About English expression
November 24, 2009 7:48 AM   Subscribe

About an expression...please tell me if it is true or not.

You American people say, 1) When you think that you look older, you'll say, "I look like hundred years old." 2) And when you really don't think you are older, you'll say, "I am not two hundred years old." Will it be true?
posted by mizukko to Writing & Language (29 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have never heard either expression.
posted by jquinby at 7:50 AM on November 24, 2009


I'm not sure anybody says either?
posted by General Malaise at 7:51 AM on November 24, 2009


I've never said nor heard either one.
posted by owtytrof at 7:53 AM on November 24, 2009


I think "embellishment" is the word you're looking for.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:55 AM on November 24, 2009


No one I know says these things. (I'm American.)
posted by PhatLobley at 7:55 AM on November 24, 2009


The formatting is weird but come on, this isn't chatfilter, it's a question on idiomatic English.

"He looks like he's 100 years old" is a pretty common idiom. It's not meant to be taken literally, but yes, it means we feel or look older than we really are.

As for the second expression, I haven't heard that used much in American English.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 7:57 AM on November 24, 2009 [5 favorites]


As for the second expression, I haven't heard that used much in American English.

What's the second expression?
posted by onshi at 7:59 AM on November 24, 2009


Is it possible that the second expression is supposed to be "I don't look a day over 20 [years old]"?
posted by odinsdream at 7:59 AM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


To put it more colloquially: If you think you look old you might look in the mirror and say "Man, I look a hundred." I have heard similar expressions, usually things like "God, I look old."

I have not heard anything like the second expression. Usually when people don't really think they look old, they say things like "I look terrible" or "I look so old" but they say it in a sarcastic or joking way. It's more about how it is said and less about the words.

(The formatting is a side effect of typing Latin characters in an Asian font. 'Please tell me' was probably cut & pasted from normal text.)
posted by jedicus at 7:59 AM on November 24, 2009


People often inflate the numbers they use when it's not the exact number that's important but the scale. It's not important exactly how old I look. The important part is that I think I look old. 100 is a big number, so you are sure to get the point, and at the same time it's out of the ordinary, and it's comically oversized so it's mildly amusing.
posted by amethysts at 8:00 AM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is it possible that the second expression is supposed to be "I don't look a day over 20 [years old]"?

Yeah, that might be what the asker was getting at.
posted by jedicus at 8:00 AM on November 24, 2009


[Fixed the weird formatting.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:02 AM on November 24, 2009


I've heard the first expression, but not necessarily for "100 years". You might say "I feel like I'm 100 years old", if you feel older than you are, but you could just as easily say "I feel like I'm 80" or "I feel like I'm a million years old." Same with "look" - "He looks like he's 1000 years old", or any other number.

The second expression, I've never heard. As odinsdream says, maybe it's "He doesn't look a day over (20, 30, 40, etc.)" The only other expression that comes to mind is "I wasn't born yesterday", which means "I'm not a child, so I'm not easy to fool", but it's sort of the opposite.
posted by pocams at 8:03 AM on November 24, 2009


I guess someone might say "I look a hundred" (they would never say "I look one hundred") but the 200 thing, I've not heard.

There is definitely no "one hundred" for looking old "two hundred" for looking young expression.
posted by delmoi at 8:07 AM on November 24, 2009


Never heard either, in quite those forms. I could imagine someone saying something like the former phrase ("I feel like I'm a hundred years old," perhaps, when someone is feeling physically and emotionally worn out, or "I look ancient" if they're dismayed at greying hair and wrinkles when looking at themselves in the mirror.) However, any large number (relative to the age of the speaker) would work, because it's not really a set phrase. The second phrase simply sounds bizarre, and really strangely specific.

(It's not clear when one would use the second phrase: after using the first phrase? But for any speaker except someone who is actually very old, it's pretty clear that the first phrase is an exaggerated statement used to evoke a feeling, and not meant to be taken literally. In this context, the second phrase would be unnecessary and confusing: if the speaker is obviously engaging in hyperbole, there's no need for them to explicitly state that an even more impossible thing is not true. Alternately, is the second phrase supposed to be used as a stand-alone phrase? It would sound truly weird, then, and completely lacking in context.)
posted by ubersturm at 8:11 AM on November 24, 2009


No, those are not idiomatic American English, at least not in the way that "kick the bucket" or "add fuel to the fire" are common idioms.
posted by paulg at 8:18 AM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Neither is a common expression in American English. I could imagine someone saying the first, but it's not a standard or usual saying. The second one sounds bizarre to an American ear, and would probably never be used in American English.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:19 AM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The first phrase is a general form of hyperbole, it's a way of exaggerating the fact that someone is old by using a higher number than the actual age. For example, a teenager living in a town with a large elderly population might say "I want to move somewhere where everyone isn't a hundred years old." Obviously not everyone who lives there is old, and most of the elderly people who live there aren't one hundred years old, but those claims are used for dramatic effect.

