A class act and nerves of steel: talking about people you like and admire (2)

close-up of a determined young man in a racing helmet
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by Liz Walter

My last post looked at some general qualities of people we like, such as being pleasant and kind. Today’s post is about some more specific admirable qualities.

If someone is generally impressive, we might call them a class act. Someone who is head and shoulders above other people is much better than them at something:

I was so impressed by Alex’s presentation. He really is a class act.

There were lots of talented skiers there, but Janine was head and shoulders above the rest.

It’s always uncomfortable being around people who are nervous and stressed, so it’s not surprising that we admire people who are composed or self-possessed (calm and in control of their emotions). We use the phrases (as) cool as a cucumber and, more informally, a cool customer for people who keep calm in difficult circumstances:

She managed to stay composed throughout the difficult interview.

Did you see the way he confronted the minister? He really is a cool customer!

On a similar topic, we can describe people who do exciting or dangerous things that many of us would find scary as adventurous or intrepid. We might say that they have nerves of steel. We might describe someone who is strong both physically and emotionally as a tough cookie or in British English even more emphatically (as) tough as old boots:

This trip is only for intrepid explorers.

You need nerves of steel to be a racing driver.

You need to be a tough cookie to work on a remote farm like this.

We also like people to be modest (not boast about themselves) and honest (not lying or tricking people). If someone does what they say they will do, we say they are a man/woman of his/her word:

He was very modest about the success of his book.

You can trust Colin – he’s a man of his word.

I’ll finish with a few positive words for people who are intelligent. A lively and intelligent child could be described as a bright spark or (as) bright as a button. Someone who is generally intelligent and wise has a good head on their shoulders or has their head screwed on (the right way) while someone who can’t be tricked is nobody’s fool. A very emphatic way of saying that someone is extremely good at understanding things is to say they have a mind like a steel trap:

Her son Mason is such a friendly boy and bright as a button!

Luckily, Eva has her head screwed on and keeps the others in line.

Henry realised at once that the price wasn’t fair – he’s nobody’s fool.

I hope you will have plenty of reasons to use these positive words!

14 thoughts on “A class act and nerves of steel: talking about people you like and admire (2)

  1. TCatherine

    Love the article. Does letting the dog out at night count for bravery? He’s on a leash and I have to go a few steps but I’m terrified…working on the nerves.

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