Ana muses on common and less common figures of speech:
The list of figures of speech in the English language is long and growing. Before I moved to a farming community and became a writer, I heard and used phrases that I didn't fully appreciate how they came about.
"Can't hit the broad side of a barn." Old fashioned dairy barns are very long. Modern poultry and hog confinement barns are huge. If you can't throw a stone at a building 100 feet long and hit it, something's wrong with your aim or your eyes.
"Crowded as a whorehouse on nickel night." Self-explanatory.
"Can't catch a weasel asleep." Something that is impossible or unlikely. Someone who is always alert and seldom caught off guard. "You can't sneak up on that guy any sooner than you can catch a weasel asleep."
"Dead as a door nail." Nails don't show many signs of life.
"Hot as Hades." Evokes images of fiery cauldrons and sinners roasting on spits.
"Didn't have a tail feather left." Describes someone who is penniless. Probably came from a time when feathers were sold for income.
"Egg money." Locals used this term when we moved to our farm. Farm women sold eggs to the feed store in town and got to spend that money themselves.
"Don't get your dander up." I think of a cat in fight mode, hair standing straight up, dander being the fine under layer of fur.
"Walk the chalk." If you were drunk, you couldn't walk across a room on a line drawn with chalk. "Toe the line," is similar.
"Nervous as a cat in a roomful of rockers." Gotta be careful and protect your tail.
"Steal the coins off a dead man's eyes." Coins were used to weight the eyelids of the deceased.
"Uglier than a newly sheared sheep." Have you ever seen a sheep that's just been sheared? Ugly!
"This knife wouldn't cut hot butter." Living in Germany as a child, I remember that a man regularly came around on his bicycle and sharpened knives for all the housewives on the block.
"Slow as molasses in January." Average daytime high temperature in January where I live is -1 degree. Not much molasses flows at that temperature.
To describe a long period without rain: "It's so dry, bushes are chasing dogs."
The list is endless and fascinating.