A Spectrum Women collaboration, edited by Maura Campbell, with Barb Cook, Jen Elcheson, Christine Jenkins, Terri Mayne, Kate Ross and Lisa Toner Morgan.

Us folks on the autistic spectrum have a tendency to take things a bit too literally sometimes. Even when we get the meaning of a phrase, though, our active imaginations mean we can have great fun when we take things verbatim…

1. “I’ll have to call you back — I’m in the middle of my dinner”  

That could get messy.

2. “I’m just going to go jump in the shower”

Mind you don’t slip!

3. “I can’t think of it off the top of my head”

Maybe you should try wearing that thinking cap you were talking about the other day.

4. “I need to pop to the shop”

What are you popping? Balloons? Bubble wrap? 

5. “I’m really in a pickle”

The vinegar will not be good for your skin.

 6. “Get off my case”

I’m nowhere near it!

7. “It’s right on the tip of my tongue”

What does it taste like?

8. “That woman is outstanding in her field”

Is she wearing wellies?

9. “You can’t have your cake and eat it” 

What’s the point of that? I’m worse off than before I had the cake!

10. “You should try that thing — you’ll get a kick out of it”

Er, no thanks.

11. “It’s raining cats and dogs”

Quick! Somebody catch them before they go splat!

12. “They have a chip on their shoulder”

That could leave a stain.

13. “This stinks!”

(Usually said when nothing actually smells.)

14. “Hold your horses” 

Oh wow, am I getting a pony??

15. “You’re flogging a dead horse”

Well, that suddenly took a dark turn…

16. “Don’t interrupt my train of thought”

Sure. I’ll just be over here on my motorcycle of reflection.

17. “It’s swings and roundabouts, really — six of one and half a dozen of the other”

One and other of what? And what on earth does children’s play apparatus have to do with it?

18. “Let’s raise the roof!”

Um, health and safety…?

19. “Please put your hands together”

Okay, I’ve done that. Now what? Do I just hold them like this? Are we praying now?

20. “I’m completely snowed under”

You must be freeeeeezing.

21. “I’ve run out of money”

How on earth did you get inside the money in the first place?

22. “There’s a ladder in my stockings”

Why on earth did you put a ladder in your stockings?


23. “Grit your teeth”

Don’t be ridiculous. There’s no way a gritter would fit inside my mouth. 

24. “Autistics tend to have a spiky profile and an awkward gait”

I’m picturing Sonic the Hedgehog running through a wonky portal.

25. “Let’s really let the cat out of the bag”

Good! Cats should not be kept in bags. (And by the way, you can never have too many cats.)


These are just some of our favourites — what are yours?

The ball is in your court. Why not go the extra mile? Bend over backwards and put your money where your mouth is.  (Not literally, obviously. You’d choke.)