As creators of messages, we know our communications have to be clear, precise, and (as much as practicable) free from ambiguity, equivocation, and obfuscation. But reason (and sanity) suggests there should be limits. (Please!)
Here are a few examples of instances in which the speaker (or writer) might be cut some degree of slack:
- “I’ll have that done in two seconds.” Unless the person from whom this comment came was referring to blinking, snapping his fingers, or throwing back a shot of Bushmills on St. Patrick’s Day, we can all agree to take this one with a grain of salt.
- “Take this with a grain of salt.” Chances are that even habitual users of this expression don’t walk around with packets of Morton in their pockets — unless they’re trying to keep themselves from being poisoned or trying to stave off a hangover from too many shots of Bushmills.
- “Man, when I lifted that thing, it weighed a ton!” If this expression is used by The Incredible Hulk, it’s probably okay to take it literally. If not, most of us would be fairly safe taking it with a grain of salt. (A shot of Bushmills wouldn’t hurt, either.)
- “That guy’s dumb as a rock.” For its ostensible sarcasm, its overt absurdity, and its seeming impossibility, this expression could almost be eliminated or ignored entirely — with one exception. And when it comes to that guy, there isn’t enough salt or Bushmills on the planet.
- “He’s as strong as an ox.” Since the only ox whose feats of physical power have been meaningfully documented is Babe, it takes a little imagination to even formulate a rudimentary conception of the meaning of this saying. In our experience, we’ve always found such imaginings to be enhanced by copious amounts of Bushmills (with or without the salt), especially if we’re accompanied by an imbiber with the prodigious capacity of Paul Bunyan.
- “He drinks like a fish.” This one’s immediately dismissible since, unless he’s as large as Paul Bunyan, no one could drink that much — whether he’s drinking Bushmills or anything else.
We don’t care if you hang on our every word. Just don’t be so literal.