Idioms are often used in the English language to provide a lesson or to impart a certain value upon us, certain idioms however have been changed from its original intention to socially engineer people to appreciate different values. The following are 5 examples of idioms we have been taught wrongly.
(Common) Curiosity killed the cat.
Perhaps one of the most common idioms we have encountered, curiosity killed the cat implies that in the pursuit of knowledge and information, it is likely that very knowledge or information will end up hurting us and therefore we should refrain from being curious and to remain in a state of ignorance to preserve our own happiness.
(Original) Curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back.
In the original idiom, there is certainly a warning that in the pursuit of knowledge and information there is a risk of being hurt by it, however the satisfaction of gaining new information and knowledge sets off the initial danger and instead provides us with contentment from discovering something new. This aspect is an important one as human curiosity has allowed humanity to flourish which has brought our species to where we are today and the attempt to socially restructure such behavior is perhaps a way to instil a more complacent way of life.
(Common) Blood is thicker than water.
The idiom implies that those who are connected by blood which means those are connected through family ties form stronger relationships and should therefore be appreciated.
(Original) The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb.
The original idiom is however the total opposite whereby it promotes the idea that relationships that we choose to have on our own initiative are stronger and better than relationships that are chained on us.
(Common) Birds of feathers flock together.
This implies that we often cling to those who share similar external qualities, often times it’s either race, religion, or colour. It is not wrong to form communities over similar characteristics and in fact humanity probably survived by working together as a group.
(Original) Birds of feathers flock together until the cat comes.
The original idiom however contains a warning that when we choose to group together over similar characteristics, the bond we share is often shallow, where a change in circumstances that may pose a danger to the group will likely cause panic which in turn causes the group to split to focus on individual survival.
(Common) Jack of all trades, a master of none
A very common idiom that implies it is not good to pursue multiple trades as you trade off the ability to specialize in one trade. Certainly a good point, even Bruce Lee advised that it is better to master one kick a thousand times than to know how to perform a thousand different kicks.
(Original) Jack of all trades, a master of none, though sometimes better than a master of one.
The original idiom however also emphasizes that being a master of a single trade may not be the best outcome. By investing time in a myriad of pursuits we increase the likelihood of finding one that we are passionate about. Pursuing multiple trades also empowers us with the skill, knowledge, and experience from different areas which also allows us to use those skills in other trades as well.
(Common) The early bird gets the worm.
We’ve probably grown up consistently being told this idiom to promote the idea of starting off the day early. There certainly are benefits to starting the day earlier and ultimately by fully utilizing the hours in a day, we are likelier to achieve a more productive outcome.
(Original) The early bird gets the worm, the second mouse gets the cheese.
The original idiom however teaches us that although there may be a good general rule to follow, we must never forget to look at the context. Being early as a bird may be good as there could be plenty of worms for breakfast, but being early as a mouse will likely only cause suffering while the second mouse gets food by stepping over the dead body of its comrade.
Kage is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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