Wait For It… a blog by Andy Ross

An Idioms Guide

Posted on September 2, 2010

Some people ask me how I come up with all the great idioms I create. Like “don’t use a mouth to do your foot’s job” or “ask a nun, beg a trucker.” I tell them it all started with my great-grandfather, because it did.

My great-grandpappy was always making up great idioms. When I was very little, he told me “not to mix my marbles and my honey.” I took that to mean that two good things aren’t always good together, and I’ve lived by that ever since. (It could also just be about honey being sticky. Also useful knowledge.)

Another idiom he wrote was “Don’t slay a dragon when a lamb will do.” It sounds cruel, but you should know that my great-grandfather grew up on a farm. So, he was always killing lambs. I never saw him without a dead lamb nearby. It makes you think.

One of his favorites was “Today’s more temperate than a werewolf’s collarbone.” He wanted something between “colder than a witch’s titty” and “hotter than the Devil’s asshole.” Werewolf’s collarbone never caught on, but you have to admit it was a good idea. He kept writing into the newspaper to have them publish it in the weather section, but they had blocked receiving mail from him by that point.

“Good doctors make great bowlers” was another one that never took off. I asked him what it meant and he yelled at me. Did I mention my great-grandfather was a heavy drinker? When I said I didn’t understand “books first, lemonade then ketchup” he threw a coffee pot at my head. Geniuses are often fussy like that.

“Safe harbor makes for doughy pretzels” seems right. And, I think we can all agree that “foxes run fastest before the regatta.” But, other idioms he made up toward the end of his life were puzzling. Like “help comes in swinging ottomans” or “determinism is a dish best served Charlie Chaplin-style” or “duke it out with your blessings before you cry your last crocodile.” I have no idea what any of those even mean. But, I guess I live in different times.

I’m so glad I was around to meet my great-grandfather. His sage words have stayed with me. Also, he taught me how to drink like a man. Or should I say he “left the barrel tied to the barmaid.”

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