As many of you probably know, I’m been enamored with the English language since I was six. Never lived in an English-speaking country, so the learning process has been like a roller coaster ride, up and down, forward and backwards. But still, the passion for the language is so strong, I keep on plowing forward. My native tongue is Spanish.
The most difficult part of the English language has been learning the ample variety of idioms, also known as idiomatic phrases, parlacences or phrasal idioms. A good dictionary worth its salt will define an idiom as: A matter of speaking that is natural to native speakers of a language or the usage or vocabulary that is characteristic of a specific group of people. Example: “The immigrants spoke an odd idiom of English.” Another meaning is: An expression whose meaning cannot be inferred from the meanings of the words that make it up.
I push myself hard to learn new English idioms by reading English books, movies, magazines and TV programs. Sometimes I will hear the phrase, jot it down in a piece of paper, and later look it up in an online dictionary. I’m amazed of how different the meaning of the idiom is from the real English words. That is what makes it so difficult to grasp if you have not lived in an English-speaking country, which is my case.
Recently I stumbled in this new idiomatic expression while surfing the Web: “Before one had nails on one’s toes.” This is what it means: Before one was born; long ago, in the distant past.
This expression refers to the fact that a baby’s toenails develop prenatally. Thus an event or other matter that occurred before a person’s toenail developed occurred before he or she was born. In its most common usage, the expression cites a younger person’s age as the basis for denigrating his status, experience, ideals, or philosophies.
“There’s Ulysses and old Nestor, whose wit and moldy ere your grandsires had nails on their toes.”—William Shakespeare.
And now you understand how difficult it has been for me to learn the language of Shakespeare. Good Day.