As a teacher, we are responsible for encouraging the literacy ability of our students, whatever the subject. It is our job to be a teacher of words.

As a writer, it is my job to be a sorcerer of language, a 'puppet master of English,' if you will.

Yet, as a user of the English language...

(as I'm sure you are too, as otherwise how would you be reading this? Honestly, if you don't understand English, but you can understand this, what the hell is going on?)

... we say a lot of things that doesn't make sense. So here, I have explored some phrases, cliches and idioms we often use that actually, when you think about it, are complete nonsense - explaining why I think they are nonsense, and doing a bit of research as to where they actually came from.


Have your cake and eat it too

Why this doesn't make sense: Because why the hell would you have cake if you weren't going to eat it? The primary reason of being in possession of such a subtance is to consume it into your body - so why should it be seen as a bonus that you eat your own cake?

I mean, you own the cake. It is your cake. So surely you also have the right to eat it?

I have never known someone who has bought a cake for themself and thought "well I shouldn't eat this, as that would be greedy." You've bought it to eat it. Utter nonsense!


Where it came from: This was used in a letter from Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, to Thomas Cromwell in 1538. No idea why that letter has then turned it into something big today - can't imagine Tommy and Tommy seeing that happening when they wrote it!


Make money hand over fist

Why this doesn't make sense: I'm not the only one, right? I'm sure most people who have heard this phrase have, at some point, tried waving their hand over the fist, in an attempt to see how that would be an advantage.


Where it came from: This comes from the process of climbing up a rope. So as you climb up you put hand over hand, i.e. as hand goes over your fist holding the rope, you make progress climbing up a rope.

No idea how it became about money though.


The Welsh are sheep-shaggers

Why this doesn't make sense: I have never, ever met a Welsh person that has, or has given they impression that they have fornicated with sheep in some way. I don't quite understand why we would presume such a thing of an entire nation.


Where it came from: Funnily enough, a few hundred years ago, back in the olden days, sheep stealing was something that happened. But the sentence for stealing a sheep in Wales was far harsher than it was for shagging it.

So, if someone was caught stealing sheep - they would just say they were shagging it, to get the lesser sentence.


What about you? Comment below if you have one!

Published by Rick Wood