I have always found it fascinating how we communicate with one another using metaphors, analogies, and idioms. It feels counterintuitive, but a good analogy or metaphor can help us understand one another better. For example, if I told you I was “on a wild goose chase,” you would know that I meant I was working hard toward an ever-changing goal that I might never achieve. You would understand my frustration without my saying it was frustrating. If I said, “It’s all Greek to me,” you would appreciate that I was struggling to understand something. I recently overheard this phrase used when a member of the MSL staff was helping a patron with our eBook app, Libby.
By themselves these are analogies where I am pretty much saying to you, “this is so frustrating it is like chasing a wild goose!” or, “I am so far from understanding what you’re saying that you might as well be speaking another language.” What you might not know is that both of these quotes come to us from William Shakespeare. “Wild goose chase” is from Romeo and Juliet, and “it’s Greek to me” is from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. A surprising number of the communication shortcuts we use come to us from Shakespeare. “The world is your oyster” encourages us to take advantage of life’s opportunities, “heart of gold” refers to someone who is honest and loyal, and “green-eyed monster” means to be jealous of someone else. What I find interesting is that knowing where the quote is from isn’t needed to understand the meaning.
Without getting into the definitions of metaphors, analogies, and idioms – that can be a bit confusing – the part I find interesting is when we understand a meaning that isn’t explicitly explained by the words we use. You know I am not literally chasing wild geese, and when I say, “it’s raining cats and dogs,” you know I don’t actually mean that dogs are falling from the sky. How we go about making ourselves understood to one another can be poignant, emphatic or downright funny.
I’ll cut to the chase and spill the beans: I’ve been sitting on top of the world for a year now as the top dog at your neighborhood library. Time flies! I am still over the moon to be here, and I don’t take that for granted.