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Berserker's avatar

What are some sayings that make no sense to you?

Asked by Berserker (33524points) January 17th, 2014

Stuff like ’‘drunk as a skunk’’. Why is that even a saying? Because it rhymes? Is that why? And what about a skunk relates it to a drunkard? Is it because they walk all wobbly like, or because they smell?

Or like, ’‘the pen is mightier than the sword’’. I know what that actually means, yes, but put into a real life context, if I have a sword and you have a pen and we’re having a duel, I’m gonna win. Like what the hell. Which reminds me, ’‘sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me’’.
What the hell kind of saying is this? People can be hurt very badly by what others say, it ain’t some dumbass see no evil hear no evil monkey shit that’s going to stop that, no? And OF COURSE if someone chucks rocks and logs at me, I might break some bones.

Just a bit of humor yall, what sayings make no sense to you?

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70 Answers

JLeslie's avatar

My husband asks me about American sayings all the time. I think it’s cute and I only have the answer about half the time. Sometimes I think it is just about the rhyme, but usually there is some sort of half logical reason for a saying.

I can’t think of any off the top of my head that I don’t know some background, because my husband asks me about them often enough that we look up the origin of words and sayings quite often. Some of the more recent would be Blue Plate Special, because that term is still used where I was living previous to where I live now. Many sayings in America come from European languages, We evolve the word and incorporate it into English. Watch the series America’s Secret Slang. I think you will like it.

Edit: I tried to provide a link to the series on youtube, but it isn’t working. If you google it should pop up for you though.

gailcalled's avatar

“Truth from fiction, fact from diction.”

Berserker's avatar

@JLeslie Thanks for the link, I’m gonna check that out. Should be interesting.
EDIT- But wait, it just brings me to a google search of America?

@gailcalled Seriously, what does that mean? I really don’t get it.

gailcalled's avatar

Ask the inventor. He always claimed that it meant someting; exactly what was never clear.

Berserker's avatar

Who invented it? Hypocrisy_Central? He used to say that often before, but someone on AnswerBag way back when was always saying that, too.

gailcalled's avatar

I was not aware that H-C was not the original source. No matter; it never made sense.

JLeslie's avatar

Try this link to get you started. There should also be additional episodes listed. I think there are 6 in total.

Berserker's avatar

Aaaah there we go, it’s working. :) Thank you. :)

LuckyGuy's avatar

I get confused by the term “all but” as in, “Shorthand is an all but forgotten skill.” Sure. I understand what the speaker is trying to say but why not just say “almost” instead?
“All but” does not make sense to me. “All butt” does, however.

livelaughlove21's avatar

“Sick as a dog.”

Berserker's avatar

@livelaughlove21 Haha yeah, not sure about that one either. Never had a dog before, so I denno how sick they get…do dogs get uber sick or what? Maybe that saying comes from stray dogs being all outta shape and shit?

flip86's avatar

“You can’t have your cake and eat it too” What’s the point of having cake if you can’t eat it?

Berserker's avatar

Yeah no shit, I mean, if I can have my cake, but not eat it, like what else am I gonna do with it? I’ll share it with people, for sure, but unless it gets eaten, what purpose does that saying even have?

ucme's avatar

“i’m sorry for your loss.”
They’re not lost, they’re dead.

Mimishu1995's avatar

- “Piece of cake” = too easy? What do “cake” and “easy” have in common? (Is cake that easy to make? Or is cake really that small?)
“Pushing up the daisies” = die? (the author of this saying must be someone who witnessed a zombie raising his hand out of the ground and pushing some daisies out in the process)
“Raining cats and dogs”? (is there a dog and a cat in the sky that create rain whenever they fight?)
“Have kittens” = nervous? (The author of this saying must be a female cat so she knew how having kittens would feel like)

ccrow's avatar

Ok, here’s one: “I’m so hungry I could eat the northbound end of a southbound skunk!” I understand what it’s supposed to mean, but really, wouldn’t a literal interpretation mean that the skunk’s two ends are traveling in opposite directions? (This saying is something my husband says; I have no idea where it came from!)

janbb's avatar

@Mimishu1995 “Pushing up daisies” means you’re fertilizing the ground with your decaying body.

josie's avatar

“I could care less”

Shouldn’t it be “I could not care less”?

