Idioms in languages certainly make communication much more colorful. While we may just say, “I miss someone I love more and more the longer they are away,” poetically we can declare that “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” 'heart-green illustration' photo (c) 2011, Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/In the same vein, we often counsel our family and friends to “be happy with what they have.” However, this is more symbolically represented by the adage, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Why simply advise someone to “not be over-confident,” when you could admonish them to “not get the cart before the horse,” or to “not count their chickens before they hatch.”'idea-bird illustration' photo (c) 2011, Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

But idioms do more than spruce up the language decor; they also express timeless wisdom and remind us of values and truths that help make our lives more meaningful. Consider the fact that we all have suffered more than once in life by some betrayal, be it small or large, from someone we considered a true friend and instead turned out to be a “fair-weather friend.” Rather than dwell un-necessarily on something like this, we can have our attention diverted to friends who have stood by us in our most difficult times and have collectively engendered the adage, “a friend in need is a friend indeed.”

A rather strong but cautioning idiom expresses that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” While we should think twice before using this phrase in conversations or other correspondence, knowing the idiom can remind us that it is not enough to INTEND to do good things; we must follow through on our promises and plans or they have little or no value.

I remember as a child being unnerved when I heard the phrase, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” Who would do something that awful?? I wondered. But there is great wisdom in these words. There are times in our lives when we have put quality time and effort into some goal to end up not gaining the results that we had hoped for. Sometimes we are tempted to completely scrap the entire venture and start from the beginning on something new. But this wonderful idiom encourages us to look closely for what is valuable from the process (the “baby”) and keep it rather than allow it to go down the proverbial ‘drain’ with the un-usable things (the dirty “bath water”).

Keep your eyes open for more creative and thought-provoking idioms that you may encounter. If you have any questions about what you come across, feel free to email them to us at socialmedia@iei.edu. Also, if there are any topics related to language learning, the English language itself, or our institute that you would like to hear us expound on, please give us those ideas as well. 'Thinking... please wait' photo (c) 2009, Karola Riegler - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

Be sure to check back here on Wednesday for a new entry!

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