Beds of roses and sore thumbs (Newspaper idioms)

Chevanon Wonganuchitmetha/EyeEm/GettyImages

by Kate Woodford

Readers of this blog often ask us for posts on English idioms. Understandably, they also tell us that it’s important that the idioms are used now. One way that we make sure we focus on up to date idioms is by looking at expressions used in current newspapers. The expressions in this week’s post are taken from a range of national newspapers that were published on February 5th, 2020.

One newspaper reports that a US politician is for the high jump, having failed to organize an important event. In UK English, someone who is ‘for the high jump’ is going to be punished for something that they have done wrong.

A few pages later, there’s a paragraph on a very large new house that has recently been built in an area of smaller houses. Neighbours have complained that it sticks out like a sore thumb (= to be very noticeable because it is so different from everything around it).

Finally for that paper, there’s a piece on a newsreader who has been shown the door because of a controversial comment he made on social media. To ‘show someone the door’ is to tell them to leave a place or an organization.

Another paper states that vegan food products have been flying off the shelves since the start of the year. If a product is ‘flying off the shelves’, it is being bought by a lot of people.

An article on the same page predicts that life for the new director of an important company will be no bed of roses. By this, they mean that it will be difficult.

In the business pages, a journalist writes about a company director who goes against the grain by using existing software in his company and not insisting on new. To ‘go against the grain’ is to do something differently, in a way that wouldn’t feel right for most people.

A columnist in the same newspaper gives only the basic points of a long and complicated story. Before he describes what has happened, he explains that it will be brief by writing the long and the short of it is

In the celebrity gossip page of another paper, a comedian who has been chosen to present awards at a ceremony confesses that he always puts his foot in it. In UK English, to ‘put your foot in it’ is to accidentally say something that embarrasses or upsets someone. (The US equivalent is to put your foot in your mouth).

The sports pages of the same paper recall a time when the England rugby team came unstuck in Paris. To ‘come unstuck’ is to experience difficulties and fail.

We hope you enjoyed that round-up of newspaper idioms. We’ll have another one for you in a couple of months’ time.

27 thoughts on “Beds of roses and sore thumbs (Newspaper idioms)

  1. Eva Gerasimenko

    Hello, Kate! Thanks for your work.
    I am currently working through your and Liz Walter’s ‘Using collocations for natural English’ and I wonder if you two are going to collaborate in the future and write something similar or perhaps, I am nor aware of the books you’ve recently put out.
    Again, I am grateful for the great work you are two doing.

  2. Hesham Abu Mostafa

    These are really interesting idioms. Why are they not translated into other languages? I have an idea of a dictionary of common newspaper idioms and I recommend it to be translated into Arabic. I would be pleased to participate in this project. I am specialised in English Linguistics.

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi Priscilla! I’m delighted you found this post useful. We publish a post on idioms found in newspapers approximately every two months, so do keep checking in! Best wishes from Cambridge.

  3. Schamma

    Absolutely fascinating. I don’t like it at all but I love it all.
    Please let me know when is the next one coming out.
    Thank you for helping me to brush my english up.

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