Friday, January 10, 2014


My native language, Dutch, is known to have many ‘sayings’. Phrases and statements that get a point across in a descriptive manner. Most of these ‘sayings’ can give a lot of insight into the culture in which they are used. For instance, where the Dutch culture has been steeped in commerce for centuries, it is understood that when one is not making progress (in a venture), one is moving backward (in business). Therefore ‘standing still is moving backward’.
Another one that is both a practical observation as well as in a sense a Calvinist perspective, says that ‘tall trees catch lots of wind’. The observation says that tall trees are a good windbreaker; the Calvinist perspective says that when you aim to venture out above others, you are likely to get a lot of backtalk or criticism. A typical occurrence in a Country and culture ‘where every molehill is flattened’…

As I have grown up with these kind of ‘sayings’, they are just part of the language; often more specific in describing a situation than one might think. Many of these ‘sayings’ have come into being over time and stem from observations of things that might happen in everyday life. And rather than explaining the entire situation; the ‘saying’ says it all.
For me, the ‘sayings’ I have grown up with hardly ever conjure up funny images in my minds eye.

That is different with English sayings.
Of course the English language also has those ‘sayings’ that stem from observation: ‘I wouldn’t touch that with a ten foot pole’. It describes a situation one wouldn’t even almost want to get close to… Or ‘one can lead a horse to water, but one cannot make him drink’. You cannot make someone else do something they really don’t want to do, even if it is in their best interest to do it.
Now, that one starts to bring a series of images to mind that make me smile as well. I can just see how someone is trying to make the horse drink…
But no ‘saying’ brings more curious imagery to mind than when someone ‘is sticking their foot in their mouth’. Oh my…
Lets just say that hardly anyone is as agile as the saying suggests; and if they were, they would need to have an awfully big mouth. Which of course they would have ~ figuratively. And yet, there I am ~ stuck with this image of someone with their foot half in their mouth, hopping around on one leg; and in all reality going nowhere.

It makes me wonder what situation was looked at, observed, to come up with a ‘saying’ like that…

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