My granddaughter was doing homework over the weekend and talking it over with me. She was exploring idioms, explaining what they meant and using each in a paragraph to show she understood how to use them. As she called out phrases to me I started to wonder about their origins and also how much sense they would make to a urban student in 2019.
The first was “don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.” Living on a farm, a school child would have no trouble understanding that a set number of eggs didn’t guarantee the same number of baby chicks. That idiom would arise naturally from the chicken coop and be understood by anyone who heard it used in any similar situation. Now she was having to learn what it meant in order to use it. Similarly with “don’t put your eggs in one basket” a rural child would know the risk of putting all the gathered eggs in one place for fear of tripping over something in the yard and destroying them all. Now a child has to imagine a basket, the gathering of eggs and the possible peril.
Some still made instant sense to her. “Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” especially after Halloween, is easily translated to its corollary of don’t undertake a task too big to finish. In fact as she started making her science fair project she realized she needed an adult’s help. Otherwise the idiom could have been used to scold her.
Which brings me to one which has me perplexed “easy as pie.” I don’t think that this phrase is meant to be ironic, but I find nothing particularly easy as pie making. Pleasant, yes. Satisfying, certainly. Rewarding, absolutely. But easy? Not in my kitchen.