It never ceases to amaze me how badly people misinterpret my words – even when using common phrases on which society has already agreed upon the meaning!
A Bird In The Hand Is Worth Two In The Bush
I had always taken this to mean that something you have is worth more than something you merely know about. For example, the television you own can be watched anytime, from the comfort of your living room, and on whatever channel you like, and is therefore worth more than thirty televisions in the store display window.
A bird in the hand can be pet and observed in detail. The birds in the bush can only be heard. Since a bird in the hand is worth more than two in the bush, three birds in the hand must be worth more than zero in the bush! Birds are worth more in the hand. I use the expression to tell people to go get their hands on those bush-birds.
I recently discovered that there is another way to take the same expression. For some people, the bird in the hand is worth more only because it is certain, whereas the two in the bush are uncertain. Since it is likely one has to let go of (and lose) the certain possession for the uncertain gain of additional possessions (unlike televisions, birds fly away), this expression is used to tell others to be content with what they have and not go after the bush-birds. It is the exact opposite of how I use the expression.
800-Pound Gorilla In The Room
I have always seen this expression to refer to something that is undeniably on everyone’s minds, but nobody wants to talk about. There is even a television commercial that makes use of this, and for years it ran so often that I find it hard to believe anyone missed it.
Now I find that some take this to mean merely the dominant force in some setting, such as an industry. While the dominant force is certainly undeniable, something does not have to be dominant to be undeniable, and even if it is, it doesn’t mean that no one wants to talk about it. Usually, the opposite is true. Thus, this usage is very different than mine, overlapping in only a very tiny point.
Take This With A Grain Of Salt
I had always understood this to mean that the following information was from an unreliable source and was likely exaggerated, though it still might have a grain of truth to it. This is what I was told and it is the only way I have ever heard it used. One day, I read an article wherein the author assumed it to mean that the following information was merely something the listener would not want to hear (thus why it needs salt to make it “palatable”), the expression indicating nothing of its reliability.
Bees – like insects in general – fly erratically and seemingly indecisively. They take indirect paths. When I read of someone making a beeline, they are usually being pursued and dodging sniper fire or keeping their pursuers guessing where they will be one second in the future. Thus, a beeline is an indirect route. If it were a direct route, it would simply be called a line.
Now I hear that a beeline is the exact opposite of this. A beeline is instead a direct route. This makes no sense to me at all. Am I the only one that has ever observed how bees actually fly?
One Man’s Buck Is Another Man’s Buck
This is not even ten percent of the common sayings that have multiple meanings that only I seem to be aware of. Most people are only aware of one meaning even though they aren’t in agreement with each other. We all live in our tiny little bubbles and assume the rest of the world is the same way. This is why there is so much misunderstanding when it comes to the meaning of common words, idioms, and jokes. Often the same word can have very different meanings depending on who uses it, and one man’s buck is another man’s buck (this means that two people can take the same message differently – e.g. buck=deer versus buck=money – just in case you were thinking something else).
Related Post: People Are Different
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.