Speaking of Which | Turn of Phrase

24 May,2013

By Vidya Heble


Speaking of Which doesn’t only pay attention to the printed word. Even television is not exempt. For example, the very cute Vaseline lotion ad with mother and daughter playing a hand-clapping game ends with the word Smiles misspelt as Smlies. Airing after airing. Perhaps no one from the client, agency or channel pays attention to it? With the amount of money being splashed out on TVCs, they can afford to get details right. Or maybe the money makes details irrelevant?


In any case, in between my steady diet of English crime shows, now and then I switch to Comedy Central if I’m in the zone to catch Dharma and Greg, or even Everybody Loves Raymond if I’m desperate in the slot before The Mentalist comes on. I’ve noticed Comedy Central airing a promo that asks whether your life is as dull as dishwater (or something to that effect). Actually, aside from the question of your life, dishwater isn’t dull so much as yuck-tasting. It is full of bouncy suds, sometimes it has bits of dried food floating in it – it’s interesting, at the least. What is dull is ditchwater. In Idiomland, that is.


Idiomland is that quaint old era we used to inhabit in our school days. I don’t know if anyone has “idioms and phrases” in school any more (or even if anyone goes to school any more, they all seem to drop out and become geniuses or startup wizards).  In Idiomland, it is assumed that you have either gone to school or have read enough to make school redundant. Trouble is that these days, reading is confined to – and confused with – SMS messages. Or, if we’re lucky, Facebook and Twitter messages. Try fitting a “proper” idiom into those. It’ll be like trying to pass a camel through the eye of a needle. Why anyone tried to do that in the first place, beats me; but it’s such an entertaining phrase that it’s worth remembering.


So, how do you remember that ditchwater refers to lack of sparkle, and dishwater to bad cooking? It may help if you associate dishes with cooking. Another food-related idiom that is often misused is “The proof of the pudding”. Americans, with their penchant for upping food portions and shortening everything else, have turned this into “The proof is in the pudding”, which is not correct. You just have to ask, “Proof of what?” The proof of the pudding itself, of course. The actual phrase is “The proof of the pudding is in the eating (of it).”


Enough sermons and soda-water; we can return to gastronomic idioms in another edition, and till then hope we don’t have to eat our words!


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