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Commentary

Alanah Davis: Are we idioms?

Image by Alanah Davis.

Idioms are plural nouns or a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those individual words. Familiar idioms like “it’s raining cats and dogs” or “curiosity killed the cat” may ring a bell if it’s been a while since your second or third-grade teacher introduced idioms in your English or language arts courses in elementary school; time sure does fly, doesn’t it?

As a lover of literature and a writer, I love idioms. They are familiar to me on the page but also figuratively in my own life.

I’ve been so fortunate over the years to find connections and friendships both platonic, where the relationship was intimate or affectionate but not sexual, and romantic, where it was, and some of those relationships mirrored what an idiom would be in real life to me. Two souls, two bodies, two lives that alone have their own meaning but when they’re together create their own playful formulaic language to be enjoyed just like on the page, but in person. How delightful at times.

Maybe the folks who created some of the first idioms were mankind’s earliest neo-impressionists? Trying with language to achieve the most brilliant colors and a shimmering effect not by blending the words themselves like an artist would do on canvas with realism but by allowing onlookers to blend the words used or the nature of the relationship they might be watching in this case with their own minds.

We don’t do much of that anymore (using our own minds). With the amount of consumerism all around us, we’re always being told what to think. We’re encased in the promotion of products, ideals, and philosophies of the West. Some are good and some are not so great. While so much of the goal of consumerism is to improve products for customers, it also lessens our ability to think independently about what we need to buy into, what we believe and who we believe, when we are so inundated with constant commercials. It’s not always so easy to choose especially when life gives you idiom-like relationships. The words or the people don’t necessarily need each other but they make sense when you think about it.

It’s fun allowing people to use their imaginations instead of defining everything with hard lines, blending when painting, or dark slashes on a clock to tell you exactly what time it is as opposed to paying attention to the sunlight against the leaves like in olden times. Sometimes we make things that we don’t need, like idioms or microwaves but they improve our lives so we say those things and buy those things for ease and worry about the consequences of it all making sense or being healthy later.

When you break it down, there’s no question (another idiom) that you loved or held dear some of the people you’ve come across that you may have had to let go of over the years. It hurts when the minute and hour hands hit those dark slashes on the clock when someone important said they would call and doesn’t. It’s hard when you’re roaming a gallery and viewing iconic or lesser-known works of art to tell if the colors are blending the same way they are for you as the person next to you.

It’s science, the way we see things. When light hits the retina special cells called photoreceptors turn the light into electrical signals and those electrical signals travel from the retina through the optic nerve to the brain. Then the brain turns the signals into the images you see. But what you see and how you see things are just two different things and I’m pretty sure that’s how things like arguments, our judicial system, democracy, and divorce were all born.

We’re all unique in the way we see things — it’s what makes us human…no question.

There are in fact a lot of questions between the first time you ever laugh with someone and the last time you do. A lot of questions from the first campaign stop and when you cast a vote for a candidate. But we all do that thing, we act like we’ve made decisions without a doubt so much that we made idioms like no question…when there are so many.

So maybe people and relationships can’t be compared to idioms? Maybe people are just people and will always be as hard to define or as hard to make land as an idiom in a stiff crowd whose heads the words may go over. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.