Sometimes colloquialisms simply aren’t accurate. Sometimes these common phrases are inaccurate because we get into the habit of saying them wrong.
When you tell someone you’re going to nip something in the butt, you really mean you’re going to nip it in the bud. The phrase means you’re going to stop something before it starts, and comes from flowers. If you nip (cut) a flower when it’s a bud, you prevent it from flowering.
When you tell someone, “I could care less!” well, think about that sentence for a moment. Chances are, you meant to say you didn’t care at all, right? However, if you COULD care less that means you definitely care somewhat. So, instead, you want to say, “I couldn’t care less!”
Sometimes, however, inaccurate turns of phrase come about because we just don’t understand enough about what we’re talking about. Let’s look at the phrase —
Hung like a shrew.
Now, shrews are tiny, little mouse-like critters. So, if you were hung like a shrew, you’d think you’d have a tiny, little penis. Well, this is where the shrew wins! Actually, the shrew has an abnormally large (in proportion to his body) penis! In fact, it’s about half the size of his body length!
Here’s a little info about elephant shrews from the Journal of Zoology.
The penis of elephant shrews is very long, extending cranially to near the sternum where it emerges from a small caudally-pointing prepuce. The distal half of the penis lies free in a sheath and is termed the glans. In most species the corpus cavernosum is the main vascular body and extends to the tip of the penis while the corpus spongiosum around the urethra becomes much reduced distally, but in Rhynchocyon all vascular bodies are small and most of the penis consists of connective tissue. The distal tip of the penis is elaborated into various shapes, characteristic for each genus as currently defined. These penile features have more similarities with soricids and paenungulates than with archontans and lagomorphs but they are likely to be primitive characters and so should be interpreted cautiously.
So, the next time someone teases someone about being “hung like a shrew” tell them that really could be a compliment!
Woodall, P. F. (1995), The penis of elephant shrews (Mammalia: Macroscelididae). Journal of Zoology, 237: 399–410. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1995.tb02770.x