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David W. Miller americanidioms@gmail.

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Introduction
Congratulations!
You are beginning a journey that will enhance your knowledge of English as well as your knowledge of American idioms. You
will learn a great deal about American culture and how Americans think from this ebook. If you have read this far, you know
that this ebook is for advanced language learners.
I’ve tried to make this ebook as small as possible so that it could make its rounds in emails. Therefore there are no pictures to
accompany the text.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of idioms in a language. They are all around us in everyday use. I created this
ebook not as a final reference to American language idioms but as a handy guide to using them. It will help you understand the
ways in which Americans use idioms (and we use them often, and most of the time without realizing we are using them). You
will need to ask a native English speaker for additional ways to use these phrases. I have tried to be as clear as possible in
defining them. Sometimes the best way to define them was to use them in situations instead of using a dictionary definition.
I have used most of the idioms at one time or another during my life. Others were sent to me by well-meaning individuals who
knew about this project.
I have separated the idioms into a few categories but many fit into two or more.
So, without any further introduction, read these and try to hear them. Since there are 1000 to choose from, you should have no
trouble hearing them. Soon you may actually be using them too! I am including a ‘frequency of usage’ field to indicate which
idioms are used every day and which are seldom used. You may even be able to surprise your American friends.
The categories I’ve chosen for ‘frequency of usage’ are as follows:
frequently
often
sometimes
rarely
Obviously phrases might be used more in different situations. ‘often’ and ‘sometimes’ were difficult categories. Why did I
choose often and sometimes? In reality, those two categories are sometimes blurred. I could have used 6 or 7 categories and
still not be as accurate as I’d like. The other two, ‘frequently’ and ‘rarely’ are extremes. You either hear them or you don’t.
Another small note: I have tried to create ‘real world’ examples of the idioms. In some cases, the explanation is the example.

By the way, there is a full color, full size (23”x35”) poster that accompanies this ebook. There is a link to it on my website,
http://www.squidoo.com/idioms

Enjoy this book. I know I enjoyed writing it. Email me at americanidioms@gmail.com and tell me what you think. I’d really like
to know. My hope is that this will be passed on to the entire ESL community. It’s free!

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ANIMALS
These idioms deal with animals in some way. I am using a broad meaning of the word ‘animals’ because birds, fish, and
insects are also included. Perhaps non-humans is a better category for these idioms. Non-humans doesn’t work that well on a
poster.

A bird in hand is better than two in the bush


The phrase ‘a bird in hand is better than two in the bush’ means that something you have now is better than something that
may or not be better later. A sure thing now is better than something hoped for later.
Example: The prince gave me 10 pieces of gold. The king, however, has promised to give me 50 pieces of gold if I will wait a
month. A bird in hand is better than two in the bush. I’ll take the 10 pieces of gold now.
Frequency of usage: often

A dog is a man's best friend


This phrase means that even when friends and loved ones fail you, a dog will always be loyal to you. It is usually stated after a
dog does something to warrant praise from its master. It can be said by the owner or someone observing the dog.
Example: That dog pulled the child out of the frozen ice. It just goes to prove that a dog is a man’s best friend.
Frequency of usage: often

A fox smells his own hole


In a broad sense, this phrase means that a person may know precisely what happened during a particular incident because
he’s the guilty one. This phrase is occasionally crude as it could refer to someone noticing the smell of a fart. If he smells it
first, someone might accuse him of being the person who actually ‘passed gas.’
Example: It was very interesting to know that Charles knew every detail about the incident and still maintains that he is
innocent. I say, a fox smells his own hole.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

A little bird told me


This phrase means that (jokingly) someone anonymously revealed some information that was secret. It is often an answer to
the question, ‘who told you about that?’ A little bird told me. You might also hear ‘birdie.’ It is playful because often the person
revealing the secret is known to the person asking the question.
Example: I heard that you’re going on vacation soon. ‘Who told you?’ Oh, a little birdie told me. ‘What else did that little birdie
tell you?’
Frequency of usage: frequently

A monkey on your back


‘A monkey on your back’ is an unnecessary burden you are carrying. You can’t seem to get it off of you. Even if you shake it, it
will remain on your back. Normally, you will have to solve a problem for the monkey to be ‘shaken free.’
Example: I think I finally got this monkey off my back. I’ve got a steady job now.
Frequency of usage: rarely

A pig in a poke
A poke is a bag. Many years ago, baby pigs were sold on an open market. If you received a ‘pig in a poke’ you were receiving
a pig that you knew nothing about. It might be a very healthy pig, but because it was in a poke, you had no way of verifying its
health or condition. Today, you do not want to buy something that you have not first checked.
Example: Before you buy that car, you’d better take a look at it first. It’s not very wise to buy a pig in a poke.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

All bark and no bite


This phrase means that a person is all talk and very little action to followup the talk. He mostly makes a lot of noise and is
harmless. He sounds like he might harm you or your ideas but in the end he will not hurt you.

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Example: Don’t mind him. He’s all bark and no bite.


Frequency of usage: sometimes

Ants in your pants


Someone who has ‘ants in his pants’ cannot sit still for long. Usually this refers to a child, but not always. He is considered
‘antsy.’
Example: Little Davey just cannot sit still during church service. It’s like he has ants in his pants.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Are you a man or a mouse?


This phrase is usually given as a challenge regarding a person’s courage. The implication is that either you are brave or you
are cowardly. The phrase’s popularity peaked in the 70’s but occasionally you’ll hear it.
Example: When I didn’t want to speed down the highway at 100 miles per hour, Joe asked if I was a man or a mouse. What a
choice! In this case I was a mouse. Oh well.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Birdbrain
If someone calls you a birdbrain, it means that he thinks you are stupid. Usually, we use this phrase about someone and not to
someone face to face.
Example: I can’t believe he thought I was too young to do that. What a birdbrain!
Frequency of usage: rarely

Birds and the bees


If you encounter a discussion about ‘the birds and the bees,’ it is related to the basics of sex and where babies come from. I
believe the phrase originated from parents who didn’t want to mention sex so they masked it with the phrase ‘birds and the
bees.’
Example: Have you had your ‘birds and the bees’ talk with your teenager yet? It’s never too early for that.
Frequency of usage: often

Birds of a feather flock together


‘Birds of a feather flock together’ means that people who think alike often do things in the same manner. They belong in the
same group together. Often we shorten this phrase to ‘birds of a feather…’ It has the same idea as ‘two peas in a pod.’
Example: When Punk Rock was the ‘rage,’ all the punk rockers hung out together. Now the same is true with youth who are
into ‘Goth.’ Birds of a feather….
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Black sheep of the family


The ‘black sheep of the family’ is usually one person in the family who is very different from the rest of the family. Typically this
person will spend time in jail for criminal behavior. The rest of the family obeys the law but ‘the black sheep’ definitely, by his
behavior, separates himself from the family.
Example: Every family seems to have its black sheep, and the Cartona family is no different. Everyone graduated from Yale or
Harvard, but not Timothy. He’s been in and out of jail since he was 16.
Frequency of usage: often

