You’re in good hands (Idioms with ‘hand’, Part 2)

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by Kate Woodford

Last month we looked at a selection of idioms containing the word ‘hand’, concentrating on idioms connected with power. This post will cover ‘hand’ idioms with a range of meanings, focusing, as always, on the most frequent and useful.

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I don’t know him from Adam: phrases containing names

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by Liz Walter

Today’s post focuses on phrases that contain general personal names – there are a surprising number of them!

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Help is at hand (Idioms with ‘hand’, Part 1)

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by Kate Woodford

Who knew how many idioms and phrases there were containing the word ‘hand’! I certainly didn’t until I started researching them. A lot are common in everyday speech and are therefore useful to learn. As there are so many, this will be the first of two posts, Part 1 and Part 2.

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At the crack of dawn: Idioms used for speaking about time

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by Kate Woodford

During the course of a day, we make repeated references to time, whether we’re worrying about being late for an appointment or expressing surprise at how quickly something has happened. Any concept that we frequently convey is likely to have idioms associated with it. This post looks at those idioms, as always, focusing on phrases that are frequent and current.

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You could hear a pin drop: more interesting ways of saying ‘quiet’

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by Liz Walter

Quiet is a word that English students learn early in their studies. Today we are going to look at some more specific and subtle ways of talking about quietness and silence.

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It makes my flesh crawl: idioms for Halloween

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by Liz Walter

The evening of October 31st usually sees hordes of children dressed up as ghosts, skeletons or other scary figures, excitedly collecting mountains of sweets on their ‘trick-or-treat’ expeditions. Covid-19 has paused many of these activities, but I hope you will still enjoy this post on spooky idioms! Continue reading “It makes my flesh crawl: idioms for Halloween”

Are idioms that use ‘black’ and ‘white’ offensive?

Our blog posts about idioms are some of the most popular ones for our readers. Recently, we’ve posted two about idioms that use names for colours – the first one was Seeing red and green with envy, followed by Black sheep and white lies.

One of our readers commented on the second post: she wondered whether any of the expressions to do with the colours black and white were racist in origin. We replied, “Your instinct to examine the language is a good one, since there are so many words and phrases that have been used in the past which we now see are offensive. It’s also true that the words black and white can simply be used as names for colours, and they are widely used that way in many idioms. We don’t provide word origins on our website, but any words or phrases that are offensive have the label offensive. And we update the website frequently, so as the language changes, we also change the advice we give about using it.”

After that response, some people asked questions about other idioms that may be racist. Because we take very seriously our responsibility to help people use English accurately and effectively, we think it’s important to say more about this topic. You may want to look back at the Black sheep and white lies post because we will mention some of the idioms from that post here.

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Black sheep and white lies (Idioms with colours, part 2)

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by Kate Woodford

This is the second of two posts that focus on idioms that contain a word for a colour. A couple of weeks ago, we looked at blue, green and red idioms. This week, we’re rather monochrome, looking mainly at idioms with ‘black’ and ‘white’ in them.

The phrase in black and white is sometimes used to mean ‘in writing’, usually in the context of proof: I could scarcely believe it was true, but there it was, in black and white.

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From darkness into the light: metaphors of darkness and light

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by Liz Walter

‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that.’

‘In the midst of darkness, light persists.’

These quotes, from Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, perfectly demonstrate the way darkness and light are used as metaphors in English (and many other languages), with darkness suggesting ignorance, evil and unhappiness and light signifying knowledge, purity and happiness. There are many common phrases that exemplify this, and this post will look at some of the most common ones.

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Off-colour and on the mend (Talking about health)

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by Kate Woodford

On one thread of this blog, we look at the phrases that people use in daily conversation. This week, we’re focusing on expressions that people use to talk about health – both their own health and that of their family and friends. We won’t be looking at individual symptoms. These were covered by my colleague, Liz Walter, in her post My leg hurts: Talking about illness. Instead, we’ll consider the phrases that people use in conversation to talk more generally about health.

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