Winter Idioms

Feeling under the weather? Walking on thin ice with your vocabulary variety? These idioms will have a snowball effect on your language use this winter. And they’re just the tip of the iceberg.

Take a chill pill

If you’re going to tell someone to calm down, why not do it in rhyme? “Chill” means a feeling of coldness, as in, “there was a chill in the air.” Sometime in recent decades, probably the 1970s, the word also came to mean “relax”—just imagine a hippie flower child flashing a peace sign and saying “Chill out, dude.”

Eventually, “Take a chill pill” emerged. It might have shown up in the early days of ADD and ADHD medications like Ritalin, which were designed to calm hyperactive folks and therefore very logically dubbed “chill pills.” Other sources attribute the origin of the phrase to 1990s slang, specifically, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you’re stressed about the actual origin, we’ve got one thing to say: take a chill pill.

Cold shoulder

If Cher turns her back on Dion, Dion will see Cher’s shoulder. And the act shows dismissal or indifference to Dion, so it’s pretty unfriendly, or “cold.” Boom: an idiom is born.

Some unsavory sources claim that a custom back in Shakespearean times was to serve unwelcome guests a “cold shoulder of mutton”—i.e., not the tastiest meal, and a hard-to-miss sign of “would you be so kind as to get out. Now.” But etymologists are chilly on that origin, tending to favor reports that Scottish author Sir Walter Scott coined the phrase “cauld shouther” in 1816. With that literary proof, you can turn a cold shoulder on the meat story.

Cold turkey

Let’s say you love turkey. You eat it all the time. Then, the doctor tells you it’s bad for you. You better stop eating it—right away. Really? You can’t just slowly ease off it, eating a little less turkey each day until you’re down to none? NO. No more turkey for you.

That’s called “going cold turkey”: abruptly stopping a habit that’s bad for you. People often use this term when they talk about ways to stop smoking or taking a drug, but you can also use it when you’re talking about diet or other habits. The phrase may come from addiction doctors in the 1970s, noting the “cold, clammy feel of the skin during withdrawal,” while its earlier uses (back to the 1800s) have to do with straightforward talk or a sudden occurrence.

(Note: Grammarly is not licensed to give medical opinions about turkey.)

Under the weather

Weather can be nice and sunny or cloudy and miserable. In the case of this idiom, the idea is the latter. If you’re under a raincloud, chances are you’re not going to feel 100% healthy, happy, and ready to party. So if you’re feeling sick, “under the weather” is a way to say so.

If you ever forget, just visualize getting followed around by a raincloud. That should remind you to feel sick. Etymologists believe that the first folks to say it were probably sailors in the 1800s. If you’re feeling sniffly, consider yourself lucky you’re not also on a ship at sea.

In cold blood

“In cold blood” means without mercy or emotion, suggesting that a cruel act was committed in a calculated, unfeeling way. It’s usually used pretty violently: “The victim was murdered in cold blood,” or “Darth Vader killed Obi-Wan in cold blood.”

Etymologists trace the idea to the 1700s or even 1500s. Medicine back then wasn’t exactly what it is now, so people thought that blood got hot in the heat of passion. Therefore, to do something dispassionately was to act “in cold blood.”

If you go on a diet cold turkey, you might feel like you did this to yourself in cold blood. It’s just that painful.

Snowball effect

If something has a snowball effect, that means it might start out small, but keeps growing in importance. Just picture it: a snowball is rolling down a snowy hill, and as it rolls, it gathers more and more snow, getting bigger and bigger. Next thing you know, you’re running from an avalanche.

While an avalanche is usually bad, a snowball effect can be a bad thing or a good thing. You buy an Xbox, and then a trip to Cancun, and then a car, and then go into debt: that string of purchases has a snowball effect on your finances. Bad. One black woman becomes an engineer, and she paves the way for other minorities to get similar jobs, and that creates a snowball effect that leads to equality in the workplace. Good. (Also the plot of Hidden Figures). One person protests a government, the government arrests him, then more people protest, and back and forth until the government makes reforms or gets overthrown. Could be bad or good, depending on the government. But either way, that first person started a snowball effect.

When hell freezes over

Most notions of hell are that it’s a pretty hot place to be. So the chances that it would freeze there? Pretty much zero. “When hell freezes over” is basically a way to say “never.” There are variations on the “freezing in hell” phrase, too. Here are examples of each: “I suppose you think you can go on living on [the Union] till hell freezes over.” —Guy Wetmore Carryl, The Lieutenant-Governor (the first-recorded use of the phrase was in this book in 1903) “My first writing teacher told me it would be a cold day in hell if I ever won a National Board of Review award.” –Terence Winter (writer of The Wolf of Wall Street) “I don’t think the president’s plan has a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding.” —General James Conway

Walking on thin ice

Again, this one gives a pretty clear mental picture: you go for a walk on a lake that’s iced over, but if the ice isn’t very thick, you might crack it and fall to a shivery doom. It’s a metaphor for being in a situation that might be dangerous or lead to negative consequences. If a kid is whining a lot and refusing to go to bed, her parents might tell her, “you’re on thin ice.” If an employee has been late to work every day for two weeks and is caught asleep at his desk, he’s probably walking on thin ice with his boss. Variations include “treading on thin ice,” “skating on thin ice,” or just “on thin ice.” The idiom’s first recorded use was in 1841: “In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.” —Ralph Waldo EmersonPrudence

