Saturday, July 14, 2007

Stranger Things May Or May Not Have Happened ?!!

Dad slammed on the brakes but not soon enough. We rear-ended a car that had stopped to make a left turn. You know when North 11th Street in Beaumont got wet back in the early 1950s, your tires would lose traction. We were taking my buddy home and he felt bad about Dad having the wreck while taking him home and so he apologized. My dad replied, “It’s all in a day’s work.” Of course most of you know this means that various things happen to everybody at one time or another. This was my dad’s turn to have a wreck. This idiom fascinated my friend.

An “idiom” is defined as, “ … a phrase where the words together have a meaning that is different from the dictionary definitions of the individual words.”

For example, Franco and I were walking down a sidewalk in Balboa, Panama Canal Zone. He and I were fellow musicians in the 79th U. S. Army Band during the late 1950s. He was from Puerto Rico and spoke that form of Spanish. Although his English was not so good, I could understand him. He said, “Ambee, I am sorree I did not copee museec for you.” I replied, “No sweat, Franco.”

A few minutes later Franco said, “Ambee, why you say ‘no sweat’ because we sweat veree much?" I explained to Franco that in English, “no sweat” was an idiom that meant, “that’s OK … don’t worry about it.”

Franco seemed to be impressed with that idiom. In fact, a few days later I overheard him speaking to some friends in Spanish and he used the term, “Sudor Negativo.” Literally translated that said, “Sweat Negative.” His Spanish-speaking friends did not know what he was talking about. He was trying to use an English idiom in another language and it didn’t work.

Have you ever considered how difficult it must be to learn the English language with all the idioms we use?

Take this possibility. Some people are studying English and they know the word, “little” and the word, “bird.” Then someone comes up to them and says, “A little bird told me.” Now these people are trying to figure out how birds talk.

My wife knows that I had trouble learning Spanish. Conjugated verbs were not my best friend. Sometimes when I spoke Spanish she acted like, “my elevator didn’t go all the way to the top.” And sometimes when I tried to fix things around the house she mumbled something about, “An accident waiting to happen.”

And I always thought it would be extra cruel to, “beat a dead horse to death.” Isn’t it enough that the horse is already dead? Why beat him to death again?

Again my wife goes shopping and charges stuff on a credit card. Then when I pay the bills I sometimes end up, “paying through the nose.” Would you accept my currency if I paid you through my nose?” Yuck.

My wife and I seldom get into an argument. But when we do I have learned to, “walk on eggshells,” even if she tries to, “make a mountain out of a molehill.” “Make no bones about it,” when a couple learns to get along their relationship will function, “like a piece of cake.”

There are more than 2,000 idiomatic expressions in our English language. If you would care to “bone up” on idioms, go to . There you will find enough information to, “knock your socks off.” In fact, writing this column just about “drove me up the wall” because I almost “bit off more than I could chew.”

Oh well, as Dad said, “It’s all in a day’s work.”

Winston Hamby
The Beaumont Enterprise


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