Bookworm
A ‘bookworm’ is someone who reads and studies books a lot. It is a slightly derogatory term.
Example: Tony spends every waking hour reading those Physics books and he’s not even taking a Physics class. He even
takes the books with him on vacation. He’s clearly a bookworm.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

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Cat and mouse game


A ‘cat and mouse game’ occurs when a person is teasing someone else, as a mouse teases a cat that is chasing it. Often the
teasing is not intentional.
Example: I don’t want to get involved with her. I know her kind. It’s only a cat and mouse game for her.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Cat burglar
A ‘cat burglar’ is someone who robs homes or businesses at night. We don’t use the phrase much anymore.
Example: The police have been looking for the cat burglar for the past six months. He’s robbed 13 homes, all between the
hours of 11 and 3 at night.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Cat call
‘Cat calls’ are whistles and sexual comments made when a woman passes by a group of men.
Example: I hate to go by the construction site at lunch time. I feel like I’m parading in front of a bunch of little boys with all the
cat calls they make.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Chicken scratch
‘Chicken scratch’ is bad handwriting. In other words, it is as if a chicken wrote something down. Often it is a self-deprecating
comment about a person’s handwriting.
Example: Can you read my chicken scratch? I’ll type it if necessary.
Frequency of usage: often

Close only counts in horseshoes


This phrase is used when something almost occurs. Horseshoes is a game where the object of the game is to come close to a
peg or touch a peg by throwing a horseshoe at it. If a horseshoe is within the width of a horseshoe from the peg, a point is
scored. If the horseshoe is touching the peg, it is more points. You will often hear the phrase close only counts in horseshoes
and grenades. You do not have to be close to a ‘target’ to be effective with a grenade.
Example: The team came close to winning the game but close only counts in horseshoes.
Frequency of usage: often

Dog and pony deal/show


A ‘dog and pony show’ is a display or presentation that has more glitter than substance. It’s all for show.
Example: I thought that the new internet startup company would be more than a dog and pony show. To date they have yet to
release any software.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Dog eat dog world


This phrase means that we live in a nasty, rough world where people don’t care about the people that are hurt through their
actions. The implication in the phrase is that each dog will eat the other to survive.
Example: It’s a dog eat dog world in advertising. The competition is not concerned about what happens to your product. They
care about themselves.
Frequency of usage: often

Dog tired
‘Dog tired’ means really tired.
Example: I went straight to bed after I got home. I was dog tired.

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Frequency of usage: sometimes

Dogear page
A ‘dogear page’ is a small corner of a page in a book that has been folded over, usually to mark the page.
Example: The book had numerous dogear pages. It was clearly a used book.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Doggie bag
A ‘doggie bag’ is a bag or box given to restaurant customers to take home leftovers from a meal. Many, though, are saying ‘do
you want a box for that?’
Example: I asked the waitress for a doggie bag and she brought me a box.
Frequency of usage: often

Don't count your chickens before they hatch


This phrase is a proverb that means not to count on something as 100% certain until it is 100% completed. If, for instance, you
are thinking about how to spend money before you earn it, you may be ‘counting your chickens before they hatch.’
Frequency of usage: often

Don't let the cat out of the bag


If you have a secret that you don’t want others to know about, you will ask them politely not to let the cat out of the bag.
Example: I’m going to ask Susan to marry me, but don’t let the cat out of the bag. I want to ask her first!
Frequency of usage: often

Fishy
If something is ‘fishy,’ it is suspicious.
Example: I knew something was fishy when I saw all the cars parked outside my home. My wife was having a surprise
birthday party for me!
Frequency of usage: often

Fly in the ointment


This phrase means that you may have unexpected problems. The idea of being unexpected is key.
Example:
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Fly the coup


This phrase means to leave, usually quickly.
Example: He was wanted by the police so he flew the coup.
Frequency of usage: rarely

For the birds


This phrase means that something is unbelievable or ridiculous.
Example: I can’t believe that he would cheat on the test. He’s an honor student. This is for the birds!
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Frog in your pocket


When someone says that ‘we’ll’ do something but it’s not apparent who the ‘we’ actually is, the questioner might ask, ‘who’s
we? Do you have a frog in your pocket?’ In other words, it is assumed that the person asking the question is part of the ‘we’ but
doesn’t want to be. It is normally said jokingly.

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Example: We’ll drive the 400 miles to Chicago, pick up a package and return home. ‘Who’s we? You have a frog in your
pocket?’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Get your goat


If someone ‘gets your goat,’ he is annoying you or trying to provoke you (unintentionally).
Example: That guy really gets my goat sometimes. He knows I don’t like it when he drives slow. He just does it to annoy me.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Go hog wild
This means to do something at full speed or recklessly. It implies that the person does not care what others think about his
actions.
Example: The football players went hog wild at the party. They drank way too much and were extremely loud.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite
This is something that parents say to their children as they’re lying in bed. It simply means to have a good rest. It is often
shortened to ‘good night, sleep tight.’
Example: Good night, sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite.
Frequency of usage: often

Goose pimples
Goose pimples are the bumps on the skin a person gets when he is cold or nervous. You will also hear ‘goose bumps.’ I have
even heard ‘chilly bumps.’
Example: Look at those goose pimples. Put on a sweater.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Gopher
A gopher is slang that means ‘go for.’ Go for this, go for that. This is a messenger person or an aide.
Example: He does well as a gopher. When I tell him to go for groceries, he does.
Frequency of usage: often

Grease monkey
A ‘grease monkey’ is a mechanic, usually an auto mechanic. He is working and ‘playing’ in grease all day, every day.
Example: Don’t ask me about quantum physics. I’m just a grease monkey.
Frequency of usage: often

Have a tiger by the tail


When a person has ‘a tiger by the tail,’ it generally means that he is in a wild situation where he has little or no control of the
results. Metaphorically, if he lets go of the tiger, the tiger runs wild with no restraints. If he holds on to the tiger, he has some
control, but not much.
Example: It’s like I have a tiger by the tail with this project. I’m not sure how to bring it all together now.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Have your ducks in a row


If a man has all his ‘ducks in a row,’ it means that everything is in order. Everything is straightened, so to speak.
Example: You’d better get your ducks in a row before the auditor comes.
Frequency of usage: often

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Hen-pecked
Only men are ‘hen-pecked.’ It means that the woman tells him what to do and when to do it. He obeys the woman’s every
command.
Example: He can’t think on his own without that wife of his. He’s so hen-pecked.
Frequency of usage: often

