An idiom is a group of words or a phrase that means something different than what the words are literally saying. Passed down through tradition and culture these sayings are easily understood by people whose have been born in the United States. However, many people with English as a second language will think that the phrase is to be taken literally.
Consider how confusing these idioms would be if you were not a native English speaker
Zip your Lip
Don't put your foot in your mouth
Pay through the nose
You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink
Under the weather
Every dog has his day
Throw in the towel
I was teaching a group of third graders recently about Idioms. We talked about the phrases and and then they had to guess what they meant. Their responses were priceless. many had heard the idioms but had no idea what they meant. I asked a sweet brown eyed girl if she understood what "You will catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" meant. Her answer was, "because the honey was sticky, the flies would get caught in it". She was kinda right!
Did you know that there are more than 1000 idioms in the bible?
Consider these two.
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.
Culturally in that day neighbors would often borrow hot coals from each other and fill the containers for each other. Many items were carried on ones head, fruit, vegetables even containers with hot coals. This idiom represented the ultimate in neighborly hospitality.
Then there is this biblical idiom
He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father.
At first it sounds as though Jesus is being cruel and uncaring, however in this culture it doesn't mean that the father was dead. The man was basically saying, "Let me hang out with my father and then after he dies-someday, I will follow you".
Knowing the background changes the meaning.
Understanding the cultural meanings behind these sayings is crucial.
What I learned from this idiom lesson.
Most people have heard that Jesus Loves them. For some it is as foreign of a concept as an idiom. For others it is difficult to believe that anyone, especially Jesus could love them.