There are words that are considered to be weak like: spirit, heart, love, sublime, because they tell and don't show, so I am wondering what about idioms such as "dead in the water", because they are figurative, but overused to the point they became idioms, I am guessing that it could be considered "weak"? What's the consensus on this?

Love is dead

I see a dead world

The love that blossomed

Was dead in the water

Here's an example for example sake.

1 Answer 1


I define idiom as a phrase that has a meaning to native speakers that doesn't equal the dictionary meaning of the words. For example, 'Pull your socks up' does not refer to raising an item of clothing. This is not the same as metaphorical language. The lines you quote are not idiomatic; they are metaphorical, except for perhaps 'dead in the water'. I wonder if you are confusing clichés with idiom. Clichés are overused phrases that may once have been original but now aren't.

There isn't a consensus on the use of idiom. There can't be. Poetry is an art form and as such the poet has to decide what is appropriate.

Idiom can limit the appreciation of the audience (they may not understand it, particularly if non-native), but it can also be a way to communicate that is concise, resonates with the reader/listener, and is artistically appropriate.

You need to work out if your intended audience will understand your idiomatic phrases. To give you an example, when I first came to England my head of department used the phrase 'Gordon Bennett'. I had no idea what it meant.


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