His bark is bigger than his bite


If someone’s ‘bark is bigger than his bite,’ it means that he is not as mean as he appears. Perhaps he may need to display a
bold ‘front’ in front of employees but when he is sitting for a cup of coffee, however, he’s a very nice person.
Example: I wouldn’t worry about Sam too much. His bark is bigger than his bite.
Frequency of usage: often

His goose is cooked


This phrase means that a person is in trouble. He was caught doing something he shouldn’t have been doing and now must
face the consequences.
Example: He ran a red light. His goose is cooked because there was a police car waiting at the light.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Hold your horses


This phrase simply means to wait or be patient. When someone feels like he is being rushed or pushed to do something, he
would say this. Often we say it to impatient children.
Example: Hold your horses. We’ll get to that part of the museum soon enough.
Frequency of usage: often

Horse is out of the barn


This phrase means that there is no returning now since ‘the horse’ isn’t likely to return. It can relate to rumors.
Example: When the rumor that the politician was caught drinking and driving, it didn’t take long for the rumor to spread that he
actually has an alcohol problem. The horse was out of the barn. He will probably resign.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Hotdoggin' it
If someone is ‘hotdoggin’ it,’ it means that he is showing off. He is displaying his talents or goofiness for all the people to see.
Skiers, skateboarders, motorcyclists and athletes can all hotdog it. Any time a person shows unnecessary skills in front of
people, he is hotdoggin’ it. Likewise a ‘hotdog’ when referring to a person is someone who shows off.
Example: After he won the race, he became so focused on hotdoggin’ it that he crashed into the wall.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

I double dog dare you


This is typically a phrase that a child would use to challenge another kid. Dares are risky things that people do usually because
of a challenge. Dares also have degrees of risk. There is ‘I dare you,’ ‘I double dare you,’ I triple dare you,’ and I double dog
dare you.’ A double dog dare is the riskiest! Adults use these phrases in a playful manner, though not as much.
Example: I dare you to tap the large man on the head. No, I double dog dare you.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

If it would have been a snake it would have bit[ten] you


This phrase is used when something is found close to you even after a major search. Normally, another person uses it
because he sees what is being searched for.
Example: The keys were right on the table in front of you. If it would have been a snake it would have bit you.

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Frequency of usage: often

I'm so hungry I could eat a horse


This is a hyperbole that is used to indicate extreme hunger. The odd thing about this is, we do not eat horse meat in America.
Cow, pig, and elephant are often substituted for horse.
Example: I'm so hungry I could eat a horse. When’s supper?
Frequency of usage: often

In the catbird seat


If you are ‘in the catbird seat,’ you are in control of a situation. You are in a position to control people and events.
Example: With the boss out of town, I’m in the catbird seat now. For a few days I can run the company the way I want.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

In the dog house


If you are in the dog house you are in trouble, usually with a spouse. This person has done something wrong or disagreeable
with the spouse. Perhaps you stayed out too late or were drinking when you could have been home with your wife. Silence or
sleeping on the couch for a few days is typically the punishment.
Example: After I got home late on Friday, my wife informed me that I was officially in the dog house for the weekend. She also
told me that flowers, chocolate and a heartfelt apology would be the only way to resolve that.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Kill two birds with one stone


This phrase means that you are accomplishing more than one thing (two or more) with one action.
Example: When you’re filling up the gas tank tomorrow, could you kill two birds with one stone and pick up a gallon of milk
while you’re there? Thanks.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Kitty corner/catty corner


These are identical phrases. They are used to describe a location of something in relation to another. The direction is diagonal.
The differences in kitty versus catty is regional. You will probably hear both. Catty corner is probably more correct as it is taken
from the French word ‘four,’ catre.
Example: The post office is kitty corner to the bank in this town. If you find one, look across the street for the other.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Live high on/off the hog


This is a phrase that means someone is doing extremely well financially. Typically, though, we use this in the negative, as if to
prove a point or to justify the inability to pay for something. I have heard both ‘on the hog’ and ‘off the hog’ used. The difference
is probably regional.
Example: It’s not as if we’re living high off the hog in this town. We’ve got bills just like everyone else.
Frequency of usage:

Look what the cat dragged in


This phrase is directed toward a person who appears after a lengthy absence. He looks worn down (clothing, face). The
implication of the phrase is that a cat would drag in a dead animal, probably a rat, to display it. It is slightly derogatory yet
playful.
Example: Well well well, look what the cat dragged in. Where have you been this past month? We’ve been looking all over for
you.
Frequency of usage: sometimes to rarely

Monkey business

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‘Monkey business’ is any kind of misconduct or inappropriate financial dealings a person could be involved in. It usually
involves money. If you watch old black and white movies, you’ll hear this phrase more. It is not used as much today.
Example: What kind of monkey business are you involved in? I know you must be up to trouble because you can’t seem to
hold a steady job.
Frequency of usage: sometimes to rarely

Monkey see, monkey do


This phrase is usually said about a father/son relationship where the son imitates the father in everything. In general usage, it
does not have to be father/son. Anytime a person imitates another’s (usually bad) behavior, someone might say ‘monkey see,
monkey do.’
Example: You’d better watch what you’re saying around Johnny. Monkey see, monkey do.
Frequency of usage: sometimes to rarely

Monkey suit
A monkey suit is a suit or tuxedo. It is usually used by men who do not like or are not accustomed to wearing fine clothing.
Example: I put on my monkey suit for the interview. It must have worked because I got the job.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Monkey's uncle
This phrase was more popular twenty years ago but you’ll still hear it occasionally. It’s an exclamatory remark. It means ‘I can’t
believe what I’m actually seeing or hearing.’ Normally you’ll hear it as ‘well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.’
Example: I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! Look at that horse run.
Frequency of usage: rarely

No such animal
This is a very informal way of saying, ‘no such thing.’ Animal can also be used in the phrase ‘a different animal altogether.’ In
that phrase animal is something difficult or burdensome
Example: I looked up his name in the phone directory and there’s no such animal.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Open a can of worms


Worms wriggle and slide all over the place. When you ‘open a can of worms,’ you are introducing new and potentially tricky
ideas and events into an already complicated mix. This phrase is used often in the negative.
Example: When I mentioned his ex-wife’s name, he commented that he didn’t want to open that can of worms right now.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Pet peeve
A ‘pet peeve’ is something that someone says or does that particularly annoys someone else. Essentially it’s his favorite
annoyance.
Example: My pet peeve is incorrect usage of very simple words such as you’re and your. It just irritates me to see that so
often.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Puppy love
‘Puppy love’ is a phrase used to indicate a teen’s first love. It is probably better described as infatuation or liking someone a lot.
The phrase was made extremely popular in the 70s by the song sung by Donny Osmond called ‘Puppy Love.’
Example: He wasn’t in love with her. It was puppy love. It was his first girlfriend.
Frequency of usage: often

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Put the cart before the horse


