What's the difference between colloquialisms and idioms?  Are there any in this poem?    there are many lines you have not traced on my palms still you think you know me , when i speak you nod...

What's the difference between colloquialisms and idioms?  Are there any in this poem?



there are many lines you have not traced on my palms still you think you know me , when i speak you nod knowingly as if you've read my mind and are only politely acknowledging the confirmation of my spoken words but you cannot possibly know what i've been contemplating these days my head is full of blood but you show no fear and i do not trust my hands which feel to me like stones you do not cower when i approach though i am like a runaway train and i can hear you voice cool and steady while my brain screams profanities into the air around your ears , our past had given you no reason to be afraid but still i am surprised you cannot see the danger burning brightly in my eyes the fire i am struggling to control as i sit stewing in the kitchen's false light with tears my daughter comes to me frightened by what she cannot see afraid tonight to sleep i hold her in my arms singing soft words of comfort feeling her heart quickly beating against my chest knowing before i can think that i have forgotten us for our stupid little war knowing in the incandescent light that anger will never move me as delicately as she has moved me this night thanksss

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Colloquialisms are, indeed, casual words that are appropriate in casual speech. Colloquialisms are usually regional. For example, in Pennsylvania long sandwiches with everything in them are Hoagies but in California they are submarine sandwiches. Other examples of colloquialisms are you guys and y'all, soda and cool drink, wanna and gonna.

Idioms are very different from colloquialisms. Idioms are a figurative form of language and never mean exactly what they say. A good example to stress this point is the idiom "raining cats and dogs," which never means it is raining felines and canines (well...unless you're reading a book of weird and unexplained things...). Idioms are a form of communication that requires cultural agreement to permit effective communication. In other words, my use of an idiom is fruitless if the culture I am in doesn't agree to the figurative meaning of the collection of words comprising the idiom.

In the excerpt you've included above, "read my mind" is an idiom, as is "my head is full of blood," which if taken literally would signify a serious medical problem. "Sit stewing" is an idiom. Idioms are not to be confused with metaphors and similes, which are also figurative. The difference is that metaphors and similes conjure up a well known image, like a runaway train or a brightly burning fire, whereas idioms rely on a cultural agreement of what a group of words mean, which on their own bear no resemblance to the idiomatic meaning, like "my dogs are barking" meaning "my feet hurt."

[For more information on idioms, see the reliable links below.]

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here's the difference between the two:

  • Colloquialisms are words or phrases that are used in spoken language but not in typical, formal, written language.  So examples of this would be things like "gonna" or "wanna" or "ain't."
  • Idioms can be used in both.  They are words that are used in ways that don't go with their dictionary definitions.  Idioms can be things like "a chip on his shoulder" or "a dime a dozen" or "a piece of cake."

I guess you could say that "a runaway train" in this poem is an idiom.  You could also say that the idea that the speaker sits "stewing" is another example.  In both cases, these are set phrases that have one formal definition but we understand that they really mean something else.


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