Friday, July 27, 2007

My husband is an idiom mangling machine

I love my husband's slightly intentional malapropisms. He is full of them:

  • "If it were any closer it would bite you". This is what he says when witnessing my frantic search for the eyeglasses that are hiding on top of my head. As a child, my husband mistakenly learned this, instead of the saying, "If it were a dog, it would have bitten you." For years, he insisted his version was correct!

    Thank goodness for the pointless-argument resolving properties of the Internet.

  • "That's like six of one and a dozen of the other." For years, I thought he was being sarcastic when he said this. He's a mathematician for crying out loud! A few years ago, when I thought its casual irreverence particularly inappropriate, I called him to task.

    He blinked at me, the picture of befuddled innocence. It then dawned on me that he had inaccurately encoded the idiom. (We'll be married 20 years next month; I should have known better. )

    I carefully explained that the real idiom is "six of one and half a dozen of the other."

    Looking at me with profound relief, he said, "That one never did make any sense to me."

  • My personal favorite: "We'll burn that bridge when we get to it." This one conflates "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it." with "Don't burn your bridges."

The mangled idiom is sometimes more insightful and nuanced than the aphorism it replaces. I often prefer my own garbled and misunderstood song lyrics to the original, correct versions, when I learn of my mistakes.

After all, "Perception is in the eye of the beholder."

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jenny said...

That is so sweet! We are continually using idioms that my children want to know what the meanings of in our home. Some we have had to explain recently are "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth" and "It's about a horse a piece." We can't seem to figure out the meaning of the latter one and my children informed me that I was using the "gift horse" one incorrectly. So I guess your husband and I would get along well.


Anonymous said...

I once heard a college professor quip, "We'll fall off that bridge when we get to it." Her intent was that we shouldn't spend time and energy worrying about problems that may never arise. In other words, stop anticipating disaster and focus on the here and now. Perhaps she ought to have said, "if we get to it." But the calming effect took hold, regardless, and that was a good thing!

haKiruv said...

That's hilarious!

Are you sure it's not "Six to one, half a dozen to another"?

RaggedyMom said...

I thought we had the exclusive rights on idiom-mangling since my husband is not a native speaker of English. There's no better way for me to confuse him than to use a new idiom. The ones he's learned in the last few years have certainly been misused several times, though I can't claim that my versions are always perfect either!

Anonymous said...

As you haven't enabled comments on the post above this one, I'm commenting here instead:

For an adults only party, try taking a syringe and injecting champagne* into the strawberries before dipping them in chocolate. It's major yummy.


(*) - More likely carbonated white wine, as very few people manufacture kosher wine using the traditional methode champagnoise. It'd still be tasty, though.

Juggling Frogs said...


If you are or love a natural malapropism generator, I recommend you start a notebook to record them!

We're about to celebrate our 20th anniversary. If only I had been keeping track for those two decades, I'd have a cute book!

I hadn't heard the "horse apiece" expression before.

Here are some explanations I found on-line, though:

It means two alternatives are roughly equivalent and is an expression used in the Upper Peninsula of Wisconsin.

A similar answer but speculation that it originated in the Mid-West

The Urban Dictionary's entry

Juggling Frogs said...


I think of my husband's version as "We'll really mess that up when it happens, but let's not worry about it now."


I'm not sure of anything. I've only heard and read it the way I wrote it above, but there may be other variations.

Raggedy Mom,

My husband has no such excuse; he was born in the USA. His father wasn't, though. We get even more of these from my father-in-law.

Once things are translated from German to Hebrew to Yiddish to English... Oh my!


Now that sounds yummy!

I disable comments on all the "shabbat shalom" posts, but only those posts.

sirhc said...

It's nice to see someone else uses the phrase, "We'll burn that bridge when we get to it." I often use it, intentionally and usually with mild sarcasm, when I notice people aren't thinking ahead. Unfortunately, not very many people pick up on the intentional misuse, but occasionally someone will get a chuckle out of it.

Aseh lecha Rav said...

Crossing bridges - burning bridges... it's all a matter of 6 dozen of one to half of another LOL

Linda said...

*lol* I have one of the same husbands! ;)

I couldn't tell you what he said, because I'm sure Dutch sayings don't make sense to you..

Greetings from the netherlands! ;)

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