Nothing drives me up the wall more than an inane, overused idiom. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that people who insist on over-egging the pudding with idioms when communicating are simply bone idle.
Just the other day, I tried to argue the toss with someone about his apparent idiom obsession, but it was literally like wading through treacle and the whole thing quickly got out of hand. To cut a long story short, the guy eventually conceded that I had a point, and said he was willing to give me “the benefit of the doubt.” That he even managed to end our conversation with another common or garden idiom was the last straw. At this point, I was at the end of my tether, and I actually had to bite my tongue before I blew a fuse and really gave him a piece of my mind!
Anyway, before I wind myself up so much I’m unable to write, I’ll cut to the chase. Here are seven irritating British idioms that always make me want to pull my hair out.
1. If I were you …
The thing is, you’re not me. And if you really were me, you would do the exact same thing that I’m actually doing.
Yes, I know you mean that you’re simply putting yourself in my shoes, and that you’re just trying to give me some friendly advice.
But just imagine what Putin would do if he found out someone had deceived him. He would simply whip out the Novichoc, whereas if he were me he would have to settle for a box of chocs and a comforting cuddle … because HE WOULD BE ME, and that’s what I would do.
2. My (insert body part here) is killing me.
Really?! Is it really killing you? How likely is it on a scale of 1-10 that the toe you just stubbed on the edge of the bed will trigger a fatal sequence of gangrene, leg amputation, sepsis, organ failure, and death?
Of course, although it’s about as likely as a storm in a teacup, it is conceivably possible that the body part in question might actually be killing you without your knowledge, which is why the casual use of this idiom for trivial matters such as stubbed toes or a sprained wrist can serve to obscure actual medical emergencies.
Which makes it irritating.
3. That's weird.
Is it though? Here is the definition of the word ‘weird’: suggesting something supernatural / unearthly; connected with fate; a person’s destiny. So, why does everyone and their dog overuse this phrase to comment on stuff that’s just mildly unusual or unexpected?
It would certainly be weird if the guy with 20 packets of dried chillies in his supermarket trolley ate them all at once and morphed into a giant ball of fire. But it wouldn’t be at all weird if – much more likely – he’s simply buying them for his wife, who is pregnant and craves nothing but chillies.
The situation may be a bit strange, but it’s not weird.
4. At the end of the day …
Why does everything have to be summed up at the end of the day?
There are surely many things that might best be concluded at the end of the week, the end of the month, or even the end of the year. The end of the day is a terrible time to decide anything. You’re already tired after work, then there’s dinner to be cooked, dishes to be washed, kids to put to bed, etc, etc.
And why do we need six words when the word “ultimately” would do just fine? This truly British idiom is an obvious waste of words.
5. It’s not rocket science.
(Or “rocket surgery” if you’re George Bush, who allegedly mixed his metaphors during a high-profile speech back when he was President).
This idiom is particularly irritating when used in a patronising manner to humiliate someone who is struggling to understand something.
If someone ever says this to you, I would just take it with a pinch of salt. I also recommend responding with, “Really? Damn! I was looking forward to launching that Sputnk,” or “At least I’m not so unimaginative that I need to use trite, condescending, hackneyed cliches to make a point.”
That should shut them up soon enough.
6. I'll have it done in no time.
This one is an exaggeration on steroids!
Getting something done in no time is equivalent to not getting it done at all.
Unless you’re Merlin, Sabrina or Dumbledore.
Which you’re not.
7. Life is short.
I hate to let the cat out of the bag, but life is not short because – as Billy Connolly once pointed out – it’s obviously the longest thing you’ll ever do.
What else could possibly be longer?
Wrapping Up (sic)
OK, that’ll do for now. I realise that writing drivel like this isn’t exactly rocket science, but my poor head is killing me after all this profound, sagacious thinking.
But, be warned… I haven’t even scratched the surface yet. I have at least another few thousand where these came from, and they’re bound to surface eventually. I would say I’ll have them done in no time, but you and I both know that’s preposterous.
At the end of the day, I would avoid British idioms like the plague if I were you. Many of them are not just dumb; they’re also immoral. At best they’re seriously inaccurate, and at worst they’re blatant lies. It would be ridiculous and often impossible to put them into practice. For instance, when was the last time you saw an actual elephant in the room or a bull in a china shop? That’s just weird.
Finally, before I receive a barrage of sarky comments pointing out that I have actually included no less than 41 idioms in this post (including one in the title!), I hate to burst your bubble, but it was intentional. And yes, I do know that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. After all, life is short and the world is my oyster.