Hot air and bad blood (Idioms found in newspapers)

Two businessmen looking at the financial paper with surprised expression
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by Kate Woodford

Today’s post is a round-up of the idioms and phrases found in a range of national newspapers published on the same Sunday in October. I write one of these newspaper idioms posts every few months as a way of providing you with a regular supply of contemporary, frequently used English idioms.

Let’s start with a broadsheet in which many of the articles relate to the ongoing (at the time) contest to be UK Prime Minister. Writing about the various candidates for the role, a journalist predicts that politicians are unlikely to choose a particular leader who is not well known because it ended in failure when they did this before. He uses the saying once bitten, twice shy, meaning that someone is reluctant to repeat a bad experience.

Elsewhere in the same paper, members of the public are interviewed about the candidates. One candidate is dismissed as being ‘full of hot air’. Hot air refers to promises and statements that sound good but are insincere and mean nothing. Another candidate is criticized because he ‘stabbed’ a former Prime Minister ‘in the back’. To stab someone in the back is to do something harmful to someone who trusted you.

Another journalist in that paper speculates about how many votes each candidate has ‘in the bag’. If you have something in the bag, you are certain to win or obtain it. On another page, there is said to be ‘bad blood’ between certain politicians in the same party. Bad blood refers to feelings of anger and hatred between people because of arguments in the past.

We see the same theme of bad blood in a tabloid newspaper, with one journalist claiming that a candidate seeks to ‘settle scores’. To settle a score is to punish someone for something bad that they did to you in the past.

Of course, not everything in the papers relates to the contest to be UK Prime Minister. In another tabloid, people are interviewed about their current financial difficulties. A mother of three children is said to have to ‘scrimp and save’ to buy clothes for the family. To scrimp and save is to spend as little money as possible so that you can afford the most important things.

The same paper has a feature on a television dance competition. A celebrity who has surprised himself by doing well in the competition says ‘I didn’t know I had it in me’, meaning that he didn’t think he had the ability and was proved wrong.

The sports pages of the same paper have some nice idioms relating to football managers. A temporary football manager is said to be ‘in the frame’ for the permanent job of managing the team. If you are in the frame for a job or role, you are being considered for it. Another manager admits that it is sometimes hard to ‘follow in the footsteps’ of a very popular manager. If you follow in someone’s footsteps, you do the same job as someone else did previously.

That concludes this round-up of newspaper idioms. I’ll be back with another of these in a couple of months.

24 thoughts on “Hot air and bad blood (Idioms found in newspapers)

    1. Stacey

      When the meaning of a sentence is figurative and is not derived from the meaning of its elements, such a sentence is called an idiom.
      The example above ‘have it in you’ means ‘to have a particular quality or ability’ (Definition of have it in you from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press).

      1. Lola

        Thx for breaking it down people’s to explain the derivative elementary beginnings of object, beings, sources helps an individual understand and to distinguish between differences and similarities .

    1. Louise Cruickshank

      I thoroughly enjoyed the newspaper idioms, thank you! I only managed to listen to the audio of one story as I could not find the audio in the other ones.

  1. Olga Erilova

    Thank you for the article. All the idioms are given in good contexts, and, which is really important, as there are just 9 of them, it’s quite easy to memorise everything at once.

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