Sign In Forgot Password

Come Home to Barnert!

Anti-Racism Campaign Header

WHAT ARE WE REALLY SAYING?

Everyday Idioms and Their Lesser-Known Meanings

What is an Idiom?Hit the hay.  No one hears this expression and expects to see someone literally punching straw! 

People say idiomatic expressions all the time.  Idioms by definition have meanings based on a situational, cultural understanding that turns into a standard and relatively understood meaning.  But what about the original situations that created these sayings?  While many are simply charmingly benign, based on previous normal situations (mattresses were often stuffed with straw through the 19th century), others have far more questionable origins.

Does it matter where a saying comes from? What do we do when we hear it used in every day situations?  What can we say instead?  

Sometimes, what we say means a lot more than we think it does.  Join us as we take a closer look at everyday terms and phrases and dive into their meanings and origins.  You might be surprised.

Join us on Sunday, January 3, at 1 p.m. for a discussion on idioms, their lesser-known meanings, and why we shouldn't be using them.  Click here to register.

To learn about Barnert's Anti-Racism campaign, visit barnerttemple.org/antiracismcampaign


THE GRANDFATHER CLAUSE

Did you know that the Grandfather Clause was a post-Civil War legal maneuver to restrict newly-freed slaves from voting and impacting the electorate?

Most people think being "grandfathered" means you are simply following a previous version of a rule or are exempt from a new, more restrictive rule.

Actually... the origin of "the grandfather clause" was a reaction to the 15th Amendment.

Southern states wanted to find ways to limit formerly enslaved Black citizens from voting while not disenfranchising white voters.

Enter "the grandfather clause, which exempted men from new voting restrictions if their grandfathers had  been legally able to vote.  This ensured that most poor, illiterate white men would be able to vote while most former slaves would not.

Sometimes, what we say means a lot more than we think it does.  Check your Barnert emails, Barnert's social media accounts, and Barnert's website for additional idioms each week and the meanings behind these everyday expressions.


Eenie Meenie Miney Mo

EENIE, MEENIE, MINEY, MO

Most of us know this children’s song.  Even toddlers learn this rhyme early on.  When needing to pick who goes first, what book to read, which snack to eat, etc, a quick round of “eenie, meenie, miney, mo” often did the job.

Actually, what we have long seen as a ‘cute ‘ way to make random or unimportant decisions has deep roots in American slavery.  While contemporary iterations of the song include the words "catch a tiger” to help pick "it," the original version of the rhyme used the word “N*****” to identify who was being caught, either in reference to catching runaway slaves (“if he hollers, let him go”) or to selecting new ones to purchase (“my mother says to pick the very best one and you are I T it”).

What can we say instead?  With children, try making up a different rhyme, utilizing numbers, letters, or anything that interests them!

Sometimes, what we say means a lot more than we think it does.  Check your Barnert emails, Barnert's social media accounts, and Barnert's website for additional idioms each week and the meanings behind these everyday expressions.


Cakewalk Piece of Cake Idiom

CAKEWALK/PIECE OF CAKE

When something is easy, we call it a “cakewalk” or a “piece of cake”. Sounds yummy!  But what makes it easy?  And walking on cake sounds messy at best.

A cakewalk was originally a dance contest activity on southern plantations.  On Sundays, slaves would dress in whatever served as their “best” and hold dance “contests” that were in actuality meant to mock the manners, behaviors, and dancing styles of the white southern elites. The slaves would promenade around and perform, often watched and judged by the very plantation owners they were covertly mocking.  “The Cakewalk” was actually an intricately choreographed dance, and the more proficient a dancer, the easier and smoother it appeared. The slave declared the winner by the white judges would be rewarded with cake.

Even after the Civil War and the end of slavery, Cakewalk events remained a part of African American culture, and were simultaneously incorporated into minstrel shows, often involving performers in blackface. What can we say instead? Consider “easy.”

Sometimes, what we say means a lot more than we think it does.  Check your Barnert emails, Barnert's social media accounts, and Barnert's website for additional idioms each week and the meanings behind these everyday expressions.


Master Bedroom Idiom

MASTER BEDROOM

Real estate language often refers to the largest bedroom in a home (and sometimes the attached bath) as “the master.” Large master suites, en-suites, master closets, etc. have all become very casual terms in remodels, home shows, real estate, and more.

While the history of the term appears to place its origin in the 1920s, the concept of a “master” in the American story is permanently linked to the centuries of slavery that continue to shape the cultural and racial landscape in the U.S. The connotation of a master, as a master of slaves, has made the word inherently a trigger word for many.

What can we say instead? Consider “primary bedroom.”

Sometimes, what we say means a lot more than we think it does.  Check your Barnert emails, Barnert's social media accounts, and Barnert's website for additional idioms each week and the meanings behind these everyday expressions.



Sat, January 16 2021 3 Sh'vat 5781