Last month we focused on idioms that included various parts of the body. This week, we look at idioms featuring the most productive part – the head! As ever, we only cover phrases that are frequent and current.
If there is a problem and you bury your head in the sand, you behave as if there is no problem because you do not want to deal with it: This is an environmental catastrophe and we’re just burying our heads in the sand. Someone or something that is head and shoulders above other people or things is very much better than them: There’s no comparison with the other teams – they’re head and shoulders above them. If you keep your head down, you deliberately try to avoid making someone angry, usually by saying little and keeping busy: He’s in a bad mood this morning. I’m just keeping my head down. A discussion that goes over your head is too difficult for you to understand: I must say, parts of the talk went over my head.
Three common ‘head’ phrases also include a word for a part of the body found at the other end, (heel, tail and toe). If you are head over heels in love, you are completely in love: They met in Paris and fell head over heels in love. If you can’t make head nor tail of something, you can’t understand it: Could you read these instructions? I can’t make head nor tail of them! From head to toe means ‘covering all of the body’: By the end of the afternoon, both children were covered from head to toe in paint.
The following ‘head’ idioms are more informal. If you keep trying to do something but have absolutely no success, you might say informally that it is like banging/hitting your head against a brick wall: Trying to get him to help is like banging your head against a brick wall! If you speak to someone and they bite/snap your head off, they reply angrily, usually without a good reason: I asked a perfectly reasonable question and you just bit my head off! To laugh your head off is to laugh a lot, loudly: You laughed your head off when I tripped! British English has the informal idiom to get your head around something, which means to succeed in understanding it. (We often used it in the negative form.) The arrangements are so complicated – I can’t get my head around them.
Finally, ending on a positive note, we sometimes say two heads are better than one, meaning that two people working together achieve more than one person working alone. Do you have this phrase in your language?