I have not heard the second phrase, or similar ones, as often because being younger than one hundred or two hundred years old describes almost everyone. The only way that I think it might be used is if someone actually is relatively old, but is still active. Something like "Hey, I'm not a hundred yet." I think most people would use other phrases instead in those situations though, such as "I'm old, but I'm not dead."
posted by burnmp3s at 8:22 AM on November 24, 2009


I've heard "oh my god, she's a-hundred" when someone reacts to an aging celebrity who was once known for her looks. That's about it, RE "hundred"s.
posted by Zambrano at 8:33 AM on November 24, 2009


Maybe these expressions are less common now that they were a few decades ago. With the 100 or 200 being any large number, I've heard them. Though not recently.
posted by Obscure Reference at 8:56 AM on November 24, 2009


I think burnmp3s is right on the intended meaning of the latter expression. "I'm not 200 years old" seems like a fitting enough response to "Grandad, are you OK to walk home on your own?", although it's not an expression I've heard.
posted by tomcooke at 8:58 AM on November 24, 2009


The first one is kind of common, but like paulg wrote, not as common as "kick the bucket" or others.

I have heard variations of the second one - usually it happens when someone has made an assumption about age - kind of a way of diffusing it when one has overestimated the age of the person they are talking to. It could be another way of saying: "How old do you think I am!?"

I might also use this afterwards when relating the story to someone else - I have had a couple of young students who looked at me like I was Ben Franklin back from the grave when I explained what a card catalog was. I usually use 1,000 as the age, though. "She looked at me like I was 1,000 years old!"
posted by Tchad at 9:13 AM on November 24, 2009


It seems to me that the question is about sometimes exaggerating a number more when we believe the opposite to be true.

"Christ, I look a hundred years old!"

"It not like I'm two hundred."

If that's the question, then I'd say yes. It's said that way pretty often. I don't know why.
posted by cmoj at 10:56 AM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


As others have said, "a hundred years old" is pretty common US shorthand for "very old." "God, this blouse makes me look a hundred years old!"

The second thing isn't an idiom, and in fact I've never heard it. "Two hundred" isn't a common shorthand for anything that I've ever encountered.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:04 AM on November 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Never heard either phrase.

"As old as dirt" and the follow-on "he's older than dirt" (a.k.a. "He was around when dirt was rocks/they invented dirt!") are fairly common.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:39 AM on November 24, 2009


American here - never heard the second one; first one is kind of-sort of familiar but I don't think I've ever heard it phrased that way.
posted by tzikeh at 3:42 PM on November 24, 2009


It seems to me that the question is about sometimes exaggerating a number more when we believe the opposite to be true.

"Christ, I look a hundred years old!"

"It not like I'm two hundred."

If that's the question, then I'd say yes. It's said that way pretty often. I don't know why.


This is what I really wanted to ask...about the way of using a number that is exaggerated.
Thanks,Mr.And, now you say it is used quite often..in America.

Why you don't say,"Christ,I look two hundred years old!"
And"It not like I'm a hundred."???
posted by mizukko at 7:47 AM on November 25, 2009


I've actually kinda been thinking about it. Let's see if I can articulate what I think. I'm not a linguist.

I think if you believe the idea of what you're saying, you pick a number that's realistic, but exaggerated. If you're 30 and think you look old, "Man, I look 35!" may be closer to the truth, but doesn't really describe what you're thinking. A person can look 100, not so much 200.

If you're defending your ego in some way, you pick a larger number to make the idea that you think is untrue seem even less true. If someone says you look old and you say, "It's not like I'm two hundred!" That makes it seem like the original idea is that you look 200 years old, which is close to impossible, so maybe it's an unconscious way of discrediting an idea.

There are other patterns of exaggeration, but this one seems pretty specific.
posted by cmoj at 12:37 PM on November 25, 2009


Other exaggerations along this line:
"Older than god!"
"Since God was a teenager" (it's been a long time)

My own is using the term "dark ages" when meaning before the Internet blossomed (ie, before ~1996)
posted by Goofyy at 8:29 AM on November 26, 2009


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