The English language is full of idioms, where at one time a phrase meant one thing, but over the years the meaning changed. Sometimes we writers avoid these over-used idioms because we see them as cliches. An editor once accepted my short story for publication but added, “The only problem was the nun talked in cliches. But nuns do talk in cliches, so okay.”
Dodged a bullet there.
Some Interesting Examples of Idioms
I’m taking a few examples from this list of 23 I found at https://www.tckpublishing.com/common-idioms-and-their-origins/
I found “butter him up” fascinating. Apparently, devotees of ancient Indian gods threw butter at their statues to ask for forgiveness or favor.
Another favorite is “giving someone the cold shoulder.” When a medieval guest overstayed their welcome, the host would serve them a slice of cold shoulder of pork, beef, or mutton. Hint: go home already!
Other Thoughts on Writing
Point of View in Non-Fiction
POV plays a huge role in fiction, and I would add in non-fiction as well. The book, Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, describes how early settlers killed native people and stole their land. That point of view was shocking and far from the Euro-centric American history I learned in school. The book was so minutely researched, covering every person, place, and hostile event (genocide) across our nation, it began to feel redundant. Everywhere and in every way, the colonists grabbed the land they wanted and killed anyone opposing them.
The term “eminent domain” popped into my head, so I found this.
“Eminent domain in the United States
The term “eminent domain” has its roots in 17th century Europe, when Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius coined it, but it has been codified as far back as the Magna Carta in 1215. Countries all over the world have different forms of eminent domain.The concept of condemnation came to America with settlers and their common law, but it was codified into the Constitution as eminent domain when James Madison argued that compensation was necessary, and the land must be for public use. Previously, the land was taken without compensation because it was so abundant. (My emphasis)”
Clearly, POV plays a huge role in writing history. The author is a Native American who researched and wrote from the point of view of the indigenous population and not our revered(?) settlers.
Point of View in Fiction
POV in fiction is the vehicle that transports the reader through the story. Simply put, it is the camera of a scene. Unless the POV is omniscient (knows and sees all) the writer selects the character best suited to be the eyes and ears for the scene. That character cannot know what another is thinking. To break that rule is to “head hop,” as in hopping from one brain into another’s.
Believe me, that’s easy to do.
“After Harry told Mike what happened, Mike was terrified.” Head hopping – Harry can’t know Mike’s feelings. He’s not in Mike’s head.
“After Harry told Mike what happened, Mike looked terrified.” And that’s how Harry knows he scared Mike, because he sees the terror on Mike’s face.
I don’t know if this expression is unique to my writing group, but telling a reader what a character felt or what just happened after it’s already been shown, is what we call a “hey Bob.” As in… “Hey Bob, just in case you didn’t get it the first time, let me explain.”
After Harry told Mike what happened, Mike looked terrified. Mike ‘s story really scared him.
We know Mike is scared because he looked terrified. ‘Nuff said. The reader got it. The last sentence is a “Hey Bob.”
A writer should give readers credit for their smarts.
Was my giving that example a “Hey Bob?” Sorry. See how easy it is to do?
And those are my literary musing for the week.