When you ‘put the cart before the horse’ you are getting ahead of yourself. You are planning on C and D to happen before A
and B have already happened.
Example: When I started to create the my website, I envisioned pages and pages of downloadable text for people to use.
Before I did that, though, I had to actually create those pages. I was putting the cart before the horse.
Frequency of usage: often

Quit/go cold turkey


This phrase generally means to quit something, usually smoking, without any external help. No drugs, no substitutions, no
therapy, just quitting immediately. It is often the fastest and most painful way to quit. It doesn’t always apply to smoking, but to
other bad habits such as alcohol or drugs. You will hear it as ‘quit cold turkey’ or ‘went cold turkey.’
Example: I quit smoking cold turkey. It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.
Frequency of usage: often

Raining cats and dogs


This is a euphemism that means ‘it’s raining very hard.’ It is a solid downpour. We use the phrase a lot.
Example: Make sure you bring your umbrella. It’s raining cats and dogs out there.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Red herring
This phrase means a deliberate misdirection. ‘Red herrings’ are often used in arguments when a person wants to subtly
change the subject and guide the conversation to a different, but often related point. The term is used more widely in academic
and intellectual circles.
Example: She threw in the red herring just so we wouldn’t talk about his inappropriate actions.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Round robin
‘Round robin’ is the term used when everyone in a game gets to participate. It implies a number of participants larger than 3 or
4. It is a style of play.
Example: We played it round robin style so that no one would feel left out.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Run around like chickens with their heads cut off


If someone is ‘running around like a chicken with its head cut off’ it means that he is extremely busy and does not have time for
even the simplest favor from someone else. It also implies that there is a lot of chaos in the business. If you’ve ever seen a
chicken run around without a head, you’ll understand this phrase a lot better. It is still alive but there is much chaos. We use it
a lot.
Example: With five kids under the age of 8, the mother often seems likes she’s running around like a chicken with its head cut
off.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Scapegoat
A scapegoat is a person who takes blame on behalf of a group of people. Instead of the entire group getting into trouble, one
person will be singled out as being responsible. Sometimes the person willingly takes blame, but more often, others will blame
that person for the offense.
Example: Unfortunately, he was just the scapegoat in this case. The police have no intention of looking for the real robber.
Frequency of usage: often

Scaredy cat

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This is a person who is afraid or frightened over something small or insignificant. It is a demeaning term and is used by others
to describe someone.
Example: Oh, he’s just a scaredy cat. Go ahead and continue with the plan.
Frequency of usage: sometimes to rarely

She's no spring chicken


This is only used about an older woman. It is used to note that she isn’t young anymore and therefore no longer as lively and
agile as she once was.
Example: We took a long time driving to St. Louis. My grandmother isn’t a spring chicken anymore and needed a lot of rest
stops.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Sitting duck
A sitting duck is a person or group of people (or animal) who is particularly vulnerable. They are sitting out in the open and
have little or no protection. An easy target.
Example: Sometimes tourists are sitting ducks when they go to the city. Everyone knows they are tourists and unfamiliar with
city life.
Frequency of usage: often

Snake in the grass


A ‘snake in the grass’ is someone who is very sly, cunning, and probably deceitful. You don’t want to have anything to do with
him because he is so sly.
Example: You must be cautious of that guy. He’s a snake in the grass.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Stool pigeon
A stool pigeon is someone who will tell authorities about illegal activities. It is commonly used by criminals to describe a person
that has informed police. It’s an older term but you might hear it on occasion.
Example: He’s just a stool pigeon. He wasn’t in on the robbery.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Straight from the horse's mouth


This phrase means straight from the source. In day to day gossip, it’s common to ‘hear’ something about someone. But when
the person telling the story is directly involved in the gossip, he or she is the ‘horse.’ If it’s said while the ‘horse’ is nearby, it can
be taken as an insult.
Example: They are having a baby. I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth; she told me herself.
Frequency of usage: often

Teacher's pet
This is a teacher’s favorite student. The teacher probably wouldn’t admit it but friends of the student will give the student a hard
time about all the extra activities that the student does for the teacher.
Example: She can do no wrong in that class. She’s the teacher’s pet.
Frequency of usage: often

That dog don't hunt


This simply means ‘that argument won’t work.’ There are a number of ways of saying that without actually saying it but this is
the most common. This would be a very common phrase in southern States.
Example: You’re trying to blame me? I wasn’t anywhere near the crime scene so that dog won’t hunt.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

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The cat's away the mice will play


This is an extremely popular phrase used when a boss or parent is away. The children or employees will quickly say, ‘when the
cat’s away, the mice will play.’ In other words, rules and restrictions are lifted when the authority figure is away. The implication
is that as soon as that person returns, everything’s back to normal (and no one has fun). You don’t even need to finish the
phrase; people will finish it for you.
Example: The boss just went on vacation for a month. When the cat’s away, the mice will play.
Frequency of usage: frequently

The cat's meow


This is said about a person who is arrogant and thinks that he / she is the absolute best at what he / she does.
Example: Will you look at her! Just because she aced one test, she thinks she’s the cat’s meow.
Frequency of usage: often

The chicken's come home to roost


This phrase deals with consequences to previous actions. The best definition is an illustration.
Example: Perhaps a person has been consistently cheating on tests but has never been caught. When he is finally caught,
‘the chicken’s come home to roost.’ The teacher might then question all along if that person was cheating.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

The early bird catches the worm


This is usually said when someone gets up early to accomplish much. We even shorten it and use it as a noun. An ‘early bird’
is someone who gets up early and goes to bed early. ‘Early bird’ specials in restaurants are those in which if you arrive before
a certain time, you will get the same meal but at a cheaper price. This encourages people to go the restaurant at a time when
the crowds are smaller. The opposite would be a ‘night owl.’ This would be a person who stays up late and gets up late.
Example: Cheer up, it’s 5am. The early bird catches the worm.
Frequency of usage: often

The straw that broke the camel's back


The idea behind this is fairly straightforward. A camel can carry a lot of weight for a long time without much water. A piece of
straw is very lightweight. A person may be under stress for a long time but one little thing that someone else does might be the
straw. He can no longer take the pressure anymore. Perhaps he’ll become very angry or just give up. We might also say it was
‘the last straw.’
Example: For a month now kids have been teasing Johnny. When Jimmy took Johnny’s pencil and broke it intentionally,
Johnny got angry and threw a punch. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Frequency of usage: frequently

There's more than one way to skin a cat


This phrase simply means that there is more than one way to do something. Usually it is a more creative and innovative way of
getting it done. We use this phrase a lot.
Example: If we can’t nail that board to the wall, we’ll have to try a different way. There’s always more than one way to skin a
cat.
Frequency of usage: frequently

To beat a dead horse


‘Beating a dead horse’ is talking and talking and talking about a subject that has been talked about for a long time. You are
getting nowhere. This phrase is often used in the negative, as in ‘stop beating a dead horse.’
Example: We’ve talked about how he misbehaved at the party for a week now. We need to stop beating a dead horse.
Frequency of usage: often

