The Singing Pigs Dictionary of Educational Idioms

My Significant Other just bought me The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms.  Language geek that I am, I haven’t put it down since.  High school teacher that I am, I immediately flipped to the curse words.

“Ass!” (I like to research my vulgarity alphabetically.)

Ass in a sling, to have one’s I read. “Be in trouble, in a painfully awkward position, as in When the news of the slump in sales gets out he’ll have his ass in a sling.  Probably originating in the American South, the idiom may refer to so vigorous a kick in the buttocks that the injured person requires a sling of the kind used to support a broken arm.  

Well, that doesn’t make sense.  If I break my ass, I’m certainly not going to put it in an arm sling.  I don’t even understand how that’s anatomically possible.

I tried, for a moment, to imagine a pair of butt cheeks in a sling but my brain insisted upon putting both the arm and the ass in the same bandage together, a visual that so confused me I gave up on alphabetization and flipped all the way to the S’s.

The shit hit the fan,” Yes! One of my favorite expressions! “There will be major trouble, usually following the disclosure of a piece of information.  When they find out they were firing on their own planes, the shit will hit the fan.  This image calls up the graphic image of feces spread by a rapidly revolving fan.”

No shit, Sherlock.  Was hoping for a little more insight than that.   Oh!  That’s one too.  Shit…Sherlock…nope, not in there.  To my dismay, shit-eating grin, to shit a brick, and for shits and giggles were also missing.

I was especially disappointed in that last one.  Always had wondered just who had equated shits with giggles and why they would do so.  I generally tend to associate shits with Mexican food, but maybe that’s just my own personal experience.

I flipped through the dictioniary less urgently.

Donkey’s years,”  I read.  “A long time, as in I haven’t seen her in donkey’s years.   This expression punningly refers to the considerable length of the animal’s ears.

Okay.  That’s interesting.  But I’m pretty sure I’ll never use that expression unless I suddenly don a pair of overalls, stick a piece of straw in my mouth and change my name to Emmy Lou.

Hell on wheels: Tough, aggressive, wild, or mean.  As in Watch out for the boss – he’s hell on wheels this week. This expression originated with the building of the Union Pacific railroad in the 1860s when it denoted the last town on the line which was carried on freight cards as the track was extended.  The town consisted mainly of tents of construction gangs, liquor dealers, gamblers, and other camp followers known for their rough and vicious ways.” 

Huh. I had always just kind of imagined the devil on roller skates cruising around and being ornery. Kind of like some of my students.  Minus the roller skates.  Roller skates went out in the ‘80s.  But the ornery – it’s still alive and well, only these days we prefer to call it “shit-disturbing.”  Also not in the dictionary.

When suddenly, it dawned on me.

I could do better than this.

The Singing Pigs Dictionary of Educational Idioms:


This blog post is an non-comprehensive survey of idioms currently used in some American faculty lounges.  An idiom is a set phrase that means something different from the literal meaning of the individual word(s).  Idioms are the idiosyncrasies of a language.  Often defying the rules of logic, they pose great difficulties for non-native speakers or, in the case of this dictionary, non-educators.  I hope that all readers will find this post both useful and enjoyable while simultaneously taking great care as to the company in which they choose to employ the following idioms.  

Not everyone has a sense of humor, folks.

Batshit –  adverb. 1.  To take action in such unpleasantly insane manner as to only be describable by the guano of an unnerving cave-dwelling mammal. When Mrs. Smith sat on the tack the kids left on her chair, she went completely batshit.  2.  adjective.  Crazy or insane.  (See also crazytown).  Do NOT have a meeting with Suzie’s mother without an administrator present.  She is completely batshit.  Origin unknown, but thought metaphorically refer to the probable physical and mental reaction of a person trapped in a cave with large numbers of defecating bats.

Crazytown – adjective.  (krey-zee-town).  1.  so removed from reality as to be deserving of his/her own town where the rules of an alternate universe apply.  Mr. Johnson wrote his son’s paper, then threatened to sue when the school refused to give his son credit for it.  He’s all sorts of crazytown.  2.  noun.  figurative expression for the geographic location of one or more mentally unstable parent(s).  Mrs.  Miller had to be escorted out of parent teacher conferences for punching another parent who took her place in line.  It’s best just to stay away from that crazytown.

