Skip to main content

Eating your words

Have you ever had to avoid hot potatoes? Or have you finally found your gravy train? If that answer is a yes, then you must be the cream of the crop and will soon become big cheese and if the answer is a no, then I suggest that you use your noodle, chew the fat and ensure that you don’t jump out of the frying pan into the fire.

So have you been able to guess what we are going to talk about today? I am sure you must have done so by now. We are stepping into the world of idioms inspired from food. Food occupies a major portion of our lives and it is no surprise that there are so many idioms inspired by food.

Let us begin with the sweet example of the cake and see what some of the idioms using cake mean. The first one that comes to mind is a fairly common one. Can you venture a guess? Yes it is to ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too’. This refers to having the best of both the worlds.

Interestingly the idiom is used with some variation in many languages all over the world. For example in Bulgarian the saying goes ‘both the wolf is full and the lamb is whole’. In German you have the idiom roughly translated into ‘please wash me but don’t get me wet’. Or look at what they say in Portuguese ‘to want the sun shine in the threshing field while it rains in the turnip field’. Closer to home a similar meaning saying in Tamil goes ‘desire to have the moustache and drink the porridge.’

With these examples you must have noticed how the food consumed in a certain part of the world influences the saying from there. Another cake idiom very commonly used is ‘the icing on the cake’. This means a situation or an opportunity that makes an already existing one more lucrative. Yet another one using cake is to ‘take the cake’. Taking the cake means to be the best or the worst of something.

A close relative of the cake, bread also finds use in various sayings. The one that has quickly marched into my head at this point is ‘breaking bread’ and here comes another close on its heels ‘bread and butter’. To ‘break bread’ usually refers to eating with someone but could also be used to point out to sharing of one’s possessions with someone. ‘Breaking the bread’ or more correctly ‘breaking of bread’ is a phrase that occurs around five times in Bible. It is a common Jewish expression from pre-Christian times where it refers to the act of breaking the bread at the beginning of the meal by the host or the head of the household.

‘Bread and butter’ refers to a person’s means of livelihood. Here is an interesting nugget for you. Do you know which state in the USA is referred to as the bread and butter state? The answer is Minnesota which is also called the land of 10,000 lakes and these waters along with the jungles and wilderness areas help harbour many grain and dairy products in the state leading to the nickname bread and butter state.

I guess that is enough food for thought for one column. I suggest that now you raid the library and cull out information regarding the few idioms mentioned at the beginning.

How about you think of some more idioms on your own and share them with me?

(This appeared as a column first in The New Indian Express on Mar 1, 2013)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

A case for non-fiction or better understanding of kidlit

If you are a parent there are more chances than one that YOU have handed your child a book to read. Or you have chosen to bring home the books that you think that she might like to read. If any of these hold true then we are almost alike and no this is not an article that tells you how wrong you have been all along in bringing your child the books that you choose. This is just a few of my thoughts on this very subject
that I gathered today morning as I wrote an Instagram post.

Let me begin at the beginning.
Today my soon to be 4, son sat down with a book and was at it for good 10-15 minutes. No, it wsn't a tome. It wa a small picture book on trucks. My friend gifted him this book on trucks on his first birthday. The chap was fascinated with it from the moment he got it. You could flip pages and see bright pictures of different types of trucks and then you could open little sliding screens to find out men in uniform who drove a certain kind of truck.

Unsurprisingly his first words …

Reusable cotton pads: My first experience

I had been trying to bring changes for a sustainable living for a while now and using reusable cotton pads for Aunt Flo's monthly visits was an idea that appealed massively to my senses. After searching here and there I found a Kolkata based manufacturer- Shomota- who were also involving women from underprivileged background in manufacturing these pads as well as sharing the profit from sales to make these pads available to girls and women in interiors of West Bengal. BONUS point- I have also come to realise that sustainability is more efficient and worthwhile if you choose local. Also the fact that we are dumping non biodegradable waste on the planet and that is equal to some sort of violence in my head and I have been brought up on the beliefs laid by the Arya Samaj movement, I needed a better option than the mass marketed sanitary pads. I looked and examined a few option that I realised were available to me before making up my mind on the reusable cloth pad.

Why I chose cloth p…

Of new resolutions and newer authors

The year has started on the right note. I have already read two authors whom I had not read before falling hard for the one being hailed as Japanese Steig Larrson- Keigo Hagashino.
That is what got me thinking about new year resolutions  (I know we are done with the first quarter) which I haven't made in years. So here is a list of authors that I would like to sample this year.
-
1. Manu Joseph
2. Pico Iyer
3. Anthony Horowitz
4. Margret Atwood
5. Toni Morrison
6. Chimamanda Adichie
7. Jo Nesbo
8. Neil Gaiman
9. Terry Pratchett 10. Alice Munro/  Walker
But I also realise the futility of making a list like this as there are just so many authors, poets, writers and just so many works coming to fore everyday. A book group might help, you would think but let me tell you that it complicates things further. New recommendations, fantastic and not so fantastic reviews, pictures, blog posts and what not really makes matter well,complicated.
All said and done, it is but human to try and so…