Seeing red and green with envy (Idioms with colours, part 1)

Idioms are sometimes easier to remember when they create a vivid image in your mind. The English idioms in this post all contain a word for a colour which might help you to commit them to memory.

Starting with ‘green’, (which features in quite a few phrases), if you (UK) have green fingers/(US) have a green thumb, plants grow well in your care. You can also use the adjectives (UK) green fingered/(US) green thumbed: Your garden looks amazing. You clearly have green fingers! / It’s the perfect present for a green-thumbed friend!

If the government or other organization gives the green light to a project, they give permission for it to start: A brand new 120 bed care home has been given the green light by the council.

Finally for ‘green’, you say you are green with envy when you wish you were in someone else’s situation or had what they have: Rebecca’s going to Italy for two weeks and we’re all green with envy in the office!

‘Blue’ is in three nice idioms. If something happens once in a blue moon, it very rarely happens: We very rarely hear from Ryan. Once in a blue moon, he calls. Something that happens out of the blue is completely unexpected: One day, completely out of the blue, she called and said she was in Madrid.  Meanwhile, the phrase until you’re blue in the face is used to say that repeated attempts to persuade someone to do something have absolutely no effect: You can ask him to eat his vegetables till you’re blue in the face, but he refuses to do it.

‘Red’ features in several idioms, two of which are related to anger. To see red is to become very angry: People who are cruel to animals make me see red. In UK English, a topic of conversation or situation that is (like) a red rag to a bull is likely to make someone very angry: It’s probably better not to mention to my dad that you were on the protest march. It’s like a red rag to a bull.

If you or your bank account are in the red, you owe money to the bank. (The opposite is in the black.): It was only four days after payday and she was in the red again.

To catch someone red-handed is to discover them while they’re doing something bad or illegal: I caught her, red-handed, taking a cookie from the jar!

Finally for red, if you roll out the red carpet for a guest, you treat them very well: They took her to the finest restaurants and showed her all the sights. They really rolled out the red carpet for her.

We’ll continue this theme next month with a look at idioms with the words ‘black’ and ‘white’, amongst other colours.



Going forward, sooner or later (Expressions to talk about the future)

Tomas Rodriguez/Stone/Getty Images

by Kate Woodford

This post takes a look at a group of phrases that we use when we talk about the future.

Some of the phrases that we use when we talk about our future plans and ideas simply mean ‘at some time in the future’, (without mentioning a particular time), for example at some point: At some point, we’ll look into buying a new laptop. Continue reading “Going forward, sooner or later (Expressions to talk about the future)”

New words – 25 May 2020

metamorworks / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Zoombombing noun [U]
UK /ˈzuːm.bɒm.ɪŋ/ US /ˈzuːm.bɑː.mɪŋ/
the act of joining a meeting on the Zoom videoconferencing platform without having been invited, with the aim of disrupting it, often by posting inappropriate content

After Zoom announced it was halting product development to focus on fixing its security, the first changes appear to have arrived. The video messaging service has boomed since the coronavirus outbreak but users have fallen victim to a particular type of attack called Zoombombing.
[, 9 April 2020]

zumping noun [U]
the act of ending a relationship by telling the other person during a video call

Social distancing, self-quarantining and shelter-in-place orders have separated some hopeless romantics from potential partners amid the coronavirus pandemic, but it has also created a terrible new breakup trend for those who hope to part ways with someone they started seeing before pandemic began, but are unable to do so in person: zumping.
[, 15 April 2020]

teletherapy noun [U]
the treatment of mental illness by discussing someone’s problems with them using videoconferencing rather than in person

The transition to teletherapy has been more of a tidal wave than a trickle, with therapists, who generally prefer person-to-person interaction, saying that it’s a safer way to serve their clients.
[Chicago Tribune, 7 April 2020]

About new words

Stir-crazy and climbing the walls (Life during lockdown)

Johnny Valley/Cultura/Getty Images

by Kate Woodford

As COVID-19 continues to force so much of the world’s population into lockdown (= a situation in which you are ordered to stay at home), I thought it might be interesting to look at the language that we use to describe what we are now doing with our days. 

Continue reading “Stir-crazy and climbing the walls (Life during lockdown)”

New words – 18 May 2020

Makidotvn / iStock / Getty Images Plus

infinity recycling noun [U]
UK /ɪnˈfɪn.ə.ti.ˌriːˈsaɪ.klɪŋ/ US /ɪnˈfɪn.ə.t̬i.ˌriːˈsaɪ.klɪŋ/
a way of recycling plastic that never reduces its quality, which means it can be recycled an unlimited number of times

Through infinity recycling we are able to fully regenerate plastic waste, making recycled plastic identical to virgin. This is the first time that certified recycled plastic coming from this technology has been used in premium beauty packaging and is opening a future where plastic can be infinitely recycled without losing its quality, hence the name.
[, 7 February 2020]

forever chemical noun [C]
UK /fəˈre.və.ˈkem.ɪ.kᵊl/ US /ˈfɔːˈrev.ɚ.ˈkem.ɪ.kᵊl/
one of a group of chemicals that do not break down in the environment or in the human body