Faculty Lounge: noun.  (fa-kul-tee-lownj) 1.  A small closet, corner, or dusty storage bin formally designated by a school as teachers’ work space.  The term is frequently misleading as it is not a lounge and is frequently lacking in faculty due to size.  I was going to make my lesson plans in the faculty lounge, but there was no place for me to work as the entire lounge was already occupied by Mr. Smith’s right leg.  2.  noun.  An expression that designates the area in a school in which all outdated technology is stored.  You need need to enter grades during your plan period?  There several Commodore 64s in the faculty lounge that you can use.  3.  noun.  A legendary location described in the first staff handbook as the place on a school campus where teachers might go for a break in their day.  While opinions as to the existence of the fabled faculty lounge continue to debated by scholars, the expression itself is used to evoke a sort of educator utopia as in In the days before budget cuts, back when districts got raises and unicorns danced through the hallways…that’s when every teacher had a classroom, and every school had a faculty lounge.

Helicopter Parent:  noun.  (hel-i-kop-ter-pay-rent).  1.  A parent whose head is so far up their child’s ass, that said child has not yet learned to wipe his/her own hind end.  Idiomatic expression figuratively related to the hovering of a helicopter as more socially acceptable terminology than the original “ass-wiper parent.”  This is my 1,863rd email from Mrs. Smith this month.  Why, I do believe I have a helicopter parent on my hands.

Kids, my: noun. (kidz) 1.   Pupils.  The minors in an academic setting assigned to a specific teacher deemed responsible for their care.  Yeah, I’ve got over 35 kids and it’s totally stressing me out. A frequent cause for awkward misunderstandings in non-academic circles when my kids is often taken to mean my biological offspring creating a inaccurate image of teachers as excessively reproductive creatures.

PDA – noun. (pee-dee-eh) 1.  Acronym traditionally recognized as an abbreviation for Public Displays of Affection but in certain contexts it has also been defined as Pathetically Dopey Affection, Puberty Dominates Actions, or Pregnancy Danger Ahead.  Despite its rather seemingly literal definition, it presents in this list due to its less literal implication of the need for action on behalf of a teacher or another authority figure as in “Um…Mrs. Jones?  There’s a sloppy PDA going on in front of my locker…

Show, the – noun.  (sho).  1.  Euphemistic alteration of shitshow, as per the omission of the first and more vulgar syllable.  Typically used to refer to a less than ideal situation.  My 7th hour study hall on a Friday afternoon?  Yeah, it’s a show.

Wasted adjective. (way-sted).  1.  The physical sensation one experiences after spending seven to ten hours locked in a small concrete room with thirty or more small children/large teenagers. Frequently used to describe any or all of the following symptoms: an overwhelming desire to avoid all human contact,  an uncontrollable craving for silence, and/or frequent repetitions of short and sometimes nonsensical utterances No. No, no, no, no. Sit down, pencil out of nose.  God, I’m wasted.  2.  adjective.  The inebriated state common to educational professionals during certain days for the year.  We highly recommend that you do not meet our teachers on the first day of summer, or any day during their spring break as it is fairly likely they will be wasted.  2.  adjective.  the mental sensation one experiences after reaching the upper limits of his/her creativity for the entertainment of others.  Often marked by a definitive inability to come up with clever conclusions.   I just spent several hours of my life defining obnoxious terms for you, and I am totally  wasted.

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4 Responses to The Singing Pigs Dictionary of Educational Idioms

  1. alright, alright: you’ve done the polite ones, let’s see you tackle the following filthy words –
    – consultation
    – opportunity
    – professional development (or whatever you call it in the ‘states – where you get to develop your career)
    – Principal
    learning (sorry, sorry, but I’m warmed to this now)
    – meetings (I know, I know, uncalled for, but just try and stop me now)
    – accountability
    – e-mails (“I’ve got 23 more f–!*^(?) e-mails since I didn’t have time to look at them this morning; does someone here think I work in an office?”)
    – work/life balance

    … actually, I’m exhausted already … oh, oh:

    – education

    go on; I dare you!

    • singingpigs says:

      Ha! I’m actually surprised…our words are all the same! (I thought you Brits would have some clever alternative to professional development…like your “lorries” and “trousers”). Trouble is…I only did something like seven words and the post was already getting long. I’ve got a whole list for another post. I believe you forgot “committee” in your listing. Or some clever combo of words. For example, here we have “accountability committees” Whee! Fun!

  2. Erika S. says:

    awesome list.
    We also use:
    -shitshow – noun, similar to crazytown
    -dog and pony – adj., as in “we’re having visitors tomorrow, get the dog and pony show ready”
    -hot mess – adj or noun, used to describe situations with kids. As in “sammy and julia are fighting again, their relationship is such a hot mess it’s interfering with my class.”

    • singingpigs says:

      Oh, yes. Familiar with all of those. I actually almost included “dog and pony.” (Ie. “What you do on the day your administrator is scheduled to observe you.” And hot mess…let’s see…”the week before summer break begins, even the teachers are a hot mess…” Not that I’m looking forward to summer, or anything…

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