The Non-Expert

Two in the Hand

Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week we reveal the top contenders and the winner of the Non-Expert’s Contest for Total Idioms, with a way for you to save the world.

A month ago, we asked you to help us change the world. To improve civilization through fresh speech and new ideas, to kickstart a linguistic revolution by replacing timeworn, hand-me-down clichés from public discourse and CNN with some new zest for conversation.

We’re pleased to announce the winner (and runners-up) to the Non-Expert’s Contest for Total Idioms—and for those who need a reminder to stay strong and remain a go-getter, boy do we have some merch for you. But first…

We received dozens of entries. Many were juicy and creative. Some were insanely bad. One was the best. We appreciate everyone’s nominations and hard work. Here are a few of the top contenders:

Shooting Face

The phrase describes someone who wrongs someone (or even many people) but refuses to admit error, let alone apologize. Thus when Dick Cheney actually shot someone in the face, he also performed many “face-shooting” gestures in response. The phrase could also describe the victim(s) of such wrongdoing: someone “shoots face” when that person apologizes to the person who has wronged him or her. Thus Harry Whittington performed a face-shooting gesture when he apologized to Cheney for getting shot by him. An added bonus: The phrase easily lends itself to double entendre.—Erik Vorhes

The Hand Moves the Mouse

“I guess I just always thought that if it was wrong, Word would underline it or something.” I.e., you’re responsible for the mistakes you make while using a computer.—Nathan Johnson

Throw Down Some Flowers

Casual act of buying a floral bouquet to appease a girlfriend out of obligation, not desire. E.g., “Yeah, she was angry at me for getting drunk at her parents’ place on Thanksgiving, but I threw down some flowers and she forgave me pretty quickly.”—Daiv Whaley

Memes Get Quizzical When You Pet Them

The more you transfer cultural genetics in a blithe sort of way, overusing certain words and phrases without deliberateness—”abso-lute-ly” while idly stroking your Jack Russell—the more the meme, if it’s got any cred, starts to wonder, WTF?—Tom Luke

But there had to be a winner, and the one phrase we kept coming back to, the one we figured was a popular phrase already, the one we could actually imagine saying to our friends and family was:

If a Bird Can’t Fly, It Walks

Used to suggest someone should stop making excuses why they can’t do something.—Kevin Cornell

So please, help us invigorate the world. Use this phrase in your daily conversation, include it in your Harper’s essays; if you know Tony Snow, try and get him to say it on TV. And the best way we can think of spreading the word—illustrated by its author, the in-many-ways talented Kevin Cornell—is with the first bumper sticker we’re able to say, hell yeah I’d put that on my car/cubicle/inspiration zone: