Autism Spectrum Australia

Off The Hook On Pins and Needles

  • Posted: 06/11/2014
  • Author: Thomas Kuzma
  • Comments: Loading.. .

Hola readers! Welcome back to Aspire. Life has been moving pretty quickly; there are new things on the horizon but I can’t say anything about it. I would say the devil is in the details, but last time I checked he I was over in the fashion world wearing Prada.

Recently we had a contest on our Facebook group about idioms. The winners included:

 "Hold your horses" my autistic child asked since when did we own horses and where are we going to hold them?

my daughter is still waiting to experience a day when "it's raining cats and dogs" - she's already picked out the breed, the gender and the names of the ones she'll catch.

My daughter was struggling to tell me something so I said "come on spit it out" and she proceeded to spit on the floor.

I once told my son that we would cross that bridge when we get to it... Then spent an hour trying to explain what the bridge represented and how we would cross it before finally, exasperated, I said "let's just drop it" and then had to explain what we had to drop since we weren't holding anything. I am more careful with my wording these days haha.

We use an awful lot of idioms today. I mean take bushes for example. First they say a bird in the hand is worth two in the hand, but then there are all these people beating around bushes! I guess those birds are safe then, cause the stupid man who had the bird in his hand was flipping it wherever he went. At least that bird didn’t go over his head, his reflexes were too fast.

So, I am sure there are a few people on the spectrum here who are unsure of what an idiom is. Basically it is a figure of speech. So when someone says there is no room to swing a cat, that is not an invitation to use snow ball as a helicopter blade. I have been lost with idioms; take this one for example .

The problem is we have all these irritating idioms stuffed with names. Like luke warm for example. Have you ever met a warm Luke? I have met cheery, depressed and angry Lukes, but no one who is warm or humble. Are they saying that Jay can cross the road? Take your three letter name to the other side of the road, there are others wanting to cross. Don’t even get me started on doubting Thomas and Peeping Tom, those guys are giving Thomases a bad name!

A Professional Opinion

Scaling up the cliff on the island of language I was narrowly dodging limericks and metaphors. When I reached the cave of idioms I had a discussion with Pam Mail, English teacher and teacher of English as a Second Language (ESL) for more than 30 years:

I know that idioms are hard for people on the spectrum as they have a very literal way of interpreting speech and the metaphorical nature of idioms are therefore confusing and can prevent understanding.  This can cause frustration as idioms are so widely used in everyday speech and many users are often unaware of the number of times that they will use an idiom.

My favourite idiom is 'pull up your socks' because I remember when I was a very young and new teacher telling a tiny little (Japanese) Kindergarten boy that he would have to pull up his socks and he bent down and pulled up his socks! At this point I learnt that idioms can cause misunderstandings for people and particularly those from non-English speaking backgrounds.

I like when it’s about the body – like 'down in the mouth' because it gives me a very funny image in my head if I think literally about this saying.  Other body related idioms I enjoy are 'long in the tooth'  and 'a bundle of nerves'.

Idioms that I have often heard misused are: 'by a hair's breath' instead of 'breadth'  and 'chomping at the bit' instead of 'champing'.

I think that idioms are overused these day and cause confusion as so many Australians now are from non-English speaking backgrounds and are not familiar with the original meanings of these expressions.  Educators and other professionals in public life should also know that people with language processing difficulties understand plain speech much more readily than metaphorical speech.

Idioms are now often heard in formal settings like the ABC news broadcasts and I think that this is a problem, when news needs to be delivered in a very clear and direct manner.  Idioms don't seem so much to have lost meaning as that they are misunderstood.

My Two Cents

I just came across a new idiom (or at least new to me) last night. While on the topic of upgrading tablets, My friend Grant said “time in reconnaissance is seldom wasted”. This was a confusing tale to me:, I was like, I haven’t wasted any time. I found out it means time you spend researching is useful. I have quite a few favourites when it comes to idioms.

My all-time favourite would be from Chicken Run. SPOILER ALERT When the Chickens find out each and every last one of them are next on the menu, Ginger tries to call them down by saying “Let’s not lose our heads”.

So what would be some idioms I use? Well when talking about subtlety I say ‘I’m a grenade in a bowl of porridge’. Thank you Foghorn Leghorn, you idiom king. I remember when I was growing up my friend told me about there being a blue moon. I was filled with questions, when does this moon come out? Why did you not tell me about this thing guys? Is it really a moon, or a battle station in disguise?

I remember the first time mum told me that blood was thicker than water. She went on to tell me about family bonds but all I wanted to know was if blood was actually thicker than water. As time went on I started to find more and more idioms that were interesting.

Okay so what can I say to parents who have a child on the spectrum? This isn’t a matter of if but when. So I would say if you can, try to introduce them to a steady amount of idioms while they are growing up. That way they don’t have to worry about weapons while riding shotgun or that there is a wrong side of the bed.

In Conclusion.

Australia is the land of idioms. I have a feeling we adopted them from the Brits and their ‘English English’. Who knows, in twenty years language might be just idioms; that would make going nine yards even harder.

I would suggest if you are going to find a way to introduce a kid to idioms, try using something they love. This movie is coming out soon, and might help them out.

I will say one thing, who passes a buck? And why would they do that to a poor moose?


Can you guess how many idioms there were in this week’s blog? Get the answer correct and you can win a free Ray!

comments powered by Disqus
Please leave a comment
Off The Hook On Pins and Needles