@ccrow The northbound end of a southbound skunk is the part that is pointing north. The skunk’s asshole. It is even worse when you think about it.

filmfann's avatar

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” and “Beware gifts from Greeks” conflict.

gailcalled's avatar

“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts” is the literal translation of Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes,... a phrase from Virgil’s Aeneid.

The two sayings do contradict each other, it is true.

filmfann's avatar

@gailcalled Thanks for the correction. I am overtired, and yet I knew that didn’t sound right”

dxs's avatar

Cold as hell. So nobody knows what hell is like, but still, I don’t know it just bothers me.
Dead as a…doorknail? doorknob? One of those. Are doornails and doorknobs more dead that any other inanimate object?

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

She’s built like a brick outhouse. What the hell? What kind of compliment is that?

El_Cadejo's avatar

“Easy as pie”

Have you ever made a pie from scratch? What exactly about that process do you find to be easy?

dxs's avatar

@uberbatman Do you think making a piece of cake is any easier?

janbb's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe I don’t think that’s meant to be a compliment!

El_Cadejo's avatar

@dxs I do. Pie crust is a PITA to work with.

@janbb I don’t either but I hear it used as a compliment quite frequently.

janbb's avatar

@uberbatman Well – I guess it can mean a solid, strong body but not usually one conforming to the standard image of feminine beauty.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@janbb Yea, pretty much that. It’s just the shithouse part that is like uhhhhh.

ibstubro's avatar

When I was young, we used to say “He doesn’t have all his shit in one sock,” although I never understood it, and still don’t.

It was above freezing earlier this week, then we had a hard freeze. I immediately thought, “Ope, the ducks ate the mud!” My mother used to say it, and when I asked her what the hell it meant, she just replied, “It’s something your great grandmother used to say.” Inherited banality.

TheRealOldHippie's avatar

“It’s cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.” And just how cold is that? Does a brass monkey even have balls? What if it’s a female brass monkey?

“Get your shit together.” If it’s not together, that means it’s loose and you’re having some sort of intestinal problem. Why would you want it together?

janbb's avatar

@TheRealOldHippie I just heard something about brass monkeys on NPR. Apparently they were something on a battle ship that held the cannon balls or something like that and that’s where the phrase started. I think that a lot of phrases do have a historical derivation but they are lost in the mists (or midst) or time.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@josie That’s one that bothers me too. It is supposed to be “I couldn’t care less.”

@janbb When a man is described as being “built like a brick shithouse,” it means he’s big and muscular. When used to describe a woman, it just means she has an amazing body, usually curvaceous and fit.

From Urban Dictionary:

“Built like a brick shithouse” – Originally “built like a brick outhouse” this term meant any project that was appealingly overdone or a level of quality that was better than was necessary.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

“Sweating like a pig”

Pigs have very few sweat glands, and they’re not effective for adjusting body temperature. That’s why pigs wallow in cool water or mud – behavioral thermoregulation – on a hot day. So, to “sweat like a pig” is to sweat little or not at all.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@uberbatman Maybe the “easy” part of pie is eating it, not creating it.

ccrow's avatar

But @josie if something is north- or southbound, that means it is traveling in that direction. And yes, I already grasped the gross aspect of the saying;-) My point is that both ends of the theoretical skunk are traveling in the same direction. I have had that discussion with my husband many times… I tell him it should be ”...the northern(or northmost) end of a southbound skunk”, lol.

ibstubro's avatar

“Cold as a witch’s tit in bronze.” Say, what?
“Three kinds of hell.” As in “Colder’n 3 kinds of hell” or “Madder’n 3 kinds of hell.”
“Not worth a Tinker’s damn.” I vaguely believe a tinker was a traveling junker, “Mr Haney” type, but I don’t know if ‘damn’ refers to an oath, a place or a containment.

