Friday, November 26, 2010

Lost In Translation

When words are carried across the so-called language barrier, subtle differences in meaning can be lost in translation. That is, the translation omits information that helps to clarify the meaning of the original.

This is also the title of a film. The film's theme is cultural misunderstandings.

Nothing To Lose

A person with "nothing to lose" is someone who does not stand to suffer significant harm by taking particular risks. 

Literally, we all have something to lose - unless we're dead, we can lose our lives. However, as a figure of speech, this phrase has quite a few uses.

Example: "I know you tried calling the front desk twice already and got a busy signal, but you have nothing to lose by trying again. So keep trying, OK?"

It Can't Hurt

If used literally, this phrase would mean that a particular action will not cause you physical pain or injury. When used figuratively, however, this means that a particular action will not cause you harm, whatever form that harm might take.

Example: "It can't hurt to try a new approach to dating. You're not having much success as it is; what do you have to lose?"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Babe In The Woods

The expression "a babe in the woods" is used to represent someone who is innocent and vulnerable and in great danger of being victimized, figuratively. 

Example: "My mother's a babe in the woods when it comes to buying cars. She ends up spending much more money than she has to because she just doesn't understand how to hold out for a better deal." Here, the speaker's mother is naive in the ways of business.

Neck Of The Woods

Your neck of the woods is your figurative location; your locale; your area. 

Example: "What are you doing in this neck of the woods? I thought you don't like places this rural and out of the way." This could be said to a friend who prefers large towns and cities who shows up in a rural area.

Big As All Outdoors

This means, on a large scale.

Example: "The politician's ambitions for higher office were as big as all outdoors."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Turning The Other Cheek

This idiom has biblical origins. Christians urged to "turn the other cheek" after they have been struck by a fist are expected to act with politeness and not retaliate against someone who has injured them. When used as an idiom, this usually refers to injury to one's pride through words, not physical injury.

Example: (Subject: George W. Bush's new memoirs) And he's not out to trash Obama in his new book. The Democrat, in his 2008 presidential campaign, spared no effort to criticize Bush for taking the U.S. to war in Iraq, for letting the effort in Afghanistan flag and for presiding over an economy sinking into the Great Recession.

Bush turns the other cheek, merely praising Obama's decision to add troops in Afghanistan.

A Loudmouth

In English, a loudmouth is someone who is routinely loud, annoying, and a nuisance to others. 

Example: "That Lucy is such a loudmouth. She can't shut up about everyone else's dating lives and doesn't know when to back off."

Friday, November 5, 2010

An Odyssey

The Odyssey was one of Western civilization's first masterpieces of literature, composed by Homer, about the ten year voyage of Odysseus, a king who fought in the Trojan War. Suffice to say he offended a Greek god and was forced to take the long way home.

Borrowing from this original meaning, an odyssey is any long foreign trip.

Example: An upcoming trip to Asia by President Obama rumored to be lavishly expensive, worthy of Roman Emperors or Queen Cleopatra of Egypt, was referred to by the Drudge Report in this way:

Leaves Election Wreckage for 9-day Asian Odyssey...
The true expense of the voyage, er, trip, is unknown.  

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Getting One's Feet Wet

The first step in entering a lake or other body of water is to get one's feet wet. Therefore, this is an idiom for taking the first tangible step towards some kind of goal. This is always action of some sort, rather than simply an exchange of words or ideas.

Example: Instructor: "Okay, I realize this is your first time using Photoshop, but the best way to learn is to get your feet wet and start using it. Of course, I'll be walking you through this lesson step by step to help you become accustomed with the basics."

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Significant Other

A person's significant other is that person's partner in a relationship. The term is not gender specific; nor is the term specific to heterosexual ("straight") relationships. Thus, it can refer to a gay man's partner (as one example).

The term can be taken in the most positive, appropriate way by any listener. This makes it a polite term to use in any circumstances, particularly if knowledge of the other person is minimal.

The term also dances around the whole issue of marriage, since in the West, many people in relationships live together without being formally married. (At least, more than in the past.) Also, homosexuals are still barred from formally marrying in many locations. This further increases the use of the term significant other without risking rudeness or insult.

Example: "Tracy, do you have a significant other in your life?"