Idioms

Something on idioms

You could spend a lifetime learning English, but when visiting an English-speaking country, you’d be almost horrified to realise that its people seem to be blurting out whole sentences of stuff you have never heard in your life; not to mention that you don’t even know what they are talking about. So you consequently sigh to yourself and politely pretend that you’re deep in the conversation, smiling when your interlocutor smiles and frowning when you believe this is the correct face expression one should adopt at that moment. Meanwhile, you’ll surely be planning  a future visit to the bathroom where you’ll  look up those new terms on your mobile phone. It won’t be until then when you discover that what they said was something called ‘an idiom’ As if you weren’t having a hard time already with all those phrasal verbs!!!!! Then you may suddenly become suspicious of the English, wondering if they are deliberately making ‘your learning’ of ‘their language’ as complicated as possible for some strange reason you fail to grasp.

Idioms form part of everyday speech and they are extremely  productive. Meaning by this, that even if you speak the language very well, you can quickly become obsolete concerning the vast idiom repertoire if you don’t live among English-speaking people. There isn’t much we can do about it, rather than watch TV, read books or mix with British tourists.  On my behalf, I’m reading Zadie Smith’s latest novel, and yes, I have to  consult the meaning of many of the expressions I come across (fortunately, I have an e-book, so this isn’t such a tedious job). But even Zadie Smith’s narrator acknowledges that having been away from Britain for a certain amount of time, means that she no longer can keep up with the amount of idioms that are being constantly fired at her by Londoners.

Anyway, idioms are fun, and somehow say a lot about the British mentality. However, they usually belong to a colloquial register and will seldom appear in a piece of writing such as an essay  so, just to keep on the safe side, careful using them in formal writing.

There are idioms about almost everything, some of them are quite old and others are of recent usage, but what’s really interesting about them is that they don’t have to rely on an official organism, to become part of everyday speech. Fancy learning some just for a laugh and a cultural note?

Food idioms

It’s not my cup of tea

TEA_CUPMeaning that we are not really interested in  something or somebody.

‘I suppose Jane’s new boyfriend is nice, but he’s not really my cup of tea.’

‘As a writer, he’s really not my cup of tea’

 

To go bananas

bunch of bananas1

To go bananas means that somebody becomes very angry,  crazy or silly.

She missed her flight and went bananas. 

To spill the beans

If somebody spills the beans, they have told somebody a secret or something that should have been kept private.

‘Trust Maria to spill the beans about Jane’s surprise party!’

 

Not a sausage

not_a_sausage

If somebody says that there wasn’t a sausage somewhere, they mean there was nothing or nobody there.

‘A- Did you go to that new restaurant across the road last night?’

‘B- Yes, but there wasn’t a sausage and so we had to leave early.’

 

The best thing since sliced bread

sliced_bread

Means that you think something is very good and interesting

‘I think electric cars are the best thing since sliced bread.’

 

To know which side your bread is buttered

butter

Meaning that you know how to get an advantage for yourself.

‘John always stays at work until late. He knows which side of his bread is buttered.’

 

To put all your eggs in one basket

basket_of_eggs
Picture from Daku 121

Meaning that you rely on one particular course of action not considering other possibilities first.

I have considered changing my job, but I don’t think I should put all my eggs in one basket.

This person thinks that a change of job might be a good thing, but it also involves a risk that might be difficult to change back if things don’t turn out as well as they had expected.

 

To cry over spilt milk

spilt_milkMeaning that a person is wasting their time worrying about something bad that has happened but cannot be changed.

It’s no use crying about spilt milk. Why don’t you speak to him about it?

 

To not have a bean

beans

To be without money.

I’m sorry. I can’t lend you any money. I haven’t got a bean!

 

 

To not know beans about something

Meaning that somebody doesn’t know anything about a particular subject.

I don’t know beans about art.

 

Don’t count your chickens (before they are hatched)

hatched_egg.png

Meaning that you shouldn’t count on something good happening without considering that something may go wrong  first.

She wanted to buy a new car in case she got the job, but I told her not to count her chickens before they hatched.

Money idioms

To go Dutch

If you go Dutch, what are you doing? We have this idiom in Spanish but it is very different and I’m not going to spoil the fun. Maybe you would like to make a contribution to the blog and tell me how you would say ‘go Dutch’ in your country. Meanwhile, see if you guessed correctly on the button below.

To pay peanuts

You can pay in cash, or by credit card. You can pay a high price, a bill, a fine, a dept, a ransom or even with your life.  You may have paid an arm and a leg or good money for something and if you’re fortunate enough to be the one who pays the piper, you will call the tune. But, what if you pay peanuts for something? How much do you pay? How do you pay?  Make a guess on the click button below.

Animal idioms

To let the cat out of the bag

Picture by S.F

What have you done if you have let the cat out of the bag? What’s happened and who do you think will be angry with you (even though cats are really cute pets )?

Make a guess and see if you have the right answer on the click button.

 

Click here

Early bird catches the worm

Early bird 001

Idiom: The bird has flown

If the bird has flown, what’s happened? Here’s another ‘birdie’ idiom.

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Idiom: Kill two birds with one stone

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Idiom (or saying): Birds of a feather flock together

In Spain we would say something like ‘Dios los crea y ellos se juntan’ for this saying or idiom, but in English, heavenly spirits have nothing to do with how humans interact with each other. Rather than this, typical behaviour is associated to animals (in this case to birds).

Try to quess which meaning is associated to the idiom on the button below.

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A dog in the manger

dog_in_a-manger

If you hear somebody call another person a dog in the manger, what have they said about this person?

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Let sleeping dogs lie

sleeping-dog-isaak-davies-1Image by Isaac Davies from Unsplash

If somebody tells you to let sleeping dogs lie, what have they asked you to do?

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On Shanks’s pony

If you went somewhere on Shanks’s pony, how did you get there?

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A dog and pony show

If somebody tells you that an event was a dog and pony show, what information are they giving you about it?

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Every dog will have its day

dog-delaney-dawson

Image by Delaney Dawson from Unsplash
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When the cows come home

cows-alaina-mclearnon

Photo by Alaina McLearnon from Unsplash

If you ask permission to, say…, borrow your mum’s car to attend a beach party (where your mum suspects there will be a lot of boozing), promising that you will get back before dawn and your mum’s answer is ‘I’ll lend you the car when the cows come home.’ What exactly did she say? Will she lend you the car? Check the meaning of this idiom on the button below.

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The Natural World Idioms

Moon and star idioms

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