To change horses in midstream

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This phrase means to change the conversation subject or project direction while pursuing another. The idea is that you are
going full blast in one way and something else comes along that would distract you so you start to pursue that area without
finishing the first course. It is often used in the negative: we can’t change horses in midstream.
Example: We put a lot of money into that software project. Then the new project manager came along and said he had a
better idea but it was very difficult to change horses in midstream.
Frequency of usage: often

To chase rabbit trails


‘Rabbit trails’ are side topics that are minimally related to the main topic. You don’t necessarily have to ‘chase’ the rabbit trails.
Often you just ‘go down’ them. You might even hear this as ‘chasing rabbits.’
Example: You are having a conversation about strengthening relationships. One person in the group talks about marriage and
commitment and how it is wonderful when two are in love and stay in love. Marriage and commitment are rabbit trails because
while they are related to relationships, they are side topics that can (and probably will) be discussed later.
Frequency of usage: frequently

To count sheep
This is a euphemism for sleeping or trying to fall asleep. Many years ago experts suggested that you count sheep jumping over
a fence in order to fall asleep faster. In the phrase, ‘I was trying to count sheep all night,’ it is not necessarily clear whether the
person actually fell asleep or spent all night trying to fall asleep.
Example: I had a restful night of counting sheep. When I awoke, I was refreshed.
Frequency of usage: often

To dog it
This is slang for being lazy or being sloppy in your effort. If you are accused of ‘dogging it,’ someone is suggesting that you
didn’t put your best effort into the work. We don’t use it much anymore.
Example: I was so tired that I had no choice but to dog it, just so I could get it done. It wasn’t my best work but it’s done.
Frequency of usage: rarely

To doggy paddle
There are two meanings to this phrase. The first is the literal meaning which is a method of swimming without lifting your arms
out of the water. It is similar to how dogs swim in the water. The other is more figurative. It means to slowly make progress.
You might also hear it as ‘dog paddle.’
Example: He spent most of his time doggy paddling through the project. It got done but he took a long time doing it.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To eat crow
‘Eating crow’ is often a humbling experience. Essentially, it means admitting you were wrong about something. Normally it
comes in the form of an apology.
Example: I needed to eat crow and talk to her about how I gossiped about her.
Frequency of usage: often

To have butterflies
This means you are nervous. The full phrase might be better understood: to have butterflies in your stomach. It’s the nervous
feeling you have in your stomach right before you are ready to speak in public or are very nervous about something.
Example: Nervous? Do you have butterflies?
Frequency of usage: often

To look a gift horse in the mouth

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The meaning of this phrase is simple: if somebody gives you a gift or an unexpected surprise (pleasant), you don’t question it
and say that it is worthless or that it didn’t cost much. It is a gift. The phrase is quite often used in the negative, as in ‘don’t look
a gift horse in the mouth.’ Often it is not a physical gift but good fortune that is the ‘gift horse.’
Example: You received a check in the mail. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Accept it.
Frequency of usage: often

To pig out
This phrase means to eat like a pig. Normally it just means to enjoy a large feast of food. Sometimes the pigging out can be on
one particular food in large quantities.
Example: We saw the pizza and pigged out during the game.
Frequency of usage: often

To pigeonhole someone
If you ‘pigeonhole someone’ you are trying to pinpoint or narrow in on one aspect of their beliefs or thoughts. Essentially you
are trying to extract a response from them.
Example: The press tried to pigeonhole the press secretary about the President’s reaction to the flood.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To rat on someone
If you are accused of ‘ratting on someone,’ you have probably gone to the authorities about an issue. Perhaps it was a petty
crime that was committed. You will often hear it as ‘to rat out someone.’ It is a very informal phrase.
Example: Nobody admitted to the fight until we were asked one by one. Tammy and Samantha both ratted on us.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To rule the roost


If someone ‘rules the roost,’ he or she is in charge. Typically it relates to who is in charge in the home, but not always.
Example: I needed to let her know that I rule the roost in this home. She smiled and went on washing the dishes.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To see pink elephants


If you are ‘seeing pink elephants,’ you are probably drunk.
Example: He couldn’t see the road clearly mainly because he was seeing pink elephants instead. He shouldn’t be driving.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To smell a rat
If you ‘smell a rat,’ you are sensing that something is not right and that one person is responsible for it. You are probably
suspicious of a person because of what he said or did against you or your organization.
Example: I don’t like this at all. Nobody should have known the combination to the safe. I smell a rat.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To wolf it down
If you ‘wolf it down’ you are eating something very quickly. It was on the table one minute and gone the next.
Example: It only took 6 minutes for the guys to wolf down that extra-large pizza.
Frequency of usage: often

Top dog
A ‘top dog’ is the leader in charge of a large organization. He will never refer to himself as that but other below him will.
Example: Go and meet that guy. He’s the top dog for that non-profit organization.

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Frequency of usage: often

Underdog
The ‘underdog’ is an extremely popular idea in America. In short, the underdog is the person or group of people who are least
likely to be successful against a larger opponent. In America we like cheering the underdog, because under normal
circumstances, they will not win. Underdog sports teams are very common: the large university team versus the two-year
college team, the team who has won every game versus the team who has not won a victory all year. You will definitely hear
this phrase because everyone likes an underdog.
Example: Let’s root for the underdog. They don’t stand a chance against the powerful.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Water off the duck's back


This phrase simply means ‘don’t worry about it. It’s nothing. Forget it happened.’ Supposedly after a duck emerges from
sticking its head under water, the water just flows off his back and it dries quickly. This is the sense of this phrase.
Example: My worker apologized for leaving the mop in the middle of the hallway. ‘Don’t worry. It’s water off the duck’s back.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Weak dinosaur
A ‘weak dinosaur’ is someone who appears large and powerful but is ineffective because of little-known weaknesses.
Example: Large dot com companies were proven to be weak dinosaurs when it comes to sustained growth.
Frequency of usage: sometimes to rarely

Weasel
A ‘weasel’ in the normal definition of the word is a small, slim and fast animal that can get into many things that homeowners
don’t want animals to get into. A weasel can also be a person who is sly and cunning and can get himself into situations where
he is not welcome. It can also be a verb ‘to weasel your way into’ or a noun ‘he’s a weasel.’
Example: Did you see the way he took credit for the project like that when he never worked on it. What a weasel.
Frequency of usage: often

Whale of a time
This simply means having great fun.
Example: We had a whale of a time at the party.
Frequency of usage: often

What's good for the gander is good for the geese


This phrase can be restated like this: if something is good enough for one in the family, namely the father, it’s good enough for
all of them. It can also apply to large groups where there is a distinct leader. The gander is a male goose (a leader).
Frequency of usage: sometimes to rarely

What's the beef?


