This is going to be a silly post.
I have a great love of the English language. Besides the fact, that in some aspects, I am really bad at it. I mean, I love words and I love reading. But conversation and listening are not my strong suit. I have trouble with intonations and figuring out phrasing from others’ speech, as well as applying appropriate intonation and phrasing to my own speech.
One interesting way that this is shown is my inability to grasp some idioms (or phrases or proverbs or just common words). Sometimes, I end up grasping them at odd moments. And what I lack for in verbal skills, I more than make up for in ability to remember non-even-events in my life. That is what this blog is going to be about.
This is a list of idioms, phrases, or words that I was confused about at sometime and I have a recollection of the moment when it all made sense.
Cock and Bull Story: For most of my life I thought this was a “cockenbull” story. Maybe a “cockenbull” was a type of rooster? I didn’t question it. I was definitely in college when I figured this one out.
The ends justify the means: This took awhile. So in this statement, the “ends” are the end of the situation and the “means” are the means in which something is done. Clearly. But I always thought it was referring to a spectrum with the ends being the outer reaches of the spectrum, while the means being the middle of it. Like the “mean” in math. It wasn’t until I took Latin and had to translate the ablative of instrument as “means by which” an action was done all the time, that I understood what this meant.
Last, but not least: I was younger when this happened. So I think a part the misunderstanding had to do with the fact that I didn’t really understand the difference between “last” and “least.” I heard it said during the opening ceremony of a Miss America pageant and I could not understand it. I don’t know if I had even heard it before, because who says “last, but not least” other than announcers? I associated being last with a race, so if you were last in the race clearly you were the least of the people in the race. I remember standing in from of my refrigerator at home thinking “ohhh! That is like if I announced ‘Condiments in our fridge: ketchup , mayonnaise and last, but not least, mustard!’ because mustard is actually the best of the condiments in our fridge.”
You can’t have your cake and eat it too: This one surprisingly just got solved the other day and was an inspiration for this post. I never understood it because I was interpreting “having the cake” as like “For dessert, I had cake,” while of course it means you can both possess a cake and eat it because if you eat it, then you would be down one cake possession. Though, I think you should admit, it is kind of confusing. How often do you use the verb “to have” in reference to food to mean “to possess?” Very rarely, I assume.
Easter/Esther: I did not grow up in a family that was super religious. But I’ve always had a love of pomp and dressing up. I have the distinct memory of feeling the need to go to the Easter services at our local church one year. I am pretty sure that I wore an American Girl “Dress Like Your Doll” dress from the Felicity collection. But how I prepared for Easter was by reading my little children’s Bible. And when I looked “Easter” up in the table of contents (just a list of the books of the Bible), the closest thing I found to “Easter” was “Esther.” So I just figured they were the same. I read the story how Esther saved her nation and was very impressed with the whole thing. But then when I went to church with my dad, I couldn’t help being disappointed (and a little angry) that we spent the entire time talking about Jesus (didn’t he already get Christmas?) instead of awesome lady Esther. I don’t know if I’ve ever really forgiven the patriarchal institution of the Presbyterian Church for that.
All intents and purposes: This one is pretty simple. Until my twin brother saw me type it out, I thought it was “all intensive purposes.” I don’t really know what I thought an intensive purpose was.