Tonight in our Writer’s Workshop meeting we came upon a use of idiom in writing, an exercise where we were invited to use three words in a 10 minutes of writing about a secret. I managed to use a couple of them in an idiomatic sense. They didn’t mean exactly what we’d consider their most common definitions.

Idiomatic writing can be a nice bridge into style, or trap door into cliche. When a character hits the wall on something — like mine did in my writing — we’re getting close to cliche. (“Hit the wall” doesn’t have an entry in The Dictionary of Cliches, but it might in a future edition). You can, however, use wall as a way of describing something sheer, vertical, encompassing — anything other than a part of a room or a building.

Idiom’s root tells us a lot about the power of “a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words.” The word comes from the Greek idiousthai, to “make one’s own.”