Epeolatry Monday! My love/hate relationship with idioms

We’re almost back to our regularly scheduled programming. Still even out my post-puppy post-food-poisoning (hurray!) life. Today’s word is actually words, plural, and brought to you by one of my students.

It’s not my beach: originally from Brazilian Portuguese, its English equivalent is “it’s not my cup of tea.”

I love this expression a lot for two reasons: first, because I have this image of someone rocking up to a beach, taking a look around, shaking their head, and saying, “Nah, this just isn’t my beach” and turning around again. Second, because it’s a beautiful example of how idioms are inextricably linked to the culture they come from. There’s no way in hell an Brit 50 or so years ago would have come up with the phrase It’s not my beach, but It’s not my cup of tea? Sure.

(A bit of back story: apparently, the English expression originated in the positive a cup of tea ie, something you like. The hilarious Nancy Mitford used it in her 1932 novel Christmas Pudding :

I’m not at all sure I wouldn’t rather marry Aunt Loudie. She’s even more my cup of tea in many ways.

The negative seems to have caught on during WWII, thus making its way to North America.)

Unfortunately, the metaphorical language that makes idioms so unique and fun is the same thing that makes them so confounding for non-native speakers. Imagine listening to a conversation about the weather, thinking you’re doing great, understanding everything, and then the other person’s suddenly talking about cats and dogs and you’re like: wait, what????

On the flip side, the first time you successfully work one into a conversation, really casually like it’s no big deal, you’re going to feel like a million bucks (see what I did there?).


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