Language is a funny thing. Children learn by listening to their parents and we are always so thrilled when, without us realizing it, our kids have learned to associate words with meaning. Mommy. Daddy. Kitty. Hot. No.
Children are amazing little sponges that pick up so much, but we sometimes forget to see—or rather—hear the world through their eyes. The nuances of adult conversations can take on a whole new meaning for youngsters. For instance, our family often laughs about the time, when, retelling a story, my mother talked about wanting to do something “in the worst way.” My young niece, intrigued, looked utterly rapt and asked quite seriously, “what is the worst way?”
If anything, these instances reminds us how often we use old colloquialisms and clichés and how literally little ears can take them. I’ll never forget the look on my daughter’s face when I told her to “hold her horses” and she excitedly asked where her ponies where. That was a tough one to talk my way out of. She was similarly disappointed to learn that those little vehicles were go-karts and not goat carts. When my husband was a young teen, his mom sent him to the grocery store to “buy the staples.” He came home with a box of 500.
A good friend experienced similar word mishaps. While trying to stop smoking, she talked about going “cold turkey.” Her son curiously asked if ham would work, too. Another friend’s child spent a good deal of time searching the cupboards for elbow grease after his dad suggested he use some to help clean the bathroom. It makes you wonder how many times we’ve unintentionally confused our kids.
How many of the following phrases do you commonly use?
Clean as a whistle. One fell swoop. Pulling your leg. You crack me up. It’s raining cats and dogs. Woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Off the top of my head. Keep your eyes peeled. Break a leg. I could eat a horse. Put a sock in it. Jumped the gun. Piece of cake. Hit the books. Over my dead body. Kick the bucket. In a pickle. Chip on your shoulder. Put your foot in your mouth. I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.
Do your kids ever misinterpret common sayings? Let’s hear your stories!