Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

"Archidiom" crowdsource request

“Archidiom” crowdsource request

Generally, a Wordmonger post offers up some information. This week, though, I’m hoping to turn the tables & collect information.

Lately I’ve become interested in turns of phrase that are still very much alive, yet no longer make literal sense because technology has changed and made these terms archaic, forcing them from the sensible, literal world into the figurative universe of idioms. I can’t find reference to this phenomenon, so I’ve taken the liberty of calling such terms archidioms (archaic + idiom).

It’s the rare TV or radio today that has a switch in need of turning, but we continue to turn on the TV & radio (or for that matter, turn them off). Though no turning is involved, we’ve held onto the phrase.

We used to grab the seat belts from the floorboards, lift them to our laps and buckle up. These days most of us reach up to find the seat belt, then pull it down in order to buckle up. Hmmm.

Though it makes no sense at all, after saying good-bye on our cell phones, we hang up the phone. And even on those phones we actually can hang up, how do we enter phone numbers? We dial.

When a distracted friend’s phone starts quacking, or singing “The Hallelujah Chorus” or “Jeremiah was a bullfrog” we ask, “Is your phone ringing?”

There have to be dozens more terms that used to make perfect sense, but have been forced into Idiomland due to the inexorable march of technology.

Good readers, please sort through your wonderful brains & leave any new archidioms in the comments section.  


  1. This one is from a much earlier era, but it's an expression that people use without connection to the original meaning:

    Recently I heard somebody say "He's like Don Quixote--tilting windmills". He obviously thought the expression, which is actually "tilting AT windmills") meant lifting up windmills and making them stand crookedly. The expression "tilting" meaning "jousting" is long lost, so this person had tried to give the expression some meaning a modern person could relate too.

    Another you hear all the time is "a shock of hair". (usually white or blond) and usually the person described does not have his hair in a shock shape at all. "Shock" is an archaic word for a bundle of hay. What they had before bales. They stood straight up. So it's meant to describe hair that stands up. But now people use it to mean "shocking" which has nothing to do with hay.

    I imagine some day people will make up imaginative reasons why their phone's noises are called "rings" (maybe involving finger jewelry) and wonder why people talk about "dialing" an electronic device. Maybe something to do with sundials...?

  2. Dearest Miss Allen,
    Thanks so much for these. They are archidioms indeed.

  3. The only thing I could think of was all of the erasing that is done without the use of an eraser.

  4. Excellent - thanks, Christine for another archidiom.