Nepali Times
Under My Hat
Idiot-proof idioms


Far be it from me to cock my snook at all of you out there who think this country has come to a grinding halt, but having just attended a three-day national-level seminar-cum-workshop at the Himalayan Hotel on the theme "Participatory Approaches to Figures of Speech in Post-Industrial Journalism: Retrospect and Prospect", we now know that there is still hope for some of our old and tired clich?s.

Many intrepid editors are rescuing some of these hackneyed phrases and idioms from their dustbins of history, restoring them to daily headlines and thereby giving them a clean chit so that we, the readers, can take up the gauntlet and carry coals to Newcastle. In other words, the point I am trying to make here is that we are talking in terms of eating humble pie (or, god forbid, robbing Peter to pay Paul), even if we have to pass the hat around while trying to tie the Gordian knot betwixt Scylla and Charybdis .

For those of you who in high school never had to memorise the textbook, The Student's Companion by Wilfred D Best, I take the liberty of presenting below a sample of my favourite figurative expressions (with examples of usage). I know that it may be like looking for a needle in a haystack after casting pearls to swine, but this brief guide is essential to make head and/or tail of today's newspaper headlines and I hope my valued clients will take it in the spirit that a stitch in time will save nine. Yes, you may take notes:

"A rolling stone gathers no moss."
Never quite been able to figure that one out, but I think it has something to do with keeping the balls rolling in your court.
Eg: Decades after leaving the Rolling Stones, it suddenly occurred to Mick Jagger that he hadn't yet gathered Kate Moss.

"A bad beginning makes a good ending."
Correct me if I am wrong, children, but I think it means that a homework well begun is half-done.
Eg: After he jumped the gun in the 100 m dash, Phanindra was overheard muttering to himself that bad beginnings made good endings.

"If wishes were horses beggars would ride."
This is my all-time favourite, and I use it every chance I get.
Eg: After receiving a request for 19 helicopters, Minister Mahat said off the record: \'How the hell am I going to pay for them?'

"Zeal without knowledge is a runaway horse."
As you can see, horses are a recurring theme in English proverbs.
Eg: A beggar would put his or her cart before a runaway horse with zeal if he or she had his or
her wish.

"A bird in hand is worth two in the bush."
Love this one. It means the little one possesses is worth more than what one is likely to obtain.
Eg: As night fell, the poacher realised that the rhino horn in his rucksack was worth two that were still attached to their owners.

"Too many cooks spoil the broth."
From personal experience I know that this is not true. If it were, I would be able to rustle up a mean sweet and sour apricot duck all by myself. But I can't. I need a roomful of helpers.
Eg: Fifteen heads in the kitchen are better than one.

"At wit's end."
This one exactly describes my feeling at this very moment.
Eg: As he got ready to hang his hat, this columnist was at his wit's end as to how to stir a hornet's nest with a bee in his bonnet, as well as cock his snook at a blot on the escutcheon.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)