Turning the corner by leaps and bounds: talking about improvement

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by Liz Walter

Today’s post is about words and phrases that express the idea of things improving or being improved. The most common way to talk about improvement is to say that something gets better or that we make something better:

The weather was terrible earlier, but it’s getting better now.

We are always looking for ways to make our products better. Continue reading “Turning the corner by leaps and bounds: talking about improvement”

Glaring errors and patent nonsense: ways of saying that things are obvious

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by Kate Woodford

One thing that we aim to do on this blog is look at the many different ways we express the same thing in English. This week we’re focusing on words that have the basic meaning of ‘obvious’. As you know, near-synonyms can be different from each other in a number of ways. Many of the synonyms that we will look at here are different because of the things that they usually describe and the words that they are often combined with. Continue reading “Glaring errors and patent nonsense: ways of saying that things are obvious”

Deaf ears and high horses: everyday idioms in newspapers

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by Kate Woodford

Today we’re looking at idioms and expressions from a range of national newspapers that were published on the same day. We do this every couple of months as a way of supplying you with up-to-date, frequently used idioms.

One newspaper describes the UK Prime Minister’s plans for leaving the EU as ‘a leap of faith’. Leap of faith refers to the act of believing in something when you have no real reason to believe that it is true or will happen.

In the news pages of a different paper, a journalist remarks that the Prime Minister’s advice to members of her own party will ‘fall on deaf ears’. If a suggestion or warning falls on deaf ears, no one listens to it.

Another tabloid is confident that the plans for Brexit will succeed and says it will be ‘full steam ahead’ for the UK after the leaving date. If you say it’s full steam ahead in relation to a particular project or piece of work, you mean that it will be started with great energy and enthusiasm.

The same paper also warns politicians that if they oppose the Prime Minister’s plan, they ‘can kiss goodbye to their jobs and their party’. If you say that someone can kiss goodbye to something desirable, you mean they should accept that they will not have it.

Thankfully, Brexit isn’t the only topic being discussed in the papers! The fashion pages of one newspaper feature an article on ‘vegan style’: that is, clothes that contain no animal products, such as leather or wool. ‘Green is the new black!’, it claims. The statement […] is the new black is used to say that something is now very fashionable. (‘Green’ here refers to clothes made in a way that does not harm the environment.)

On the sports pages of the same paper, it is written that a series of defeats have ‘taken their toll on’ the manager of a Premier League football team. If problems take their toll or take a toll on someone, they cause them harm or suffering.

A sports journalist in another newspaper writes about a football club that has recently criticized another club for using dishonest techniques to improve their game. The journalist describes the first club as ‘getting on their high horse’. If you get on your high horse, you speak or behave as if you are better than someone else when, in reality, you are not.

Still in the sports pages, another writers says a previously successful football team is now looking like ‘a spent force’. A spent force refers to someone or something that does not now have the power or ability that they used to have.

Don’t hold your breath! The language of planning, part 2

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by Kate Woodford

Last month we looked at the language of planning and making arrangements. Sadly, not everything in life goes according to plan (=happens as intended) and it is wise to keep this in mind when making arrangements! This post, then, focuses on planning words and phrases that relate to problems.

A contingency is something that you know might happen in the future which would cause problems and require further arrangements:

We must prepare for all contingencies.

A contingency plan is a plan that can be used if a problem arises (=happens):

Fortunately, a contingency plan was in place for dealing with such emergencies. Continue reading “Don’t hold your breath! The language of planning, part 2”

It slipped my mind: words and phrases connected with forgetting

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by Liz Walter

Back in 2015, my colleague Kate Woodford wrote a post about words connected with remembering. Today’s post looks at the opposite: words and phrases for forgetting.

It is surprising that for such an important concept, there aren’t really any direct, one-word synonyms for the verb ‘forget’. A slightly formal way to talk about forgetting is to say that you have no memory/recollection of something:

We lived in Russia when I was a baby, but I have no memory of that time. Continue reading “It slipped my mind: words and phrases connected with forgetting”

It makes my blood boil! (The language of anger)

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by Kate Woodford

Anger solves nothing, or so they say. Whether or not this is true, we all feel angry now and then. You probably already know the angry synonyms annoyed and irritated, but perhaps you’d like a more interesting range of expressions to describe this feeling? If so, read on! Continue reading “It makes my blood boil! (The language of anger)”

Picking holes and taking a dig (The language of criticizing)

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by Kate Woodford

Even the most positive among us now and then say that we think something is bad. Very often we do it for the right reasons, hoping for improvement or even suggesting ways in which something can be improved. Sometimes, we do it because we are angry, upset or jealous. This week we’re looking at the words and idioms in this area, as ever, focusing on current, useful language.

Continue reading “Picking holes and taking a dig (The language of criticizing)”

Raising your game and squaring the circle (Everyday idioms in newspapers)

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by Kate Woodford

The idioms and phrases in this post come from a range of national newspapers that were published on the same day. We write a post on newspaper idioms every couple of months with the aim of keeping you supplied with up-to-date, frequently used English idioms.

Continue reading “Raising your game and squaring the circle (Everyday idioms in newspapers)”

Common idioms with the word ‘head’

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by Kate Woodford

Last month we focused on idioms that included various parts of the body. This week, we look at idioms featuring the most productive part – the head! As ever, we only cover phrases that are frequent and current.

If there is a problem and you bury your head in the sand, you behave as if there is no problem because you do not want to deal with it: This is an environmental catastrophe and we’re just burying our heads in the sand. Someone or something that is head and shoulders above other people or things is very much better than them: There’s no comparison with the other teams – they’re head and shoulders above them. If you keep your head down, you deliberately try to avoid making someone angry, usually by saying little and keeping busy: He’s in a bad mood this morning. I’m just keeping my head down. A discussion that goes over your head is too difficult for you to understand: I must say, parts of the talk went over my head.

Continue reading “Common idioms with the word ‘head’”

Twisting arms and sticking your neck out (Idioms featuring parts of the body)

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by Kate Woodford

Parts of the body feature in a great number of English idioms. This week we’re taking a look at some of the most commonly used. How many of these have direct equivalents in your language?

 

Starting with the top of the body, the neck is quite productive! If two people or groups who are competing are neck and neck, they are level with each other and have the same chance of winning: Recent polls suggest the two parties are neck and neck. The strange phrase neck of the woods refers to a particular area. (We usually put the words ‘your’/‘his’/‘her’ etc. or ‘this’ before it): I didn’t expect to see you in this neck of the woods! / Portland – isn’t that your neck of the woods, Gina? If you stick your neck out, you take a risk, often by saying what you think will happen in the future: I’m going to stick my neck out and predict a win for Chelsea.

Continue reading “Twisting arms and sticking your neck out (Idioms featuring parts of the body)”