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Till the cows come home

  • Till the cows come home is an idiom that has been in use for quite awhile. An idiom is a word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as in a blue moon, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the idiom till the cows come home, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.


     

    The idiom till the cows come home means a long time. The image is of a herd of cows slowly meandering through a pasture to their farm. Cows generally are never in a hurry. The idiom till the cows come home has been in use since at least the sixteenth century and may have originated in the Scottish Highlands, where cows are allowed to graze for months at a time before they meander home in the fall.

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    Examples

    Any other day and you’d catch me writing till the cows come home about the importance of devotion and allegiance but today is not like any other day. (The Gold Coast Bulletin)

    Now my tail is back to normal and I can wag it till the cows come home. (The Independent)

    Unless one’s the great Dr Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in a prison at Robben Island, chances are that a lockdown, house arrest or forced confinement may render people temporarily destabilized and the after effects or ripple effects linger on till the cows come home. (The Free Press Journal)


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