The tip of the iceberg

Less than 10 percent of an iceberg’s mass shows up above the water’s surface. That’s why they spell disaster for a fair number of ships, including the famous, Oscar-winning Titanic, which had an accident with the mass that was lurking below. As an idiom, “tip of the iceberg” means a small or visible part of a much bigger issue, and it usually has a negative connotation. For example: Sherlock finds the first clue to a murder, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg in unraveling a grand conspiracy. A classroom is using outdated textbooks because the school can’t afford new editions. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg where funding for education is concerned. On a brighter note, in the musical words of the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma: “I’ve always thought the sound that you make is just the tip of the iceberg, like the person that you see physically is just the tip of the iceberg as well.” That may just be the tip of the iceberg where winter idioms are concerned, but now if you’re put on the spot for a frigid phrase, you’ll have more than a snowball’s chance in hell.



So you think you can translate

Every time I tell someone I work as a translator, one of the most common things I hear is something like “oh, I’m great with languages, do you know where I can find translation work?”

In each different situation, I always end up not knowing what to say. Lacking some basic information about translation as a profession, people tend to believe anyone can do it. This has been discussed over and over again all around the world, among infuriated translators who often feel insulted by such a claim. On the other hand, I don’t want to lecture people or hurt their feelings by telling them they don’t have what it takes to translate professionally. After all, what do I know? So I decided to play along and assume really anyone can do it for a living. I went so far as to create my small guide on “How to become a translator in 5 “easy” steps”.

But first…

Let’s start by understanding what motivates people to say this: I’m pretty sure what seduces them most is the fact that you can work freelance.

Ah, the freelancer life: that wonderful world where you sleep late, work from home in your pyjamas or by the window of a cosy coffee shop with a hot chocolate next to your laptop, and travel the world as much as you want, earning lots of money…

Also, people tend to think this is the kind of job you can coordinate with another one. You know. A real job. Where you work from nine to five doing some serious adult things and then you come home, do a little translation and earn enough money to indulge in a spa day once in a while or splurge on that weekend getaway you’ve been dreaming about.

Well, I’m pretty sure all this is possible so let’s get to it. Here are my golden tips to get you started:

1. Obtain perfect command of your native language

Just because you’re a native speaker of a given language, that doesn’t automatically mean you have perfect command of it. There is a common misconception that translators are fluent in foreign languages. While that may be true, the fact is that the language you really need to master is the one you will be translating into, i.e., your mother tongue. So, you must be confident that you have no problems regarding spelling, grammar, syntax and punctuation. Oh and don’t forget style and readability. And don’t even get me started on coherence and consistency…

2. Get some training

In most countries, there are a number of degree courses in the translation field. If you already have a degree in some other field, you might consider doing a postgraduate course or a master’s degree in Translation. These will mainly focus on improving your knowledge of foreign languages (yes, yes, I know you’re pretty fluent already, but still…), teach you about the different types of translation (technical, literary, etc.), some techniques to deal with challenges and difficulties you are bound to come up against along the way, some resources for searching and managing translated terms and software tools to increase productivity.

3. Know your tools

As in any other profession, translators must learn the tools of the trade. There are a number of computer programs for translating different types of documents and managing translated terms so that you don’t have to keep looking for the same terms over and over again. Of course these tools aren’t exactly cheap and besides the fact that you need to invest time and money in learning how to work with them, you still need to master more than a couple as you’ll need to use different ones for different job types.

4. Know the market

Let’s go back to your original question “do you know where I can find translation work?” Now that you have perfect command of your mother tongue, accredited certification to work as a professional translator and have mastered some of the most commonly used tools, let’s find you some clients. After spending so much time investing in your training and development, I’m sure you’re starting to feel this could be a real job. And you’re invested in offering a quality service… and being paid for it. There are indeed several portals where translation jobs are posted on a daily basis and translators can apply. But maybe, just maybe, you want to be respected for your work. Also, maybe you don’t want to translate just anything that comes your way. You have preferred themes, things that interest you, that you like researching… Well, look at you thinking about specialization!

5. Understand your responsibility

I’m pretty sure that at this point you’re convinced that professional translation is not just some side gig you can do to make some extra money but something that requires skill, effort and time to ensure many problems are avoided due to misunderstanding and miscommunication around the world. People rely on translators to convey their voice in a language they do not know. A mistake in an instruction manual can result in serious injury or death, a lack of punctuation in a contract can lead to a huge financial loss… you get the picture.

So, if after reading this you’ve decided you can’t be bothered with all the hassle, let alone find the time to come up with accurate and reliable translations, leave that to someone who is crazy enough to do it and, even worse, love it. And do drop me a line if you ever need advice on finding the ideal professional for your translation needs. I’ll be more than happy to help you out.

Source: Tagslanguagesolutions