Soft spots and big guns (Idioms and phrases in newspapers)

Sean Gladwell/Moment/Getty Images

by Kate Woodford

The idioms and expressions in today’s post come from a range of national newspapers that were published on the same day. We write a post on phrases used in newspapers every couple of months in order to give you a regular supply of contemporary, frequently used English expressions.

Of course, COVID-19 features very prominently in all the newspapers. One tabloid claims that a city in the UK is ‘on the brink of lockdown’. If something or someone is on the brink of a bad situation, it is likely that the situation will happen soon. The paper also reports that a country in Europe has now ‘got the all-clear’, referring to the fact that it has now been removed from the UK’s quarantine list. Someone who gets or is given the all-clear has been told that they are healthy again.

Elsewhere in the same newspaper, there are claims that a popular news programme ‘faces the axe’. Something that faces the axe is going to be stopped, even if it is planned. Still in the same paper, students whose exam results haven’t been released yet are said to be ‘in limbo’. People who are in limbo are in a situation where they don’t know what is going to happen and they can do nothing about it.

In the sports pages of a different tabloid, a journalist observes that a famous Italian football team have always ‘had a soft spot for’ players from a particular country. To have a soft spot for someone is to like them very much. In the same pages, the England cricket team are said to be ‘rolling out the big guns’ in their latest match. Big guns are people or organizations with a lot of power and ability.

Another tabloid reports on a horse racing festival that is ‘in full swing’. An event that is in full swing is at its busiest point. It also quotes the England cricket captain saying ‘The sky is the limit. for his team. If the sky is the limit, there is no limit, (in this case, to what they can achieve).

A broadsheet refers to a trail in one of London’s botanic gardens in which the public can discover ‘hidden gems’. A hidden gem is something special that few people know about. In the sports pages of the same paper, a journalist writes that the England cricket team’s winning strategy has ‘fallen by the wayside’. If something falls by the wayside, people stop doing or using it.

We hope you found these newspaper expressions useful and enjoyable. We’ll have another round-up for you in a couple of months.

30 thoughts on “Soft spots and big guns (Idioms and phrases in newspapers)

  1. FHK

    Very useful and effective piece. I wonder why not post such kind of post regularly or at least once a month. Anyway, thank you for the beautiful post.

  2. markg0

    Help mission project in advancing the course and posting management for nonprofit organization.

    On Wednesday, October 7, 2020, About Words – Cambridge Dictionaries Online blog wrote:

    > Kate Woodford posted: ” by Kate Woodford The idioms and expressions in > today’s post come from a range of national newspapers that were published > on the same day. We write a post on phrases used in newspapers every couple > of months in order to give you a regular supply of co” >

  3. Maryem Salama

    Is the expression big guns well structured in this sentence?
    Having been a lecturer at a public university for five years without a permanent contract, I am desperately looking for big guns either for killing my fears of losing my charges or for reviving my hopes of getting this contract.

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi again, Maryem. Actually, this use doesn’t sound so typical. You’d be more likely to read about a football club ‘bringing out the big guns’ for the last 15 minutes of an important game. I hope that helps.

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