If someone has a ‘beef’ with you, it means that he has a very specific reason to confront you. Perhaps it is something you did
or said. It is more likely stated as ‘what’s your beef with me?’ In other words, why are you so hostile towards me or why are you
opposing me? What did I do wrong to deserve such hostility?
Example: What did she do now? What’s your beef with her?
Frequency of usage: sometimes

What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?


This is said to a person who is momentarily speechless. Often it is the result of being stunned by what another person has
said. It has declined in usage over the past 20 years but you’ll still hear it.
Example: What, no response? What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?

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Frequency of usage: sometimes

White elephant sale


A ‘white elephant sale’ is simple a special sale, usually at a flea market-type event. A flea market is a place where many
people come together to sell used items.
Example: They’re having a white elephant sale at the flea market this week.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Wild goose chase


A wild good chase is when a person looks for something based on clues given by other people only to be denied the item he
was originally searching for. Sometimes the wild goose chase is intentional; more often, it is not. The classic example is
snipes. Snipes are supposedly little (yellow I think) birds that run around late at night. If you go out with a bag and a stick and
yell ‘here snipe, here snipe!, you’ll be able to capture a lot of them in the bag. Under the conditions given, snipes don’t exist.
I’m told that the bird does actually exist but is not native to North America. In the end, the ‘hunters’ return with empty bags and
bruised egos for they soon realize it was all a joke. So, a snipe hunt is a wild goose chase and a practical joke. It has fooled
many campers. Wild goose chases are similar. You go after one thing but do not return with the prize.
Frequency of usage: often

Wild horses couldn't drag him away


This phrase means that something has a person so focused and ‘engrossed’ that to distract the person would be an
annoyance.
Example: He is so into the latest John Grisham novel that wild horses couldn’t drag him away until he’s finished.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Wing it
This phrase became popular in late 70s and early 80s. It essentially means to make something up as you go. There is no plan.
You must be creative and find your way through to the end.
Example: I looked at the music I’ve never seen before. The director saw me, winked, and said, ‘Wing it.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Workhorse
A ‘workhorse’ is an extremely hard worker. He or she will endure much in order to get a job done. He will do most of the work.
He’s a solid worker. All of these describe a workhorse.
Example: I’m glad he’s helping with building the house. He sure is a workhorse.
Frequency of usage: often

You can't teach an old dog new tricks


‘Old dogs’ are difficult to train. They do not do new things (tricks) easily. This phrase can mean 1) it is difficult to train an older
person new things or 2) because the older person has a lot of experience it is more difficult to fool him/her.
Example: He’ll never be good at computers especially at his age because he firmly believes that you can't teach an old dog
new tricks.
Frequency of usage: often

You have to kiss a lot of frogs …


The full phrase is ‘you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince.’ It is actually a twist on the fairy tale. The fairy tale ends with a
princess kissing a frog and the frog is actually a prince. The phrase means that not all the bad and ugly things are totally
worthless. Sometimes you may get lucky.
Frequency of usage: rarely

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PROVERBS
Proverbs for this ebook are defined as specific sayings that are in common use throughout America. Some are humorous;
most are just very popular.

A chain is strong as its weakest link


It took me a long time of hearing this before I fully understood it and started using it. If you have a chain linked from one car
trying to pull another car, and one of the links in the chain is worn and ready to break open, the car cannot be pulled properly
and will break. The meaning of this proverb is simple: if you have a team of people competing and everyone must participate to
win, all team members must be strong and not have weaknesses. If there is a weakness, it affects the entire team.
Frequency of usage: frequently

A clean desk is sign of a sick man


This was obviously started by a man who didn’t like to have an organized desk. It is mildly humorous because it is in direct
opposition to what you might think. The implication is that if you have a messy desk, you are normal. Only those who clean
their desks are abnormal.
Frequency of usage: often

A diamond is a girl's best friend


This is a very popular phrase (among women). Women around the world tend to like jewelry. The more jewelry a woman has,
or so it is thought, the more her man cares about her. Since a diamond is a status symbol, it is something that she cherishes. It
is her best friend. Men, on the other hand, often refer to a diamond as a rock.
Frequency of usage: frequently

A fool and his money soon part


This proverb was made popular by either W.C. Fields or P.T. Barnum. Its wisdom is in its simplicity. Foolish people do foolish
things with their money and the clever man will take advantage of it.
Frequency of usage: often

A penny for your thoughts


This is not a proverb so much as it is a way of asking what another person is thinking. In other words, I’ll give you a penny if
you tell me what you’re thinking. It was originally said when the penny was actually worth more than it is today. I believe
women use this phrase more than men. You will hear it just as it is written with no other words added.
Frequency of usage: often

A penny saved is a penny earned


Benjamin Franklin wrote this proverb early in American history. The idea is simple: if you save money, it will be beneficial in the
long term because you are helping yourself for the future.
Frequency of usage: often

A picture paints a thousand words


This proverb is often said when words are not sufficient to describe what you are seeing. Perhaps it is a sunset or a beautiful
painting or a stunning photograph. In other words, even 1000 words couldn’t describe what you are now seeing.
Frequency of usage: frequently

A rose by any other name is still a rose


This proverb means that it doesn’t matter what name you give it, beautiful is beautiful. It can be a flower or a person or a work
of art.
Frequency of usage: often

A smile is contagious
This is a very popular saying in America. There is no hidden meaning. It simply means that when you smile, it affects other
people. Often they will smile back at you. Before you know it, everyone is smiling and they may not really know why.

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Frequency of usage: often

A stitch in time saves nine


This is a handy proverb. It means that if you repair something small on a garment, for instance, it will save you from having to
repair something larger later. It has widespread usage throughout America. It doesn’t always apply to clothing. Essentially, if
you repair something small now, you will not have to repair it if it gets larger.
Frequency of usage: often

A watched pot never boils


If you’ve ever waited for a pot of water to boil, it takes forever. If, however, you do something else while the water is on the
stove, the water will boil soon enough. It speaks about the impatience we have when it comes to small things.
Frequency of usage: often

Absolute power corrupts absolutely


This phrase was coined many years ago and is still true today. When a person or a government has absolute power over
things that are done, who is there to question its activities? No one. Absolute and unchecked power is dangerous.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Actions speak louder than words


Doing something is far more significant than just saying you’ll do it. Our words carry more weight when we do what we say
we’ll do. For instance, if I said, the world needs more hospitals, it’s nice, but unless I’m willing to go and build new hospitals,
my words are empty and meaningless.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Add a little spice to your life


This phrase just means that if you are living a boring life, sometimes you need to do something out of the ordinary that will
bring new life into your life. Unfortunately, many have taken this phrase too far by participating in immoral and criminal
activities. Certainly there is added ‘spice’ but sometimes that spice comes with unwanted consequences.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

All dressed up and no place to go


This is usually said about a person who dresses up but for some reason cannot go where he / she intended to go originally.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

All that glitters is not gold


This is a phrase we use to mean that just because something is flashy and wealthy looking doesn’t mean that it’s great to
have. For instance, many people dream about being a movie star. While there are obvious benefits, there are also many
problems. You are constantly under the public microscope, someone wants your autograph wherever you go, people camp out
at your house just to get a photo, you are expected to act a certain way, and many others. So, all that glitters (movie star
lifestyle) is not gold.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

All's fair in love and war


According to this proverb, there are two thing that are exempt from rules, love and war. War is obvious because with weaponry
and people who want to kill, there can be no rules. With love, though, it’s different or it should be. Because love is such a
powerful emotion and experience it falls into the same category. Supposedly there are no ‘rules’ in love either. This proverb is
usually said after something hurtful has been said.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

An apple a day keeps the doctor away


Doctors have disliked this proverb for years because it minimizes what people should do to maintain their health. This is
usually said when eating…an apple. It is often said to children.

