Tag Archives: idiom

While You Are Twiddling Your Thumbs. . .

“Owwww!” As I helped my husband turn the mattress, my already injured thumb got yanked and twisted. I cradled my throbbing hand and moaned, “It sticks out like a sore thumb!”

Original? Nope.  But its oh so appropriate.

Most of us speak (or roar or whisper or moan) common idioms without giving them the first thought.  I mean, really, there’s nothing unique about a sore thumb.  Yet people have been saying “it sticks out like a sore thumb” to describe something oddly out of place since at least the middle of the 16th century. Maybe that’s the whole point.  We all understand the awkwardness of a sore thumb.  

Look at how well these other thumb idioms also work: 

  • If you’re tired of being under his thumb, take charge!
  • I keep dropping things.  I’m all thumbs today!
  • Your plants look wonderful!  You obviously have a green thumb.
  • No transportation?  Don’t thumb a ride.  Hitch-hiking can be dangerous. 
  • If you thumb your nose at the idea, you had better be ready to offer one of your own.
  • Thumb through this new magazine.  If you like it, you may want to subscribe.
  • The board gave your proposal a thumbs down?  Maybe you can bring it up again later.
  • As a rule of thumb, I plant my garden in May. (I hate this one! It came from 17th century English Judge Sir Francis Buller who allegedly ruled that it was A-OK for a husband to beat his wife with a stick, so long as it was no wider then his thumb!  Ugh!)

Okay, that’s my thumb list.  What is your favorite… or least favorite… idiom?  Any particular reason?

“It’s like Tolstoy said. Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story.”

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

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