Every two or three months on this blog, we look at the idioms being used in a range of daily newspapers in the UK. This week, we thought it might be interesting to look specifically at the idioms used in relation to the UK’s recent decision to leave the European Union, (Brexit). As ever, we have only included frequent idioms – in other words, the sort of phrases that you are likely to hear or read in other places.
One newspaper reports that since the referendum, events have been moving with lightning speed (= extremely quickly). Possibly the most dramatic of those events was Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement the day after the election that he would resign. This, said one newspaper, fired the starting gun on (= started) his party’s leadership contest. In another newspaper, a journalist writes that he wants there to be a general election in Britain. However, he adds that a general election may only be a sticking-plaster solution for the nation’s very serious, long-term problems. A sticking plaster is a way of dealing with a problem that is only temporary.
Many people in the UK are angry about the result of the referendum so it is not surprising that many idioms used in the newspapers relate to blame. One newspaper states that ‘the blame game for losing the EU referendum has begun’. A blame game, as you might imagine, is a situation in which people try to blame each other for something bad that has happened. In the same article, the journalist writes about people pointing the finger at a particular party leader for his failure to convince party supporters to vote to stay in the EU. To point the finger at someone is to say that it was their fault. Whoever is being blamed in the newspapers, there is a generally reported belief held by the UK public that their political leaders are out of touch with their citizens. To be out of touch with people is to fail to understand their concerns.
Other idioms feature in the papers on a variety of themes. One journalist writes that we should have seen the warning signs of feeling against the European Union before the referendum. A warning sign is an early signal that something bad or dangerous might happen. The same paper, noting that the majority of people in London voted to stay in the EU, says that some Londoners are calling for London to go it alone, (=to be independent). Another paper, focusing on the process that will lead to Britain leaving the EU, reports that London and Brussels both seem reluctant to make the first move (=to be the first to take action). All papers report that the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has warned the UK that it cannot cherry-pick its conditions in future negotiations with the EU. To cherry-pick is to choose only the best things in a group.
A week has now passed since the UK’s referendum and so much is up in the air (= uncertain). We may well revisit this topic in a month or two.