One of the first items to catch my eye in a catalog I received recently is a Russian marine rescue signal horn shown on the back cover because this description of the object caught my ear: “Loud as all get out.”
The meaning of this peculiar expression is quite clear: blowing on the horn produces a blast of sound that can be heard over waves and wind. But what does noise have to do with everyone getting out? I have never heard anyone utter the opposite admonition “Quiet as all come in.”
I begin to wonder if we have ignored an alternate universe where clichés have taken a very odd twist. In such a place words whisper softer than actions and people subtract injury from insult. Complainers grumble about the worst thing since breaded dice. No one is cool as a cucumber there; the best one can hope for is to be as lukewarm as a leek.
Here, the hearty claim to be as fit as a fiddle. There, the sickly are as ill as an alligator. Locals do not mind their p’s and q’s. Instead, they disregard their ABCs.
There, the focus is on the young, not the elderly. No person is said to be long in the tooth or having one foot in the grave. Infants are described as being short in the gums and having ten toesies in the crib.
“Neat as a pin” is as pointless in conveying tidiness as an unsharpened pencil whereas “Sloppy as a jalopy” does paint a precise word picture. The description of another vehicle featured in a weekly periodical issued this month suggests that peculiar expressions are here to stay. A 1966 Ford Fairlane Custom 500 which sold at auction for $35,500 in September “Runs and drives like a top!” Somehow, here, there, or anywhere, a car that runs like an automobile seems preferable to taking a spin on a dervish.
Rather than go to the other extreme, simple phrases that convey the exact meaning of the speaker or author seem to be best. As for an overworked idiom or cliché, it goes–without saying.