“Have your cake and eat it too” equals you can either preserve your cake, or you can eat your cake, but you cannot do both.

glacial's avatar

@ibstubro I wonder if that saying would sound less odd if we said “Eat your cake and have it, too” instead. Because we can have cake and then still eat it – not difficult. But to eat cake and then still have it – that’s a problem.

janbb's avatar

@glacial I’ve thought that too. But it actually makes sense both ways since so you can’t do both at the same time.

glacial's avatar

@janbb Funnily, until @ibstubro gave this interpretation, it never occurred to me that it meant at the same time. I always assumed it meant that the cake was no longer available to have once it had been eaten. Because, unless you’re talking about the last bite, then you do have your cake while you’re eating it!

Blondesjon's avatar

Getting Shitfaced and Shit Eating Grin are two that come to mind.

dxs's avatar

I hate when people say “The reality of the situation is…”

Berserker's avatar

Greeks bearing gifts; I believe that has to do with the story of the Trojan Horse, no? learned that off of Xena haha

@Adirondackwannabe Oh my, wut? Built like a brick outhouse? Man, that made me laugh lol.

SwanSwanHummingbird's avatar

You can’t compare apples and oranges. Yes I can. They are both fruit. They are both basically round. Stupid saying.

Berserker's avatar

@SwanSwanHummingbird Yeah, that one sucks. I get the meaning, but it kind of kills itself by using two fruits…same shit, different pile? Lol.

Kardamom's avatar

I haven’t yet read all of the other answers, will do so after posting.

Fit as a fiddle.

Right as rain.

Keep the faith.

This is true (that term makes me shudder. I think it should be that is true).

JLeslie's avatar

In NC they used “might could.” That one is still odd to me. We might could go to the store tomorrow. Strange.

ucme's avatar

“Bringing in the sheaths, bringing in the sheaths, we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaths.”
Jehovas witness sung this at the door, I thought it was a condom salesman…no, wait!

glacial's avatar

@ucme I may have spotted your problem – the actual saying is “bringing in the sheaves”.

ucme's avatar

@glacial A little poetic licence, conveniently placed, is sometimes required.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

One that gets me is ( I got to take a shit) that’s rather gross I leave a shit taking one would be just weird.

ccrow's avatar

@JLeslie I think that’s southern, rather than just NC. We have a friend who was born in the Florida panhandle and moved to Virginia who uses that. It’s just southern for ‘might be able to’:-)

glacial's avatar

@SQUEEKY2 Are you sure you’re not just taking the piss? ;)

JLeslie's avatar

@ccrow Yes, there are other parts of the south that use it. I never heard it while living in Memphis though.

A southern saying that my husband hates is “fixing to.” Maybe it is fixin’ to?

ibstubro's avatar

Some parts of the south also add the word “The” and an “s” to formal names, as in “When you go to The Walmarts, bring me some sodie pop.”

JLeslie's avatar

@ibstubro I never noticed that. Interesting. Actually, “The” is added around the country to many things. Some parts of the country call a highway The 580 for instance. In New York Bronx, NY is The Bronx. In MI many people I knew went to The Kroger, but in Memphis we just went to Kroger.

ibstubro's avatar

Maybe it’s not a southern thing then, @JLeslie. Could just be regional, or it might have to do with the ethnic foundation of a region. I just believed it to be Southern because the guy I know that does it the most is a transplanted Southerner.

I didn’t realize until Bob Dole ran for president that (we) Midwesterners tend to speak in clipped, almost abbreviated sentences. Commentaries were talking about the oddness of Bob’s speech, and I was like, ”HEY! That’s the way people talk! The Kroger Store, indeed! I just went to Kroger’s.

glacial's avatar

@ibstubro I suspect it’s just a sign of the times. You know, something they picked up from the internets.

ibstubro's avatar

No, @glacial. I’ve known the guy over 10 years, and I’ve visited the home place. They shop “The Walmart” or “The Walmart’s”.

I suspect it has to do with the ethnicity of the settlers of a place. Perhaps a language that precedes a name with something akin to ‘the’.

Why would the internet (typing) add words?

Paradox25's avatar

Wanting to have one’s cake and eating it. (edit) I had just realized that flip had taken my answer above.

glacial's avatar

@ibstubro I can’t imagine. Oh noes!