PFAS, or per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are a class of about 5,000 fluorinated compounds whose nickname as “forever chemicals” comes because they don’t naturally break down and there is no known way to destroy them. The ubiquitous compounds are used to make products water- and stain-resistant.
[, 3 February 2020]

eco-guard noun [C]
UK /ˌiː.kəʊ.gɑːd/ US /ˌiː.koʊ.gɑːrd/
someone whose job is to protect wild animals, especially those that are endangered

His experience in the forest makes him particularly well-suited to the work given his knowledge of the terrain and endurance for long patrols. He enjoys being an eco-guard, saying that it has given him a good understanding of the environment and why it is important to keep animals alive rather than killing them for money.
[, 23 May 2019]

About new words

Gathering, compiling and analyzing: talking about data (1)

Laurence Dutton/E+/Getty Images

by Liz Walter

Has there ever been a time when we’ve been so dependent on data? All over the world, people are anxiously looking at graphs and charts tracking the progress of Covid-19. In this, the first of two posts, I look at the language associated with the word data itself. My next post will cover words and phrases used to describe what the data shows. While this language is particularly relevant at the moment, I hope you will find it generally useful too.

Continue reading “Gathering, compiling and analyzing: talking about data (1)”

New words – 11 May 2020

Westend61 / Getty

coronnial noun [C]
UK /kəˈrəʊ.ni.əl/ US /kəˈroʊ.ni.əl/
someone who was born around the time of the covid-19 pandemic

There’s still a debate whether “coronnials” include babies born during the pandemic. If they’re conceived prior to quarantine, do they still count? Do we really want to ask people when they were conceived? We might as well include all the babies born in 2020 in the “coronnials” generation since some are practically born wearing face shields.
[, 17 April 2020]

quaranteen noun [C]
UK /ˈkwɒr.ən.tiːn/ US /ˈkwɔːr.ən.tiːn/
a teenager in the time of the covid-19 lockdown

Is your “quaranteen” giving you a hard time about social distancing (as mine was)? Have them watch the news for one hour (or more). My college freshman’s attitude completely changed after watching coronavirus coverage on TV.
[, March 2020]

covidivorce noun [C]
UK /ˌkəʊ.vɪ.dɪˈvɔːs/ US /ˌkoʊ.vɪ.dɪˈvɔːrs/
the process of ending a marriage as a consequence of the couple spending a large period of time together in lockdown during the covid-19 pandemic

Couples whose marriages are fraying under the pressures of self-isolation could be heading for a “covidivorce.”
[, 27 March 2020]

About new words

Learning from home with Dictionary +Plus

by Kate Woodford

Many of you are still confined to your homes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Studying or working on your own can be tough. We at Cambridge Dictionary are also working remotely and we feel your pain!

Without the presence of teachers and classmates, it’s sometimes hard to get motivated. One useful strategy is to set yourself an achievable daily or weekly objective, for example, ‘I’m going to learn ten adjectives that describe food.’ Another approach is to persuade yourself that you’re not actually studying, but having fun. With Cambridge Dictionary +Plus, you can do both of these at the same time! Continue reading “Learning from home with Dictionary +Plus”

New words – 4 May 2020

Hinterhaus Productions / DigitalVision / Getty

social bubble noun [C]
UK /ˌsəʊ.ʃᵊl.ˈbʌb.ᵊl/ US /ˌsoʊ.ʃᵊl.ˈbʌb.ᵊl/
a small group of family and friends who are permitted to see each other as the COVID-19 lockdown measures are gradually eased

Under the social bubble proposal, people would be allowed to combine their household with one or two others, up to a maximum of 10 people. A cautious version of the plan would probably mean that the vulnerable such as the over-70s and those with underlying health conditions would be advised to keep isolating and not merge with other households.
[, 29 April 2020]

corona corridor noun [C]
UK /kə.ˌrəʊ.nə.ˈkɒr.ɪ.dɔːʳ/ US /kə.ˌroʊ.nə.ˈkɔːr.ə.dɚ/
an area that people are allowed to travel through to reach a particular destination as the COVID-19 lockdown measures are gradually eased

The Czech Republic is easing its strict lockdown after declaring the virus to be “under control”, and its travel associations have now proposed creating a “corona corridor” to allow holidaymakers to reach Croatia. About 800,000 Czechs took holidays in Croatia last year, most of them on the country’s spectacular Adriatic coast and islands.
[, 23 April 2020]

covexit noun [U]
UK /ˌkəʊ.ˈvek.sɪt/ US /ˌkoʊ.ˈveg.sɪt/
the process of easing the restrictions on public life imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic

Nick Jones pointed out that just trying to keep up with the changes and run a business at the same time was challenging enough for most employers. However, with the conversation turning gently towards ‘covexit’, and some on-site work still taking place, it’s not too early for employers to start planning ahead.
[, 24 April 2020]

About new words

Off-colour and on the mend (Talking about health)

Peter Dazeley/The Image Bank/Getty Images

by Kate Woodford

On one thread of this blog, we look at the phrases that people use in daily conversation. This week, we’re focusing on expressions that people use to talk about health – both their own health and that of their family and friends. We won’t be looking at individual symptoms. These were covered by my colleague, Liz Walter, in her post My leg hurts: Talking about illness. Instead, we’ll consider the phrases that people use in conversation to talk more generally about health.

Continue reading “Off-colour and on the mend (Talking about health)”