not to break a soldier’s teeth.

The problem? Anesthetic had already been issued to army surgeons as early as the 1850s, even if not overly-effective. On top of that, the bullets themselves would probably contribute to the soldiers ending up with lead poisoning. In the end, this may be nothing more than machismo and old wives’ tales that make for a great story.

So there you go! Yet another whole list of inane and quirky sayings that simply don’t hold up in modern-day society. I hope you found some of this information as enlightening, entertaining, and frustrating as I did.

You haven’t heard the last of this, though.

I promise.

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