Clearing the air and chopping and changing (Idioms and phrases in newspapers)

a man reading a newspaper
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by Kate Woodford

The idioms and phrases in today’s post were taken from a selection of national newspapers published on the same day. I write a newspaper idioms post like this every few months in order to provide you with a regular supply of common, contemporary English idioms.

Writing about Queen Elizabeth, a tabloid columnist says she makes no bones about the fact that she’s a royalist. If you make no bones about your feelings or opinions, you are open and honest, making no attempt to hide them. The columnist goes on to describe a public appearance where the Queen ‘came up trumps’. In UK English, if you turn/come up trumps, you deal with a difficult situation and make it a success.

Elsewhere in the same newspaper, a journalist describes the street parties that will be happening in the UK to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee. She claims that, even if it rains, people will put their best foot forward on the day, meaning that they will try hard to make a success of it. In the same feature, catering for parties is discussed and a ‘rule of thumb’ given for how much food to provide for each guest. A rule of thumb is a general and approximate guide for doing something practical.

In the sports pages of that paper, a tennis player is said to have ‘chopped and changed’ coaches in recent years. In UK English, if you chop and change, you repeatedly change something. In the same pages, it is claimed that two famous soccer players will need to ‘up their game’ in order to earn a place in the national team. To up your game, as you might imagine, is to improve your performance. It is a rather informal phrase and doesn’t only apply to sports. Meanwhile, a manager insists that another player is good enough for his team by saying that he is up to the mark.

Moving on to another tabloid, a gossip columnist describes a celebrity having a ‘clear the air chat’ with members of her family. If people who have had an argument or misunderstanding clear the air, they discuss the situation in order to stop feeling angry or upset with each other.  The same columnist, writing about friendships, describes herself and her best friend as being in some respects (UK) like chalk and cheese (=complete opposites).

In the sports pages of a broadsheet, a young tennis player is said to have ‘hit a wall’. If you hit a wall, you reach a stage where you cannot make further progress. Two pages later, Monte Carlo is described as the jewel in the crown of Formula One. If something is the jewel in the crown, it is the best or most valuable part of something.

That concludes my latest round-up of newspaper idioms and phrases. I hope you enjoyed them. I’ll publish another of these posts in a couple of months.


17 thoughts on “Clearing the air and chopping and changing (Idioms and phrases in newspapers)

    1. Kate Woodford

      Claudia, thanks so much! I’ll keep posting ones like this so keep checking in! Best wishes from Cambridge.

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