Writer vs. Idioms

 

Biting the Dust and Chewing the Fat: A Word About Idioms

 

My daughter is learning about idioms in school. With new eyes on them, these expressions and figures of speech can range from all-out ridiculous to so over used that we barely notice them. Keep your eyes open, I’m about to idiom all over this place.

 

The conversation with my daughter got the ball rolling in my head, thinking about the idioms that pepper my own work. Writing coaches and how-to books tell you constantly to watch out for these little story killers, and with good reason. They dull your dialogues. They’re cliche, they’re drab, and boring and are the written word equivalent to a speaker saying ‘um’ and ‘uh’. Idioms are skipped over by the reader’s eye because they are so common as fixtures of language and culture. In other words, they’re time and space wasters.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Now, I don’t want to steal someone’s thunder or throw the baby out with the bathwater because sometimes idioms can be useful. Occasionally a specific phrase used in dialogue can denote or solidify where your character comes from or give us insight into their personality.

 

Saying ‘that dog won’t hunt’ or that someone ‘doesn’t know shit from Shinola’ (oh, and ‘please excuse my French’) are phrases one expects from a certain region or even generation. But unless it is something your character is at home saying, or that paints them in more vibrant colors to the reader, avoid them like the plague. After all, do we really need to swing a cat in a room to see if it’s big enough to do so?

 

It’s hard to cull the herd of idioms in our language; to make our work more precise and original, but it is part of fighting the good fight. When editing, ask yourself if the line has a double meaning. Ask if it’s the best possible way to say what you mean. If it’s an obvious idiom, what could you use instead? Does it contribute to the scene and charm of the moment, or distract from it?

 

So don’t beat around the bush or cry over spilt milk. When the ball is in your court and you’re back to the drawing board, remember; although idioms can be a cloud with a rare silver lining, it is always better to hit the nail on the head and kick overused phrases to the curb.

 

Now, if I can get the use of the Oxford comma right and stop double spacing after periods, I may just level the playing field.

 

If it’s not one thing…it’s another.

 

What are some of your common (or favorite) over-used expressions?

 

VerseDay 12-27-18

For the last VerseDay of 2018 I wanted to give you something amazing and powerful. Alas, this is what you get instead. (Well? Laugh!)

 

Next week, dawning the New Year, I will once again be promoting my submissions to VerseDay for the anthology out next fall. If you want to see your poem in print, please feel free to email or contact me with your poetry and/or essays.

 

And now…the final poem of 2018’s VerseDay adventure…

 

Honey Bee

 

Sometimes,

I miss you.

Miss the sound of your voice,

And the slight buzz 

Dripping Carolina, Honey

 

sweet.

 

I miss your fire,

the uplifting energy; an element so unconfined

The rushing ideas,

The rebellious feeling and defiant

 

heart.

 

I miss you, and your hover,

The way you called my flower the sweetest,

The only, under this sun,

You’ve ever loved, and danced so delicately across my

 

petals.

 

I don’t miss the way

Your deluge engulfed me,

Suffocated and overran in conversation,

The sting of barrage, welting my heart over and over again

And feeling that I was never quite important enough

To stop and take a

 

breath.

 

I don’t miss the pain,

Of the aching guilt you pierced me with,

The weight of what I should be,

What you wanted me to be,

The ideal you set

A high ivory honeycomb of complex,

 

deception.

 

Life does this.

It educates us.

Sometimes in human form,

and one sweetly hovering honeybee

Hard and hurtful once lured by the beguiling warmth

We must choose the limb to chew off to spare our

 

freedom.

 

You were my lesson

To enjoy the drawl but not submit to the voice

To know the sweetness of honey, without succumbing to its

 

taste.

 

To stoke my own energy,

To comprehend that I don’t need yours.

Orbiting in the clouds of your unfathomable passion taught me

To look for the fire in

 

Myself.