What ‘gets your goat?’



It is so interesting that in thinking about what ‘gets your goat’ which
means what really, really irritates you has been expressed in this really
unusual way.

And although I have used this phrase, I was curious to where it came
from…..there are a couple of theories, one is that goats used to be put
in with race horses to keep them calm and if there were no goats with
them they became unsettled. And theory is that because goats can be
irritable, it is connected to them and the third theory is that to ‘goat’ is
slang for ‘anger’. Regardless of where it was derived, language can be really interesting
as well as challenging to make sense of for many people.
Just yesterday I was reading a new book, which detailed all the
common ways autism can present in individuals, including have
differences in language ability and expression. (The Ice-cream Sunday
Guide to Autism by Debby Elley and Tori Houghton, 2020)
The differences can range from being non-verbal, having some
language delays, having specific language disorders such as dyslexia
as well, having exact and/or advanced encyclopaedic language skills,
to having difficulties in understanding the social use of language,
including being challenged by the many idioms that we use!
An idiom is a phrase or expression that typically presents a figurative,
non-literal meaning, so if you tend to think very literally you can see that
idioms are going to be a challenge.

If you think literally and in pictures and someone asks you ‘what gets
your goat?’ You could be picturing a goat, you could be confused as
you don’t own a goat and have no idea why someone would be asking
about getting a goat (from where?!)…..

And idioms are used all of the time in our day to day language and
these too can cause confusion if taken literally.
Ones like: “Hang on a minute”, “In a tick”, “Feeling blue”, “Seeing red”
“I’ve run out of steam”, and a ‘Different kettle of fish’ are just some of
the ones that are more commonly used in every day conversations that
could be quite confusing for some people.

So I’m always working on being more aware of the idioms I use and
making sure I check in to speak without using idioms (so say exactly
what I mean) and teach them the idiom if they are unfamiliar.

So check out your use of idioms in your family, have fun exploring what
kind of pictures come into the minds of the children and teens your
know and be sure to take some time to explore and explain the ones
that you commonly- so that there is no confusion!

Published by Kate French

Clinical Psychologist; expertise in autism and child and family psychology.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: