Couch potatoes and peas in a pod: more food idioms

FuatKose / E+ / Getty Images

by Kate Woodford

Last month, we looked at idioms featuring words for sweet items of food. Changing the order in which we usually eat food, (savoury, then sweet), we’re now focusing on idioms that feature words for savoury (UK)/savory (US) food.

Let’s start with a saying. You can’t make an omelette (UK)/omelet (US) without breaking eggs means that you can’t achieve something important without also causing problems:

Progress always comes at a cost. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.

Staying with the egg theme, if everyone now knows that a person or organisation has done something stupid, that person or organisation may now be said to have egg on their face:

This latest revelation has left the government with egg on its face.

Someone might warn you not to depend for your success on a single person or plan of action by telling you not to put all your eggs in one basket:

Make sure that you’re working for a range of companies and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

As you’d expect, vegetables feature in a number of idioms. If you persuade someone to work harder by rewarding them when they do good things but also punishing them when they do not, you might describe this as carrot and stick (the ‘carrot’ being a way of tempting an animal to move and the ‘stick’ used for beating the animal if it does not):

There’ll be incentives for people who recycle and fines for those who don’t – the carrot and stick approach.

A situation or issue that causes a lot of disagreement is sometimes referred to as a hot potato:

Women’s pay has become a hot potato in the world of football.

A lazy person who spends too much time sitting and watching television may be called, informally, a couch potato:

I’ve been a bit of a couch potato these past few weeks.

Two people who are very similar in appearance are sometimes described as being like (two) peas in a pod:

The girls are so alike – like two peas in a pod!

Still with vegetables, in UK English, if someone has lots of energy and enthusiasm, you can say they are full of beans:

Wow, you’re full of beans this morning!

This idiom has a very different meaning in US English, however. In US English, if someone is full of beans, they are doing or saying things that are not true:

He told you that? Oh, don’t pay any attention to him: he’s full of beans.

Meanwhile, when a person tells someone information that should be secret, they are said to spill the beans:

So who spilled the beans about Sophie’s surprise party?

Finally, while this idiom doesn’t actually include a specified item of food, this often used idiom is useful. If you have a lot/too much on your plate, you have a lot of/too many things to deal with at the moment:

Fi’s currently got three projects on the go so she’s got a lot on her plate.

Again, if you have any interesting or unusual savoury food idioms in your language, we’d love to hear from you!

11 thoughts on “Couch potatoes and peas in a pod: more food idioms

  1. RussellX

    Aha! I think I got the sofa (chinglish expression, which means you are the first person liked or commented a post ) Thanks Kate. Can I use the first idiom ‘you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs’ to describe how you handle a tough dilemma with an inevitable expense?

  2. The first expression comes to my mind is ‘strawberry generation.’ People born in the 1990s and onward are considered the strawberry generation as they are weak and easily crushed. Fruit is a kind of food. 😛

  3. Dr. R.J. George

    Thank you so much, Ms. Woodford, for sharing some very useful idioms. These idioms help us (as non- native speakers) communicate confidently in social contexts and at work.
    A big ‘thank you’ once again for a job well done.

Leave a Reply