It may not surprise you to hear that the weather features in a lot of English idioms. In many of these, the weather words are used metaphorically, in a way that makes the meaning quite obvious. For example, a storm often features in idioms as something negative, referring to a period of trouble, and a cloud is something that spoils a situation. This post will focus on idioms related to storms, of which there are many!
Starting with those negative ‘storm’ idioms, we talk about the calm before the storm, meaning ‘a quiet, peaceful period before a time of great activity or trouble’:
We’ve got 15 kids arriving for Joe’s party in ten minutes. It’s the calm before the storm.
In UK English, we use the phrase a storm in a teacup to refer to a situation in which a lot of people express anger and shock over a matter that is not important. US English has the equivalent phrase a tempest in a teapot:
In a couple of weeks, everyone will have forgotten what she said. It’s a storm in a teacup!
If you weather or ride (out) the storm, you survive a difficult period, without permanent damage, often to your reputation:
The minister appears to have ridden out the storm.
I suspect the government will weather the storm.
The phrase any port in a storm means that when you are in a very difficult situation, you will accept anything that seems helpful or attractive, even if it is not ideal:
In many ways, they weren’t the perfect partners for us, but any port in a storm, I guess.
The slightly strange phrase perfect storm refers to a very bad situation caused by lots of bad things happening at the same time:
It was the perfect storm – a fire in the cafe, staffing problems and then the pandemic. There was no way the business could survive.
Not all ‘storm’ idioms are negative, however. If you do something up a storm, you do it with great energy and skill:
Alex is cooking up a storm in the kitchen.
Meanwhile, if someone takes something or someone by storm, they are suddenly extremely successful in a particular place or with a group of people:
In 2019, she took the critics by storm with her debut album.
Of course, we can’t talk about storm idioms without mentioning thunder and lightning. In UK English, if someone has a face like thunder, they look extremely angry:
She walked into the office this morning with a face like thunder.
To steal someone’s thunder is to do what someone else was planning to do before they do it, unfairly taking the attention or praise away from them:
I’ll let Rachel tell you her news. I don’t want to steal her thunder.
Meanwhile, if someone does something like greased lightning, they do it extremely quickly:
I told Jim she was coming, and he was out of the house like greased lightning!
I’ll leave you with a saying. Lightning never strikes twice means ‘it is unlikely that something bad or strange will happen twice to the same person or in the same place’.
Part 2 of this post will look at idioms with the weather words ‘cloud’ and ‘sun’, amongst other words.