Sitting on the fence and turning a corner (Everyday idioms in newspapers)

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by Kate Woodford

The idioms and phrases in this week’s post are taken from a range of national newspapers that were published during the course of a weekend. We write a newspaper idioms post every couple of months in order to keep you supplied with up-to-date, commonly used English idioms.

One newspaper reports on the front page that a major British company is ‘on the brink of’ collapse. To be on the brink of or teetering on the brink of, something, (especially something bad), is to be very close to doing it. The same paper writes that the leader of a political party has ‘come under fire’ from within his own party. To come under fire is to be severely criticized.

In the sports pages of that paper, we read that a Formula One champion is set to ‘play hardball’ with his rivals. If a person plays hardball, they are very determined to defeat someone, using force if necessary. On another page of the sports section, a journalist observes that the story of an athlete who has successfully recovered from cancer will ‘strike a chord’ with very many people. If something strikes a chord with you, you understand it and respond to it emotionally, usually because something similar has also happened to you.

Another broadsheet insists that a UK party leader must ‘stop sitting on the fence’ in relation to Brexit. To sit on the fence in a debate is to not support one side or the other. A guest columnist in the same paper claims that he is a ‘dab hand’ at making tasty dishes with kale (= a dark green cabbage). A dab hand is someone who is very good at a particular activity.

A third newspaper comments that many people now have a low opinion of politicians, assuming that they entered politics only to ‘feather their nests’. To feather your (own) nest is to deliberately make yourself rich, usually by doing something dishonest. In an article on ‘ethical fashion’, a campaigner claims that the fashion world has finally ‘turned a corner’ and is now serious about environmental issues. If a situation turns a/the corner, it improves after a difficult period.

Finally, all the newspapers report that people in their millions have ‘taken to the streets’ to protest against climate change. Take to the streets is a phrase that newspapers often use simply to mean ‘demonstrate’.

 

 

 

Dreary and mind-numbing: interesting ways of saying ‘boring’

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by Kate Woodford

We recently looked at different ways of saying ‘interesting’. Sadly, not everything in life is fascinating, absorbing or gripping. Now and then, something that we watch, read or in some other way experience is, well… boring. However, if you read this post, you’ll at least be able to use interesting words and phrases to say that things are boring! Continue reading “Dreary and mind-numbing: interesting ways of saying ‘boring’”

Couch potatoes and peas in a pod: more food idioms

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by Kate Woodford

Last month, we looked at idioms featuring words for sweet items of food. Changing the order in which we usually eat food, (savoury, then sweet), we’re now focusing on idioms that feature words for savoury (UK)/savory (US) food. Continue reading “Couch potatoes and peas in a pod: more food idioms”

Pieces of cake and sour grapes: food idioms

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by Kate Woodford

This week, we’re looking at English idioms that feature food and drink words. As there are lots of these idioms, we’re focusing today on idioms containing words for sweet food. Next month, we’ll publish a post on savoury (UK) or savory (US) food idioms.

Continue reading “Pieces of cake and sour grapes: food idioms”

Absorbing and thought-provoking: words meaning ‘interesting’

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by Kate Woodford

On this blog, we often look at the various English words and phrases that we use to express the same concept. This week we’re focusing on the word ‘interesting’. There are lots of synonyms (or rather, ‘near-synonyms’) for this adjective but most carry an extra meaning. In this post, I’ll try to show the differences in meaning between these near-synonyms and provide you with a range of ‘interesting’ vocabulary!

Continue reading “Absorbing and thought-provoking: words meaning ‘interesting’”

Working flat out and flagging: describing how we work

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by Kate Woodford

How was your day at work or college? Was it useful (=giving positive results)? Did you get a lot done? Perhaps you had a lot of work to do but, for some reason, found it hard to get down to it (=start working with effort). Some days, we work effectively, finding it easy to concentrate. Sadly, not all days are like this! In this post we look at the language that we use to describe good days at work and bad. Continue reading “Working flat out and flagging: describing how we work”

Evolving and disrupting: verbs meaning ‘change’

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by Kate Woodford

In a post last month, we looked at adjectives and phrases that describe change. This post will look at some of the many verbs that mean ‘change’.

A lot of ‘change’ verbs mean ‘to change slightly’, but some have additional meanings. For example, if you adapt something, you change it slightly for a different use:

Most of the vegetarian options can be adapted for vegans. Continue reading “Evolving and disrupting: verbs meaning ‘change’”

Black sheep and cans of worms: animal idioms, part 4

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By Kate Woodford

This post – the last in our popular ‘animal idioms’ series – looks at idioms featuring animals that range in size from an elephant to a worm. Most of today’s idioms have a rather negative meaning.

Let’s start with the elephant idiom. If people know that a problem exists but they find it too embarrassing or difficult to talk about, the problem may be described as the elephant in the room:

We all know that Tom will have to retire at some point, but no one mentions it – it’s the elephant in the room. Continue reading “Black sheep and cans of worms: animal idioms, part 4”

From one day to the next: the language of change

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by Kate Woodford

Change is something that we all have to deal with throughout our lives. Whether at work, at home or in our relationships, change is something that none of us can escape. It makes sense that we have a tremendous lot of vocabulary for describing change. In this, the first of two blogs, we look at words and expressions that describe things becoming different. Continue reading “From one day to the next: the language of change”

Bird’s-eye views and headless chickens: animal idioms, part 3

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by Kate Woodford

This is the third in our popular series of blogs about common animal idioms. We’ll start with a creature that is found in a few frequently used idioms: the bird. (Sadly, the first two idioms have their origin in hunting.) If you want to say that with one single action you achieve two separate things, you might say you kill two birds with one stone:

I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone and drop my coat off at the cleaner’s on the way to the library. Continue reading “Bird’s-eye views and headless chickens: animal idioms, part 3”