Laughing Hyenas

I know someone with an amazing grasp on English, considering she started from scratch at age 14. She loves absorbing and using idioms. Recently she articulated the phrase “blessing in the sky” in a way that most people would use the words “blessing in disguise.” This reminded me of wonderful past discussions on idioms. She used to say “happy as a clown” for “happy as a clam.” It was the first time I had ever thought of the actual words. She was not easily convinced that a happy clam made any sense. I guessed that the clam opening resembled a long smile but could barely persuade myself that it made any more sense than “clown.” Well, except that clowns are often sad or scary. But that does not make a case for “clam.” Why not “happy as a hyena?” I realized that I learned so many expressions without ever understanding why the words created the idiom. Raining cats and dogs? Feeling under the weather? On the ball? Take with a grain of salt? I learned the overall meaning of all such expressions without any regard to the definition or order of the individual words. Maybe others answer all the “why” questions before adopting an idiom in their vocabulary. But apparently I am so lazy that I accept the incongruous without critical analysis. I am certain an expression describes people like me but I am not going to beat around the bush looking for it.


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