Today, in the third and final post of our nature idioms series, we look at idioms that feature the words tree, bush and hedge and also words for parts of these things, such as root and branch.
If you’re barking up the wrong tree, you’re taking the wrong approach to solving a problem and it won’t work: If they think they can attract more people to the café by painting it a different colour, they’re barking up the wrong tree. They need to start serving better food!
A type of tree that features in a nice saying is the oak. We say Great / Tall oaks from little acorns grow to express the idea that even very large and successful projects may start out simply: You never know where this might end. Great oaks from little acorns grow.
Moving on to the tree’s branch, someone who holds out or extends an olive branch does or says something to show that they want to end a disagreement with someone: He appeared to be holding out an olive branch to the president.
Root and branch means ‘complete, including all aspects’. It is often used in phrases about change: He supported root and branch reform of the church. / It was a root and branch review of policy.
‘Root’ features in two other nice idioms. If you put down roots in the place where you live, you make new friends there so that you feel connected to it: She’s lived in the village long enough to put down roots. If an idea or belief takes root somewhere, it starts to be accepted and spread there: The idea took root and soon, there was a growing network of activists.
‘Leaf’ features in the simile shake like a leaf, meaning ‘to shake a lot, because you are cold or afraid’: Poor Lily was still in shock and shaking like a leaf.
Thinking about trees collectively, if you are not out of the woods yet, you are still having problems, even though a situation has improved slightly: We’re starting to make a profit, but we’re certainly not out of the woods yet.
Meanwhile, someone who can’t see the UK wood / US forest for the trees is unable to get a general understanding of a situation or piece of work because they are worrying about small aspects of it: When you’ve spent so long working on an essay, it’s hard to see the wood for the trees.
If you don’t beat around / about the bush, you start to talk about a difficult subject immediately and directly, without trying to make what you are saying more acceptable: Let’s not beat about the bush. We need to make more money.
We’ll end with a rather unkind idiom. If someone looks untidy and dirty, you might say informally they look as if they have been dragged through a hedge backwards: He’d clearly made no effort with his appearance and looked as if he’d been dragged through a hedge backwards!
That concludes our nature idioms series. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and learned some new idioms.