Friday, September 21, 2012

A story . . . an idiom brought to life.

So when I was a teen I worked as a theatre technician during summers at The Georgian Theatre Festival.

One evening I was sitting in the hall backstage before any of the actors etc had shown up.  It was just us techies doing pre-show set up.  I was watching my fellow techie Lauren ironing some costumes.  She had set up the ironing board in the musicians' dressing room.  We were chatting.  Just chillaxing.

Now in theatre the word "strike" is used as "remove".  So one strikes a set, for example, at the end of the show.  If there's a chair where it shouldn't be someone might call out, "Hey, could someone strike that chair?"

That kind of thing.

With that in mind:

The technical director came around the corner, up to us.  It was getting close to when the actors etc would be arriving.

"Hey Lauren," he said.  "Could you strike the iron and board and stuff?  The musicians are on their way up."

"Okay," she replied.

He walked away and she unplugged the iron and picked it up, accidentally touching the bottom.

"Ow, that's hot!" she said.

And I sat there, having observed all this, with my jaw on the floor.

"OMG, Lauren," I said, "do you realise what you are doing?"

She just looked at me.

"You're striking while the iron is hot."

Now unfortunately she had never heard that idiom before, so I had to wait to go home and tell my English teacher parents about it in order to have someone to share the awe of the moment.  But I'll never forget it.  It's not just that she was literally striking while the iron was hot.  It was also that the technical director had said "strike" and she had actually said "hot".  It was . . . perfect.

And yes, this is the kind of thing that just makes my life.

So what about you guys?  Have any of you witnessed an idiom/saying/metaphor come real? 


Lisa Shafer said...

Very often the classes that I teach (junior high school) include at least one ESL group. Idioms are difficult for kids in general (I doubt a single kid I teach right now would be familiar with "strike while the iron is hot"), but ESL kids really struggle. They take everything literally. Now, most of the kids speak Spanish, so I can usually get them to grasp the concept of idioms by using a few they know. But sometimes things still get funny.
Once, an upper-level ESL group was reading through some simplified versions of Conan-Doyle stories, and we were on "The Adventure of the Speckled Band." The story contained the supposedly simplified line "Helen dropped her eyes to the floor." The kids all burst out laughing, and I had to explain what it really meant. :)
But it's not just the English newbes. A couple of years ago, during an academic team practice involving most of the brightest and best at our school, we were practicing idioms. I threw out "He sees everything in black and white," and the kids' SERIOUS responses were wild. One girl offered that it meant, "He's old." (because of black-and-white film) Even with the two coaches laughing like crazy and giving hints, not one kid could figure out that the phrase means someone who views everything as right/wrong or good/bad.

Anonymous said...

At my old job (selling gourmet cheese to snobby rich people) we used to have a guy come in every other week to take our knives to have them sharpened and cleaned and replace them with fresh ones. The first time that happened while I was there I talked to him for a few minutes and when he left I said I was sad. My manager looked up at me and said, "Um... why?" I replied with, "No more Mr. Knife Guy."

I realize this isn't quite the same thing as what happened with you, but I still thought it was hilariously punny.