Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Figures of Speech and Other Confusion

"Play it by ear."

"I'll give you a piece of my mind."

"It's raining cats and dogs!"

My boys have had some trouble with figures of speech in the years since they arrived home from Ethiopia.  Learning English is hard enough. But add the way we use it?  It's 'no picnic'.

Sometimes they find an expression they like and understand (or think they do) and use it 'like crazy'.  Jemby recently started saying "Way ahead of you!" regularly.  To the morning question, "Did you brush your teeth?"  He answers "Way ahead of you, Mom!"  Yesterday at the bus stop when he smiled at me, I had reason to think he hadn't brushed.

"I thought you said you brushed"

"No, I didn't."

"I asked you and you said 'way ahead of you'!"

"I am way ahead of you.  I already knew you would ask that!"

Mikias loves the expressions, "pretty much" and "by a long shot".

"Did you have a good day at school""

"Pretty much."

"What part wasn't good?"

"Who says part of it wasn't good?"

"Well, you kind of did."

"No I didn't, not by a long shot!"

You get the idea.

Over the weekend Mikias and I had a disagreement .   I said "Let's just drop it."

"Yes, let's just put this behind our backs." Mikias agreed

When the boys started football this summer, their first game was part of a Round-robin tournament.  The coaches worked them hard that week to get them ready for their first game of the season.  The boys were focused, excited and a little bit nervous.

"I'll see you boys in the morning for the Round-robin!" Mikias's coach told the team at the end of practice

Mikias yelled out, "I sure hope we beat those Round Robins!"

It not just figures of speech that have caused confusion.  Our customs and traditions are also tough.

A few months after Jemby came home to us, Mikias lost a tooth.  All day long, the talk was about putting his tooth under his pillow and the arrival of the Tooth Fairy.  Jemby asked no questions. In fact, he seemed completely uninterested.  That night when we put the boys to bed, Jemby asked us to leave the hall light on.  Instead of laying down, he remained seated on his bed.  When we asked him what was up, his answer surprised us.

"If that tooth fairy comes in here to get Mikias....I'm gonna destroy him!" he said while pounding his fist on the bed.

It's was comforting to know that although Jemby was a new member of our family, he was willing to fight off the unknown danger of the Tooth Fairy to keep his brother safe.  I guess you could say, he's 'got his back'.

I suppose it's 'safe to say' that, the bright 'light at the end of the tunnel' of language confusion is that I often find myself 'laughing my head off'!


  1. This made me "laugh my head off" thinking about how often we use figures of speech and how confusing it can be! Thanks Alison :)

    Carolyn in CA

  2. oh their smiling faces are so cute!
    The figures of speech are funny. I hope they are able to remember these moments. When I was a kid my family lived in Spain for 2 years and we still tell stories of the time we were at a fancy dinner and my mom asked someone to pass the "soldier" (who were waiting on us) instead of the "salad".

  3. I'm so happy to have found your blog. I love your insight. Invaluable. And we are from New England too. We are in MA often to visit friends and family. Peace!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful family tales...I especially enjoyed this entry about the figurative language we use in English ! I teach ELL students in grade 4 and they truly add "spice" to our classroom. I just discovered your blog today and have been getting lost in your words! Thanks for sharing....

  5. Thank you all for taking the time to comment. It means a lot.


  6. Hi Alison, this stuff is priceless. Too funny!