“March comes in like a lion”, folk wisdom tells us, and given the winds that have raced across North Texas of late, the analogy seems accurate. It also got me thinking about the layered meanings of the word “wind”.
In many languages, wind means far more than the movement of air. It may symbolize change, unpredictability, inevitability. It is a force that can be harnessed, but never tamed.
In English, “wind” is found in a multitude of idioms. A (very) few of these are listed below, along with a definition and an example of usage. So here’s my challenge: what is the best idiomatic way to translate the meaning and tone of these into your non-English language?
get wind of – to learn of something, usually through unofficial means (Henry caught wind of our plan to surprise him on his birthday.)
knock the wind out of my sails – to have my momentum stopped by a sudden challenge (Henry’s announcement that he would be out of town knocked the wind right out of my sails.)
three sheets to the wind – also “two sheets” or “four sheets”, but the meaning remains the same: to be drunk. Very drunk. (Kate was so upset over Henry’s plans that she overdid it on the margaritas and ended up three sheets to the wind.)
bag of wind – also “windbag”, someone who is full of pretentious talk but not much else (Geoff said he could change Henry’s plans but we all knew he was just a bag of wind.)
be in the wind – this one has two very different meanings. On the one hand, “about to occur”; on the other hand, “on the run”. (As it turns out, when Henry realized the party was in the wind he took things a step further. He snuck out the back door, stole my cousin’s car and now he’s in the wind.)
see which way the winds are blowing – to determine the most expedient course of action based on current conditions. (Geoff could see the way the winds were blowing and decided it might be wise to change course and also leave town.)
between wind and water – similar to being between “a rock and a hard spot” or “the devil and the deep, blue sea”, except that where the other two idioms focus on the lack of viable options, this one speaks to the vulnerability of a precarious position. (Meg found herself between wind and water, not knowing whether to throw her support behind her boss, Kate, or her landlord, Geoff.)
twisting in the wind – this one also has multiple meanings, all in some way alluding to the gruesome image of death by hanging. The meanings range from a dire punishment for crimes committed, to a loss of support or answers. (So there I was, twisting in the wind as my henchmen abandoned me and no one had word of Henry’s whereabouts. For a moment, I got angry and swore I’d see that Henry twisted in the wind.)
it’s an ill wind (that blows no good) – the word “ill” in this context means bad, not sick, and the phrase means that something good comes for someone, even in calamitous times. The idiom is often shortened to simply “it’s an ill wind”, with the rest implied. (Then I realized I had overlooked something. Cake. Chocolate cake. Henry in hiding, Geoff gone, Kate drunk, Meg waffling… and me with all the cake. It was indeed an ill wind that blew that day.)
- Carol Shaw, MITA Reader Editor