JLeslie's avatar

@ibstubro I think there is a good chance that influences from the languages of the mother countries come into play. Using the or not using the is actually very tricky for some people who learn English as a second language. Poverty and ililteracy also influences language a lot.

The midwest, especially Chicago area does cut off somenwords in a sentence. Like in Chicago someone will say, “do you want to come with?” In most of the country they say the whole sentence, “do you want to come with me?” That Chicago style now has been picked up by other parts of the country, but back 25 years ago when I first heard people from Chicago say it I had never heard it before.

The midwest also doesn’t add en to the end of verbs when they should. They say things like, “I was bit by the mosquito,” and, “The blender is broke.”

ucme's avatar

Ooh, I got another, “actually, the actual phrase is actually fill in the blank actually.”
The typical narrative of an individual who feels the need to correct where no actual error occurs.

ibstubro's avatar

I agree @JLeslie that the Mother Tongue might influence use of “The Walmarts”.

I cherish the economy of the Midwestern dialect. “Skeeter bit me.” “Blender’s broke”. Needless filler words be damned.

JLeslie's avatar

@ibstubro Filler words? The problem with those sentences was not needing additional words, they needed the words bitten and broken. If you don’t see that then you are a product of your environment and reinforce my point. Not that I am picking on midwesterners, each region has it’s mistakes when it comes to grammar. Some things are not mistakes, just differences. Like in the midwest most people say half hour, while the northeast tends to say half an hour. Little things like that.

ibstubro's avatar

I was an English major in college (3 +¾ years) and I know the correct version. That does not mean I can’t celebrate the economy of, “Blender’s broke.”

When I was a teen, I was accused of “puttin on airs” for not visiting “Warshington D.C” and seeing “simular” things. Now I just enjoy the diversity. Life’s short.

JLeslie's avatar

@ibstubro I appreciate the diversity too. That’s why I notice the differences region to region; I find it interesting.

Berserker's avatar

@ucme I don’t think I’ll ever get why the word actually is often used when nothing demands its presence. I’m pretty sure it’s something I learned at school, and I don’t remember, but yeah. Denno why but it reminds of when people say things like, the reality of the truth or something like that, (as opposed to the reality OR the truth of whatever situation they’re wanting to illuminate) two words used in a row that both denote the same thing.

@ibstubro Some parts of the south also add the word “The” and an “s” to formal names, as in “When you go to The Walmarts, bring me some sodie pop.”

That happens? I always thought it was just people trying to be cute, like when you say, I’m going beddy bies or some horrendous shit like that. or sodie pop

@SQUEEKY2 Haha yeah. I love that one. Taking a shit. Taking a dump. I mean, you’re leaving it, not taking it. That was mentioned in Beavis & Butthead years ago, and I was like, hey yeeeah how come people say it like that.

@Kardamom Good ones. Right as rain. Maybe it’s because it rolls off the tongue so nicely, but I don’t see how it makes any sense. Right as rain as in, it’s normal for it to rain? Okay, but how is it right? Don’t most people dislike rain? Unless you live in some part of the world where it only rains for 20 minutes once a year or something…generally, people don’t like rain, so this saying is odd. And fit as a fiddle. What about a fiddle is so fit that it takes priority over any other instruments that could be fit? Why not fit as a trumpet, fit as bagpipes or fit as a harp? Somebody needs to explain this shit.

Kardamom's avatar

Here’s another one that I’ve noticed in friends from the Midwest.

If they’re describing how to do something they add the word take into the mix.

Example: I’m baking a chocolate cake today, so I take, and I separate two eggs…

Example: I’m planting some things in my new pots today, so I take, and I get out the shovel and the bag of soil…

ibstubro's avatar

Yes, @Symbeline. Southern Illinois, everyone goes to The Walmart.

Mid-eastern Missouri, everyone drinks sodie-pop or sodie. I literally had to turn my back on an elderly couple at The Walmart recently when I heard him ask her, “What kinda sodie do you want?” Hid my grin. It sounds so baby-talk to me now.

My grandmother, a grade school teacher, fed us all the “M’s and M’s” we could hold when I was a kid.

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