All across England at the moment people are saying, “It’s coming home!” or, “Football’s coming home!” In case you are unaware (and I know that there are some of you bloggists who are not from UK) these are lines from a song that was released in 1996 when England hosted the European Football Championships. It was a very clever song as it picked up the national angst at not having been very good at major tournaments since winning the World Cup in 1966 and had a really catchy tune that meant that it was easy to chant in the stadia.
Since then the song has re-emerged any time England’s football team looked any good (rarely) and now that the men’s teamare in the semi-finals of the World Cup for the first time since 1990 it’s everywhere. Social media seems full of people singing versions of the song and clever photo montages that say ‘It’s coming home’.
But, while I am really excited about England’s success and really want them to win I can’t help pondering the thought that while English people know what it means for football to be coming home – we invented the game and we might be winning the biggest prize in world sport – the rest of the world might be a little bit confused. Why not, “We’re gonna win” or something along those lines. And (me being me) I started wondering about other idiomatic phrases in English that may cause confusion for others. Such as…
“Break a leg.” Spoken to actors and performers just before they go on stage supposedly as an encouragement!
“Born with a silver spoon in their mouth.” Someone who lives a privileged lifestyle because their family is wealthy.
“That’s the last straw.” Someone has reached the limit of their patience and is going to take action in response to the latest provocation.
“Don’t beat around the bush.” Don’t prevaricate, speak plainly.
“A fate worse than death.” Something terrible has happened or is threatened.
I find it quite amusing thinking of how we might have come to these idioms and work out the back story for them. I know that if you put them into a search engine online you may find some answers (or at least theories) but to me it seems more fun to guess. And when you read some foreign idioms translated literally into English it’s even more fun…
Thai idiom: “The hen sees the snake’s feet and the snake sees the hen’s boobs.” Two people know each other’s secrets
Portuguese idiom: “He who doesn’t have a dog hunts with a cat.” You do what you need to do, with what the resources you have.
Japanese idiom: “To wear a cat on one’s head.” You’re hiding your claws and pretending to be a nice, harmless person.
Swedish idiom: “To slide in on a shrimp sandwich.” Refers to somebody who didn’t have to work to get where they are.
Aren’t they brilliant? I really want to write the back stories to these… but that’s perhaps another bloggage.
As fun as they are the problem with idioms is that if you are not ‘in on it’ they are simply bewildering and confusing statements that reinforce that you are not ‘in’. In the groups to which you belong do you use language inclusively or exclusively? Do you ensure that people who are not ‘in’ can access what you are about or are you more focused on using the ‘in’ phrases in order to show the rest of those who are ‘in’ that you’re ‘in’ too? I’m not just thinking about churches…
We need to be as wise as Solomon, as patient as Job, ensure we don’t cast our pearls before swine but cast our bread upon the waters and preach to the choir. Or maybe not…
Be blessed, be a blessing