Dear Dr. Linda,

The other day I was with my niece, who is going into seventh grade, and she was complaining about some of her friends at school. It was typical best-friend stuff that seventh grade girls go through. I didn’t ignore how she felt because I went through the same stuff when I was in middle school. I told her to take it with a grain of salt. She looked at me and said, what does salt have to do with this? I told her that “take it with a grain of salt” was an idiom, and she asked me what an idiom was.

I’m not a teacher, nor am I a parent, but wouldn’t a seventh grader have heard that expression by now and shouldn’t she know what the word idiom means? By the way, she’s an honor student. Just curious.

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Aunt Beth

Dear Aunt Beth,

Most seventh graders, including your niece, would have been exposed to idioms. I’m sure she’s heard of some, like “It’s raining cats and dogs.” However, she may not have heard the word “idiom” before. Many kids are familiar with idioms because of the Amelia Bedelia beginning reading books. However, when Amelia Bedelia literally “draws the drapes” on a piece of paper instead of closing them, many won’t get the humor in it until they are a little older. By then, they’re not reading Amelia Bedelia books anymore.

Your niece may have been exposed to idioms, but at the time she may have been too young to understand their meanings. Or maybe she just never heard anyone use the idiom about taking things with a grain of salt. I have several friends who grew up in the South whose idioms I’ve never heard before and don’t understand now!

Next time you’re with your niece, make a list of idioms and see which ones she knows or has heard of. Even if you’ve never heard of some of them, you can find what each one means online. Have fun researching where each began.

Here’s some for starters.

  • “A penny for your thoughts”
  • “At the drop of a hat”
  • “Hit the sack”
  • “Actions speak louder than words”
  • “Back to the drawing board”
  • “By the skin of my teeth”
  • “Cross that bridge when you come to it”
  • “Once in a blue moon”
  • “Spill the beans”
  • “Bite off more than you can chew”
  • “Costs an arm and a leg”
  • “Feel a bit under the weather”
  • “Can’t judge a book by its cover”
  • “Every cloud has a silver lining”
  • “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”
  • “Jump on the bandwagon”
  • “Let the cat out of the bag”
  • “On the ball”
  • “Piece of cake”
  • “Whole nine yards”
  • “Last straw”
  • “See eye to eye”

Whether your niece is well-versed in idioms or not, it’ll be a chance for the two of you to spend some time together. And you might learn a thing or two.

The ball’s in your court!

Dr. Linda

If you have a question to ask Dr. Linda about your child or a school related situation, she can be reached at