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Frequency of usage: sometimes

Another day, another dollar


This phrase is usually said after a hard day at work and with little to show for it. It has a depressing sense to it.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Beauty is in eye of the beholder


This is a proverb that is used quite a bit about things. On occasion we would say it about people. What one person finds
attractive, someone else may find completely unattractive. This often relates to art. Two people can look at the same painting
and both have opposite reactions to its ‘beauty.’ Likewise, men might find a woman attractive based on specific features, while
others (who know more about the woman than just mere physical features) might find the woman repulsive.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Beauty is only skin deep


This phrase is related to the previous proverb. It means that physical appearances are deceptive. What remains after viewing
the physical is what is important.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Beggars can't be choosers


You might also hear the word ‘choosy’ at the end of this phrase. They are identical. It means that if a gift is given to you, you
are not at liberty to select a better gift. For instance, if a child wants a sweet snack and the parent gives him one, the child may
say that he didn’t want that one but another. It is then that the parent will say, ‘beggars can’t be choosers (choosy).’
Frequency of usage: often

Behind every successful man


The full phrase is behind every successful man is a woman (or a wife). The phrase implies that a woman (or a wife) had a lot to
do with the man’s success.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Believe none of what you hear, and only half of what you see
Since rumors are plentiful in all areas of life, you would be advised to believe none of what you hear. And because your eyes
sometimes don’t see the full picture of a situation, question what you do see.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Better to let sleeping dogs lie


This phrase simply means that if something is bigger and meaner than you are, it is best to leave it alone. In other words, if it
isn’t hurting anything, why bother it?
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Big boast little roast


This proverb means that a person brags about what he does and has little to show for it. He may say that he was a star athlete
in school but if he has no awards or trophies to prove it, he is probably bragging about things that he hasn’t ever done.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Big things come in small packages


Usually you will hear this about people who are small, children mainly. You are genuinely surprised when a child does
something that would be appropriate for someone 10 years older or so. This phrase is also used about small babies because
of the tremendous joy it brings a parent.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Bury the hatchet

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If someone asks you to ‘bury the hatchet,’ he wants to forget about something that has happened in the past. Since he and you
are living in the present, it doesn’t do any good to bring up past hurts.
Frequency of usage:

By hook or by crook
This phrase means that one way or another I will make an effort to get something done. I will do whatever is necessary.
Frequency of usage: often

Call a spade a spade


When you call a spade (one of the four shapes on playing cards) a spade, you will not use euphemisms or flowery language.
You see something for what it is. It is clear to you and you will use language that shows you know what it is. For example, if
you don’t like to dance you will not give excuses for not wanting to dance. Instead, you will be vocal about you not liking to
dance.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Children are to be seen and not heard


This proverb is typically spoken to children. This is stated when children speak while adults are speaking, an adult – usually a
parent, says this as a playful reminder that children are children and adults are adults. Children should not interrupt an adult’s
conversation
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Do as I say, not as I do
This phrase is mostly used by parents to their children. It comes from experience but it also can be hypocritical. For instance, if
a parent tells a child that smoking is bad for their health but continues to smoke, the parent might use this phrase, perhaps with
an apology.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you


This proverb is taken from the Bible. Normally you will only hear the first three words: do unto others. The remaining text is
implied. It means that you always treat others according to how you would want to be treated.
Frequency of usage: often

Don't beat around the bush


When you hear somebody ‘beating around the bush,’ they are perhaps trying to avoid talking about something specific. For
whatever reason, they have avoided the topic but have said a lot about the subject. The person who says this usually
recognizes it in the other person’s speech.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Don't burn your bridges


When you ‘burn your bridges’ you are cutting off ties or connections. In the literal sense of the word, you can no longer cross
over the water. In the figurative meaning you are willfully disengaging yourself from another person or group of people. For
instance, if a company fires you, you may not ever want to deal with the company again. However, because the company has
a powerful influence in your industry, you may not want to burn your bridges. You may not be best friends with those who fired
you, but you may want to maintain a friendly relationship…just in case you may need them again in the future. Often, when a
person burns his bridges he will do something very deliberate such as a nasty phone call or letter stating his dissatisfaction.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater


This phrase is formed from a generalization and often a jump in logic. You are throwing out the good with the bad For instance,
if I have a bad experience with one particular airline, I might say, ‘I’m never flying again. All airlines are out to stick it their its
passengers.’ You are throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Why? Well, because you had one bad experience with one
airline, you are not going to fly ever again. You are throwing out the good with the bad. A more rational solution would be never
to fly that particular airline again.

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Frequency of usage: frequently

Early to bed, early to rise


This phrase is attributed to Benjamin Franklin. The full proverb is this: early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy
and wise.
Frequency of usage: often

End of every rainbow is a pot of gold


This is a saying that every parent states to their children. At the end of the rainbow there is a pot of gold. Children sometimes
will chase after that rainbow to find the gold. There is no hidden meaning behind the phrase.
Frequency of usage: often

Familiarity breeds contempt


This is an interesting phrase because of its truthfulness. It means that the more you get to know someone, the more likely
you’ll be able to find faults with him.
Frequency of usage: often

Finders keepers, loser weepers


This is said when something of value is found, usually money. If he found it, he can keep it. It doesn’t matter where he found it.
The point is that he found it.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Give him an inch…


The full phrase is ‘give him an inch and he’ll take a mile.’ It means that after you allow somebody to do something small, he
uses it to his advantage by going further than you intended. For instance, if you put somebody in charge of watching over a
small project, the leadership may go to his head for other projects that he is not leading. He may think that because you were
in charge of one project that all other projects need his supervision.
Frequency of usage: often

Give someone enough rope


The full phrase to this proverb is ‘give someone enough rope and he’ll hang himself.’ The meaning is this: some people are
determined to do what they want to do even when it destroys others. Sometimes it’s best to just sit back and watch him
because eventually he’ll humiliate or embarrass himself.
Frequency of usage:

