‘Keeping up with the Joneses‘ is an idiom in many parts of the English-speaking world, implying successfully matching the lifestyle of your neighbours.
Idioms, or fixed expressions such as ‘costing an arm and a leg’ or ‘waste not want not’, are normally considered ‘figures of speech’ in Linguistics, and their meaning is not the regular sum of their parts. For example, to ‘kick the bucket’ must be understood as a set phrase meaning to die, and cannot be determined by analysing the words ‘kick’ and ‘bucket’ alone. As a result, many idioms are culturally specific and difficult to translate.
Nevertheless, unsurprisingly, similar idioms suggesting changing on the basis of changes you observe in others exist in many languages: for example, the delightful Mexican idiom ‘Si de tu vecino ves la barba cortar, pon la tuya a remojar’- ‘If you see your neighbor has shaved his beard, you should start lathering yours’.
But in our globalised world, who exactly are your neighbours, and should you care?
Continue reading “Are you keeping up with the Joneses or the Kardashians?”