A Blessing in the Skies

An idiom is an expression that means something other than the literal meanings of its individual words.

Using incorrect idioms is a quick way to annoy someone, as I'm sure you were annoyed by the title of this post right off the bat. This title is annoying and yet charming to me. It has a nice sentiment, if completely wrong from the original, "Blessing in disguise."

A few days ago I found this on the interwebs, and after my left eye stopped twitching, I found this absolutely hysterical:

I hole-hardedly agree, but allow me to play doubles advocate here for a moment. For all intensive purposes I think you are wrong. In an age where false morals are a diamond dozen, true virtues are a blessing in the skies. We often put our false morality on a petal stool like a bunch of pre-Madonnas, but you all seem to be taking something very valuable for granite. So I ask of you to mustard up all the strength you can because it is a doggy dog world out there. Although there is some merit to what you are saying it seems like you have a huge ship on your shoulder. In your argument you seem to throw everything in but the kids Nsync, and even though you are having a feel day with this I am here to bring you back into reality. I have a sick sense when it comes to these types of things. It is almost spooky, because I cannot turn a blonde eye to these glaring flaws in your rhetoric. I have zero taller ants when it comes to people spouting out hate in the name of moral righteousness. You just need to remember what comes around is all around, and when supply and command fails you will be the first to go. Make my words, when you get down to brass stacks it doesn't take rocket appliances to get two birds stoned at once. It's clear who makes the pants in this relationship, and sometimes you just have to swallow your prize and accept the facts. You might have to come to this conclusion through denial and error but I swear on my mother's mating name that when you put the petal to the medal you will pass with flying carpets like it’s a peach of cake.

Google brings up Reddit user /u/noconverse, so they will get the source credit today.

Let's get down to brass tax: using idioms in your writing is controversial. It depends entirely on what you are writing. Idioms make me think of work. In the business atmosphere, they are a great way to add color and comedy to eye-roll situations. They improve nonfiction dialogue by allowing the characters to seem more real. This rings especially true if you are writing a period piece. People use idioms constantly in every day life, such as, "sick as a dog" and "hold your horses." However, by using idioms you are isolating those that do not use your idioms. Imagine, say, that your work is published overseas (let's keep our collective fingers crossed) and the idioms in your novel do not translate. There is nothing similar. Obviously, we expect the translator knows what to do in those situations, but my point stands.  

When writing fiction, idioms make you seem unimaginative. They date you. Depending on how common your idioms are, the older you sound. To say in your writing that something was "selling like hotcakes," you confuse anyone that has never heard the phrase. And you sound like a grandpa. Which again, if you are writing a period piece, is all fine and good. But what if the idiom you used wasn't around until 10 years after your "period piece"? We live in the days of the internet, people, someone will research that and find out.

In Harry Potter,  J.K. Rowling went out of her way to give nothing in the text to date the characters. By removing media and everyday current items (1997?) from her writing, she gave her writing the opportunity to hold true and relevant as the years pass. You don't read it and think, "My, the 90's were a weird time!"
There is no 90's slang, "As if!"
There are no advertisements for Tommy Hilfiger.

Using idioms in your writing is a delicate practice. You should consider whether they are necessary or if you can be more meaningful by using a different technique.

I stand firmly on creating your own expressions. By creating your own metaphors and similes, instead of using aged idioms, you make your writing timeless and unique.

Next up I'll talk overuse of words, like how I used "idiom" 14 times in this post.

All my love,


  1. Idioms and euphemisms created by Rowling work on several different levels. In the Harry Potter universe, there are two distinct worlds, both of which are, to some degree, invisible or incomprehensible to the other.

    The speculative nature of Harry Potter -is- timeless for the reasons you mentioned, but also because she doesn't misconstrue real world idioms as /u/nonconverse does. Sure, it's funny in a syntactical sense, breaking down the structure and extrapolating meaning if possible, but as a reader? I feel like it would throw me out of the finely crafted story, and instead, make me scratch my head.

    Suspension of disbelief is borrowed time the reader invests in an author's work. Too many ejections from the story, and the reader withdraws their remaining balance, and story time is over.

    Idioms and euphemisms that play too close to the cuff might confuse readers, making the blurry line between story and reality a little more clear, which is something no one wants.

    Now, that being said, Rowling does give us a bridge between her wizardly euphemisms and the supposed modern muggle world; Ron (and to some extent, Harry).

    Both Ron and Harry offer unique perspectives, and allow readers to explore a world full of magic, wonder, and strange lexicons, without feeling alienated. If someone uses an expression Harry doesn't understand, Ron will break it down for him, which is a mechanism that gets the reader on the same page without feeling like an info dump.

    Anyways, just my two cents!


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