There are sayings in every culture that are iconic in their own way and are repeated not because of what they mean but because of what they mean. What I don’t understand, however, is how these phrases make into common vernacular and yet make no sense and no one seems to notice but me.
Like the phrase “Cry me a river”. What does that mean, exactly? I knows it conveys sarcasm and a lack of concern for whatever problem is being talked about, but when you say that to someone what are you actually asking them to do? Are you asking them to prove to you how upset they are by crying you a river? If that’s the case, but you don’t care, why ask them to make a mess of the floor? Why not just say, “I don’t care”?
Or the Microsoft jargon “OOF”. Microsoft people use this little phrase when they will be out of the office. If you look at it though, you’ll realize that the phrase should OOO (out of office) or OOTO (out of the office). I asked my co-worker why it was OOF when the F clearly doesn’t stand for anything. He said he didn’t know, he’d never thought about it, but that’s just how people do it. It just boggles my mind that of all the brilliant people employed by Microsoft, no one questions this? So, just out of principal I won’t use it lest some other squeaky wheel notice how silly it is and think I’m silly by default (I am silly, but not in that way).
I’m sure every culture has it’s idiomatic phrases that have persevered despite their lack of inherent meaning. I just feel like if we’re going to go about creating new ones, like OOF, we might as well do our best to make sure they at least make sense. I used to favor “Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares” because it made sense, it was to the point, and it encouraged the person to go away. It accomplishes everything that “cry me a river” does not.
I’m pretty sure this is how George Orwell imagined the prequel to 1984. First comes the unquestioning acceptance of things that don’t make sense, next comes the extreme surveillance and rats eating your face.