Decisions, Additional Subthemes
Four posts have explored the theme of Decisions: a song about a teenager’s wandering eyes for girls, a poem about the consequences of taking one path in the woods and not another, a movie scene of a mother being forced to decide which child to give up, and an Impressionist rendering of two card players. The subthemes identified in those works of art cover 16 aspects of the Decision theme, but a handful of other subthemes deserve mention.
Rarely Final: None of the four pieces of art disclose what happened next. We presume the traveler never made it back to the other road; we presume the little girl perishes immediately; we presume the teenager eventually gets married; and we presume the two men keep dealing hands when they are not otherwise going about their lives. But we don’t know for sure anything about the denouements. Particularly, we have no way of figuring out from what we see whether any of the decisions reached irreversible finality.
We agonize over major decisions as we sense that they will make a huge difference in our lives, perhaps irrevocably setting us one course instead of another. But, in life, we can often change course after we buy the house, move to a new city, break off the engagement. True, if we break the law, we face a powerful government that can impose the verdict, but felons do return to society, appeals succeed, parole may be granted. Truer still, murder, suicide and abortions have finality. Still, for the most part, time heals all wounds and reopens all decisions.
Inner Monologue: Neither the painting nor the song grant us access to the protagonist’s mind. We have no clues regarding how they are framing the decisions they must make or their method of resolving them. With the movie scene, Streep’s exquisite acting conveys some of what she wrestles with and even how she impulsively blurted out the fateful decision. The poem most explicitly opens the reader to how the traveler decided which path to follow – but it was so close a call that a minor perception of fresher grass was given perhaps undue importance.
For most of us, it is a rare circumstance where we articulate any rationale for a decision; most of them are too minor to justify that effort. On the other hand, with profound consequences at stake, many people do try to capture the balancing act in their mind, wrestle with the countervailing pressures, project as best they can into the future, and draw on lessons from their past. They talk with friends, speak with therapists or clergy, or write in journals.
Humanity’s Advantage: Our ability to make difficult decisions, no matter how flawed, distinguishes us from all other creatures. Our brains have evolved so that we can with varying proficiency gather facts, weigh options, consider alternative outcomes and come to a decision. Each of the four artworks assumes this uniquely human advantage. Not that the capability comes without cost; painful decisions can cause ulcers or other psycho-somatic disorders, and painful decisions can lead to remorse and regret for a lifetime. Still, most people believe that they can make decisions in their lives and that such opportunities should be cherished.
Expressions: The 49 idiomatic sayings presented alphabetically below refer to Decisions in a figurative sense. I exclude direct uses of the theme word and proverbs. The idiomatic expressions come from my own knowledge of English and various online sources:
7esl, ABCEnglish, Basic English Speaking, befluentnyc, Cambridge, Career Ride, English Eagtutor, ESLexpat, Free Dictionary, Ginseng English, GoEnglish, Grammar, High Level Listening, Learn English Today, Learn English Today, Lemon Grad, Literacy at Work, MacMillan Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, MMMEnglish, My English Pages, Online Teachers, Owlcation, PerformDigi, Phrases, Phrase-Thesaurus, PowerThesaurus, Reverse Dictionary, Twining English Centres, Using English, and Your Dictionary.
all things considered (taking all factors into consideration before making a decision)
at a loss (puzzled or uncertain what to think, say or do)
back down from (decide not to fight)
ball is in one’s court (the decision is up to the person who’s been referred to)
be in quandary (experience difficulties in making a decision)
be of two minds (wavering with a decision)
between the devil and the deep blue sea (tough choice to be made from two unpleasant situations)
betwixt and between (indecisive)
bite the bullet (decide to do something difficult or unpleasant)
blow hot and cold (keep changing your mind)
boss up (act and approach something with resolve and determination)
call it off (decide not to do it)
call the shots (make the important decisions in an organization)
chicken or egg situation (impossible to decide which happened first)
chicken out of something (become afraid and decide not to do it)
choose sides (decide which team to support or play on)
cold feet (getting nervous or frightened about a situation or decision)
cut a deal (make an agreement)
did a 180 (reverse one’s prior decision)
fish or cut bait (act or let someone else act)
flip a coin (decide what to do based on a random factor)
flip flop on something (decide for something and then decide against it)
give someone carte blanche (entrust a decision completely to someone)
go with one’s gut (using one’s personal “feel” to make a call)
have second thoughts (not sure about the decision made)
Hobson’s choice (choice of taking what is available or nothing at all)
judgment call (a decision based on one’s own view point)
jump to a conclusion (to make a quick decision without knowing the facts)
jury’s still out (the decision is not yet taken)
make up one’s mind (come to a decision)
Monday morning quarterback (critique someone’s decision after it has been made)
mull over something (think carefully before making a decision)
on reflection/upon reflection (giving ample thought before deciding)
on the horns of a dilemma (choosing between unpleasant or undesirable options)
open and shut case (a case that is easily decided or solved because the facts are clear)
pull the trigger (decide to act)
put feelers out (to ask for suggestions and opinions before deciding)
put someone on the spot (force someone to answer a question or make a decision immediately)
sit on the fence (delay or avoid deciding)
sleep on it (delay a decision)
snap judgement (a decision made hastily)
take into one’s head (impetuously elect to do something)
take it or leave it (accept all that is offered or reject it all)
think on your feet (adjusting quickly to changes and making fast decisions)
throw one’s hands up in despair (give up)
toing and froing (moving back and forth on as issue, delaying decision making)
up in the air (the decision is not yet finalized)
weigh the pros and cons (considering the advantages and disadvantages before deciding)
weigh your options (considering best choices before making a decision)