Monday, May 03, 2021

In other words, English idioms

  • A red flag to a bull: A willfully infuriating or aggravating provocation; something that incites great anger or annoyance. (This derives from the bullfighting practice of matadors waving red flags at a bull.)
  • Barking up the wrong tree: Pursuing a line of thought or course of action that is misguided. (Originating as a hunting reference, a dog barking at the bottom of a tree thinking its quarry is up it, when it is up another tree.)
  • Blow one’s own trumpet: Boast about one’s own achievements.
  • Bob’s your uncle: A phrase used to emphasize how easily or quickly something can be done. (Primarily UK & Australia.)
  • Chewing a wasp: A person whose face looks of chewing a wasp has a face showing anger, unhappiness, pain, or ugliness.  
  • Even keel: Calm and stable (adj.); A calm and stable situation (n.). The phrase alludes to a ship’s keel, a supporting structure that helps to keep the ship stable in the water (and thus needs to be “even” or level).
  • Fill your boots: To take as much as you want of something (UK informal).
  • I’ll be John Brown: a euphemism of mild shock roughly meaning “I’ll be hanged,” and replacing other shocked expressions that might be considered vulgar (From John Brown, an abolitionist who led a rebellion and was hanged at Harpers Ferry, Virginia in 1859). (Southern US)
  • I’ll swannee (also I’ll swanny and I’ll swan): I’ll swear or I declare. (Parts of England and the US)
  • I’ll tell ’ya: (as an exclamation, with no follow up) Amen. That is right. (Primarily Southern US.)
  • Let the cat out of the bag: To accidentally reveal a secret.
  • Play it by ear: Deciding on a course of action as you go along, based on how things turn out, rather than following a defined plan of action.
  • Speak of the devil: Meaning the person being talked about actually appears at that moment.
  • Third time’s a charm: The belief or hope that the third attempt at something will be successful. (Primarily US.)
  • There is no education in the second kick of a mule: One should learn the lesson the first time.
  • Too big for his/her/their britches: Over-confident; behaving as if one is more important or influential than one actually is.

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