`idiot box’ (and ‘idiom’ )

It is not the box which is the idiot, but the people watching it. Have you ever observed people watching their favourite programme? Their eyes remain glued to the television set, and on most occasions they have no clue what is going on around them. When you ask them questions, they either tell you to keep quiet, or don’t take the trouble to answer you. The only time they come alive is during the commercial break; otherwise, they remain passive. They keep staring at the `box’ as if they were a bunch of idiots; the TV turns them into one.

By the way, did you know that the words `idiot’ and `idiom’ are related? Both come from the Greek `idios’, meaning `peculiar’. Why is an idiom peculiar? Because the meaning of an idiom is not the sum of the meaning of all the words of the idiom. For example, whenever it rains heavily, we say, `It’s raining cats and dogs’. It doesn’t mean that cats and dogs are actually falling from the sky.

Source: ‘Know Your English’ ( The Hindu) – June 26, 2006


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