They are expressions that are not used in formal speech or writing. They tend to be local or regional expressions usually limited to a geographical area.
They are not to be confused with slurring to make new words. An example of slurring words would be 'challdoin.' It would be used saying, "Whats ch-all-doin?" Word for word translation would be "Whats ya all doing?"
Colloquialisms should not be used in public speaking and speeches. If you choose to break this basic rule (by giving a lecture on colloquialisms), then use them with great care. Speakers who do so may rationalize that they are comfortable with their audience.
Caution, they're Geo-Local, Hayna or No?
Examples range from words that the meaning can easily be discerned from (gonna) to words and phrases that only native or local speakers would know the meaning of (earl for oil and hayna and the phrase hayna-or-no which translates ain’t it so or no.)
Some phrases have been adopted in numerous geographical areas. If you live in Scranton PA, "Up the line" would refer to the due North town of Carbondale, and up the railroad line that took you there. It is also used in other parts of the country where the railroad lines were once the main transportation.
Aphorism is the result of a colloquialism that has been incorporated into saying. The aphorism becomes a colloquialism in and of it's self.
Aphorism...a witty phrase used to describe a principle or truth. It is said tersely in few telling words or in a short and pithy sentence. It will often have rhyme and reason incorporated so that when heard it is unlikely to be quickly forgotten.
An example...A stitch in time saves nine.
This is a statement from a time when people would make their own clothes. Sometimes a thread holding a seam together will break. If cared for immediately, (just) in time, or before the entire seam gave out, it would save the repair from requiring an additional number of stitches, the number 9 used for its rhyming quality.
The meanings can be commonly understood as in "There is more than one way to skin a cat," or "goose downer" (really, really heavy rain storm) to more cryptic, "There’s a dead cat on the line."
There's a dead cat on the line. If you lived in the rural USA in the 60’s and earlier you would know the meaning of the dead cat statement. It referred to an uninvited listener "eves dropping" on a telephone party line.
Just because you know the meaning of a word or phrase because of your background, doesn't mean your audience does. Some phrases have been discontinued through disuse. Caution is the rule.
Be careful not to judge others in their use of these unique words. Although it may seem to be naive or even ignorant to you, it may be they are more adept at using something you as an outsider would find difficult to understand or even use. You may unwittingly be seeing your own ignorance in your view of them.
Words and phrases in common use may have a colloquial meaning that is technically incorrect, yet can be recognized due to it’s common usage.
An example is a person in a state of shock. There is a medical term relating to a person who by evidence of their vital signs and symptoms are in a state of cardiogenic, hypovolemic, anaphylactic or septic shock.
Through common usage the expression 'state of shock' can refer to a psychological shock. To my knowledge, there is no clinical diagnosis identifying what psychological shock is. There are no scientific parameters of our common misuse of the term.
I have seen lawyers question doctors about a patient being in a state of shock. The counselor did not know what he was asking. He also didn't know the answer he was to receive. One simple rule in this situation, never ask a question if you don't know what the answer is going to be.
The doctor answered honestly and correctly. No the patient was not in a state of shock. Of course the doctor could not diagnose a condition that isn't scientifically recognized.
Be assured, someone will come up to correct you if you make a mistake on your use of colloquialisms.
Bottom line, avoid using colloquialisms.Correct Speech...When Wrong is Right. There is another side to the proper use of colloquialisms. This is a true story. As you will see and read, their use could save a life. Proper Pronunciation and Our List of Mispronounced Words. Speech Writing Home Page More on speech writing.