Daisybrain Presents: Common Expressions That Make No Sense

These things have been driving me crazy ever since this language was first foisted upon me. I’ve always disliked expressions because they short circuit the process of communication. Of course, language itself does this to some extent – we have to fit our feelings and thoughts into existing words and phrases. But expressions further increase the margin of error in conveying intended meaning. Here are some of the worst:

“More than welcome”

“Welcome” is a spectrum, from barely welcome to extremely welcome. But, how can you be more than welcome? You can’t – you’re either welcome or not welcome. If there is a state of being that surpasses “welcome” then it needs its own word.

“You zigged before you zagged”

This allegedly means that you did things in the wrong order. Yet the phrase “zig-zag,” from which this originates, has zig before zag. So it makes no sense.

“Up the creek without a paddle”

This supposedly means you are in a bad situation that will be difficult to navigate out of. However, if you were up the creek, the current would carry you down to where you may want to be. The expression should be, down the creek without a paddle, since it would be hard to come back up the creek, against the current, without means of propulsion.

“Drink the Kool Aide”

This one is just offensive. It’s a reference to the Jonestown massacre. Now, when people talk about any trendy, new or strange idea, they mention “drinking the Kool Aid.” You might as well make gas chambers into a light hearted cliche about institutionalized living. The problem with all of these expressions is that people use them as an easy way out of thinking.

“I could care less”

This is a bastardization of, “I couldn’t care less,” which actually makes sense. Yet, people continue to use the nonsensical version. It is the way of language, I suppose: after numerous iterations and alterations people say things they’ve heard without stopping to think if they have any meaning.

“Blow up the balloon”

We should inflate balloons, not blow them up. Blowing up a balloon is what happens when you over inflate it.

“The alarm went off”

When the alarm goes on, it is not going off. It goes off when you turn it off.

“The time is now!”

People sometimes chant this or hold up signs that say this at rallies. Come on. The time is always now.

“No justice no peace!”

It may make good poetry, but any chant that has to be explained should be reconsidered.

“Sleep like a log”

Logs don’t sleep, so how could this mean anything? You might as well say, “I slept like a toothbrush.”

“Head over heals in love.”

Shouldn’t your head be over your heals on a regular basis? If you mean to say that you are unbalanced or awkwardly positioned because you are in love, I would say, “heels over head.”

As I continue to live in human society, I find that expressions creep into my own vocabulary. I know when I use them that I am being lazy, and I cringe on the inside each time. I guess I just live in a fool’s paradise, whatever that means.

Click here for some odd ends in English.

12 Responses to Daisybrain Presents: Common Expressions That Make No Sense

  1. Joe W says:

    I would infer that ‘to sleep like a log’ is to liken the person sleeping to a log. Logs are usually huge and, most importantly, immovable objects (the same as someone who is in a particularly deep sleep). What’s more, they are horizontal, indicating a sleeping position.

    Also, the full expression is “to fall head over heels in love”, which makes me think of someone almost forward rolling towards their loved one. Picturing it like this has always helped me make sense of it.


    • EricIndiana says:

      Those are good points, especially falling head over heels. Somehow only the shortened version of that expression reached me. These expressions get mutated over time.

      I still think that to sleep “like a log” is silly, but I concede your point.


  2. Maria says:

    Well Eric darling, you are more than welcome to zigg before you zagg up the creek without a paddle, drinking the kool aid, not caring less about blowing up the balloon, allarms going off, screaming at the top of your lungs :”THE TIME IS NOW” and unexplainably angry “NO JUSTICE NO PEACE” and then sleep like a tothbrush head over heels in love.
    Now see where the problem is?
    You can’t say sleep like a toothbrush,it’s just senseless.


  3. Daisy's mom says:

    And “dropping like flies.” When was the last time you saw a fly drop? And unless you are a sheep farmer or a musher, have you ever seen a dog work hard?

    This topic made me think of stupid things we always say to people, like:

    When leaving for a trip: “Do you have everything?”

    When looking for an object that someone has lost: “Where did you last have it?”

    and “Drive carefully.” Would they drive recklessly if you didn’t tell them to drive carefully? (Actually, shouldn’t it be “wrecklessly”?)


  4. Daisy's mom says:

    no, they don’t sweat much, if at all. but mice are very quiet.

    Psychologists say if you start a command with the word “don’t,” then what a child actually hears is:
    “drop it,” “run,” “yell,” “touch,” “break it,” etc., More effective to say the command in the affirmative: “Hold on to that tightly,” “walk carefully,” be gentle with that,” etc.

    Here’s another phrase that makes no sense: gentle dental.


  5. LenZel says:

    Two that bug me:
    “Slept like a baby.” to denote a restful, peaceful sleep. Right…ask any parent. Although I get the implied reference to innocence and a clear conscience.
    “If I were you, I would…” offering an alternate course of action. Not plausible. As the other person you would act exactly the same.
    Better to say: “If I were in your situation, I would…” and then put your two cents


  6. Jeffersonic DSK. says:

    Its true that at least you have the current working for you if you’re up Shit Creek. But remember also you’re at the headwaters of Shit Creek, and you’ve probably got a fur piece to travel on Shit Creek. And I’m sorry to say many have travelled the entire length of Shit Creek, only to find themselves in (the) Turd Row. (Please excuse my course vulgarity)


  7. saturn911 says:

    i got a really good one i cant believe you missed:

    “Keep your eye’s peeled”

    Have you ever seen someone peel their eyes?

    -Doreen’s son Nathaniel

    p.s, a.k.a post script(just showing off here): how did ya miss this one?


  8. saturn911 says:

    wow i thought of another one!

    ” as easy as taking candy from a baby”

    You ever see a baby with candy?


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