Hey, folks. Another short one as finals week closes in on me.
As a writer, I’m easily bothered when people misuse words. Many people can attest to, and have been on the receiving end of, my righteous indignation fueled by the battle cry, “Words mean things.”
To that end, here is a short list of sayings, phrases, and figures of speech that people should really think hard on before letting slip from their tongues. Whether it’s using the phrase inappropriately or just a term that doesn’t set well on my ears, these are the words that grind my gears.
These days, many people use this saying to describe some one who is jealous, but desperately trying to look like they aren’t. This, however, disregards the origin of the phrase.
The saying comes from the Aesop fable, The Fox and The Grapes. In the story, the fox sees a bunch of grapes hanging from a vine. When he discovers that he can’t jump high enough to reach the grapes he justifies the failure by saying, “I am sure they are sour.”
That is the true definition of Sour Grapes, a person’s attempt at rationalizing their shortcomings by saying that the wished for outcome would likely not be as good as anticipated. A good example would be someone saying, “Yeah, I didn’t win that multi-million dollar lottery, but all of that money would just bump me into a higher tax bracket.”
“Eye For An Eye”
Here’s one that people often misuse to justify vindictive behavior. Many believe that this figure of speech is a call for justice.
While it is true that the original verses in the bible where this is originated meant this literally, it works better as a plea for fairness rather than a demand of retribution as, prior to the Code of Hammurabi, there was nothing stopping someone from killing another for, say for instance, plucking out an eye.
However, I think we should retire the phrase all together anyway since our understanding of treating violent criminals and our ability to rationally deal with those who slight us have become much more sophisticated over time. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
“What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger.”
This phrase, other than being a faux-inspirational cliché, gives the wrong idea to people. The intent is to tell people that they grow more resilient against that which has harmed them.
But just exposing ourselves to pain is not enough and those painful acts can still cause a great deal of trauma. The more appropriate phrase, a rebuttal whose variations have become clichés themselves thanks to comedian George Carlin, would be, “That which does not kill me may sever my spinal cord, crush my rib cage, cave in my skull and leave me helpless and paralyzed, soaking in a puddle of my own waste.”
Your real strength comes from your ability to reason; recognizing how and why misfortune has befallen you and how to avoid it in the future or alternately, if said misfortune can’t be avoided, how it can be overcome so you can continue a normal life. It’s another, far more useful cliché phrase; “There is no knowledge that is not power.”
- Clichés | Avoid them like the plague! (shardsofsilence.wordpress.com)
- Cliché is the box food of language; plus, Orwell on abstract words (thecuriouspeople.wordpress.com)
- 11 Everyday Phrases You Might Be Saying Incorrectly (businessinsider.com)