Hardest instrument in the world to play is second fiddle


This is a figurative statement meant to imply, for instance, that being Vice President of a company is always harder than being
President because the VP is so close to the top. In music, being second chair is difficult because you are so close to being the
best in your section.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Haste makes waste


This is a wise saying that is almost always true. If you hurry to complete a project, you might be wasting a lot of time if you
have to redo it because of mistakes or flaws. So, as we say, in the long run, it is better to take your time than to do a poor job.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Have a nice trip, see you next fall


This phrase has two meanings. The literal meaning is used less. It means you are going on a trip and someone is wishing you
a pleasant Autumn. The more popular meaning is what you might jokingly say to a person if he stumbles in front of you. The
person does not have to actually fall on the ground to say it. Trip is a word that means stumble.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

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He who laughs last laughs hardest


Picture two people boxing. If Boxer A knocks Boxer B down, Boxer A might laugh at Boxer B’s situation. While getting up,
Boxer B might say, ‘He who laughs last laughs hardest.’ As he stumbles to his feet, Boxer B’s wife come into the ring and slugs
Boxer A, knocking him down. Now Boxer B has the last laugh (regardless of how unrealistic it sounds). It’s usually said of an
underdog or someone who is losing but knows that he will be victorious.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

He's not heavy, he's my brother


This is the theme of Boys Town, a school for boys designed to help the less fortunate. The story goes that one boy was
carrying another boy on his back and somebody asked about the situation. Couldn’t the other boy walk himself? Isn’t he
heavy? The response was, ‘he’s not heavy; he’s my brother.’ It means that a ‘brother’ is not a burden if he’s a brother. ‘Brother’
is a figurative term in this case meaning someone in the brotherhood of mankind.
Frequency of usage: sometimes to rarely

Hindsight is 20/20
This is usually spoken after all the facts are in. When you look back at a situation you can see where you made mistakes.
While you were in the situation it was not apparent what to do. Looking back you know exactly what you should have done.
20/20 speaks about physical eyesight or vision. 20/20 is standard vision.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Home is where you hang your hat


This phrase simply means that when you are home you can relax and ‘let down your guard.’ You don’t have to worry about
impressing people or being polite when you don’t want to be polite (for example). You are free to be you at home.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

I couldn't do that for love of money


You can substitute the word wouldn’t for couldn’t and the meaning would be the same. It means that no amount of money
would be enough for you to do X. For instance, many would say this about trash collectors. The work is difficult, smelly, and
often bemeaning to a person. In other words, if someone paid you a million USD a year to collect garbage, it wouldn’t be
enough.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

If at first you don't succeed, try try again


This is a very popular saying. It means that you shouldn’t give up if you experience failure. Try until you get it right. Parents
often tell their children this.
Frequency of usage: often

If it works, don't fix it


This phrase speaks to a lot of men. Men tend to want mechanical things to work perfectly. They call it ‘tweaking.’ It is to fine-
tune something. More often than not, when they tweak something, it becomes completely unusable because in the end, they
break something that wasn’t broken already..
Frequency of usage: often

If the shoe fits, wear it


This phrase can be rephrased to say ‘if this applies to you, do it.’ For instance, I tell people that I’m a writer. Most people find it
puzzling because they dislike writing even simple letters. When I tell them I actually like the process of writing, they might say,
‘if the shoe fits wear it.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

If you don't like the heat get out of the kitchen

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This can be rephrased as ‘you are not required to do something you can’t handle.’ I recall that I said this to a foreigner who
was living in America but was always finding things wrong with the land he chose to live in. When I said it, I even surprised
myself because it was a harsh thing to say. A few years later when I was in a similar situation in a foreign country the phrase
came back to me. If I thought everything about the country was bad, I was free to leave.
Frequency of usage: often

If you make your bed, you must sleep in it


‘You caused this mess, now you must deal with it’ is the essence of this phrase. It rarely applies to a literal bed. It almost
always applies to situations that you caused.
Frequency of usage: often

If you want to dance you have to pay the fiddler


Everything in life has a cost. Sometimes that cost is great. Sometimes the cost is consequences to actions. If a 16-year old is
thrown into jail because he was caught stealing something, the police will call his parents’ house. To teach him a lesson, the
parents might let him stay overnight at the police station holding cell. They might even say to him ‘If you want to dance you
have to pay the fiddler.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Ignorance is bliss
This phrase is used when somebody is not informed about a particular subject that everyone is talking about. Perhaps it’s too
complicated of a subject. Perhaps he just didn’t know about it. Essentially it means ‘if I don’t know about something, it is better
for me.’
Frequency of usage: often

Knock on wood
This is a superstition you will hear often. It is likely to be followed by 2-3 knocks of a fist on wood. It’s a way that people have to
keep their good fortune from turning bad. For example, a conversation can go like this: How’s your health these days? I heard
that you were in the hospital recently.’ ‘So far, not too bad, knock on wood. The doctor is pleased with my progress. Often you
may not even hear ‘knock on wood.’ The person will just physically knock on the nearest wooden object without saying it.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Laugh and the world laughs with you; cry and you cry alone
This is a true proverb. It is primarily used in situations where a person is grieving. Basically it means that no one else knows
what this pain is like.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Lead, follow or get out of the way


The founder of CNN, Ted Turner, made this saying popular. He might have even coined it. It’s taken from a larger statement:
there are three types of people in this world, those who lead, those who follow, and those who are standing in the way.
Incidentally, I have only heard leaders use this phrase.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Let bygones be bygones


This phrase means ‘let’s not worry about the past. In fact, let’s forget the past and deal with the future.’
Frequency of usage: often

Like father, like son


More than 30 years ago there was a very influential commercial that, without saying a word, describes this proverb. The scene
was a father and son enjoying a day under a large tree. The son imitated the father in how he walked, arm gestures and finally
when they were seated, the father took out a pack of cigarettes. The commercial ended with the son picking up the pack of
cigarettes to examine it. This phrase is used when it is apparent that the son takes after a father in actions and mannerisms.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

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Live and let live


A simplified way of saying this is: ‘Let it go. You can’t do anything about it now. Don’t trouble yourself worrying over it.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Look at the pot calling the kettle black


This saying is used when it is clear that one person or organization is doing exactly what they are against. Because this is used
so often, a few examples will help explain it. For example,
Frequency of usage: frequently

Look before you leap


This phrase means that you should be careful before you do something that you might regret later. For instance, if a girl really
likes a boy who has a bad reputation, someone might use this phrase to warn her. In other words, he might not be as
appealing as he looks.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Love is blind
This phrase is normally to mean that when a person loves another person, that love blinds him to obvious faults and flaws of
the other person. In other words, if Jim likes Anna despite the fact that Anna is obnoxious and demanding, we would shake our
heads and mutter that love is truly blind. Love has blinded Jim to Anna’s faults. Either he has ignored them or he cannot see
them.
Frequency of usage: often

Misery knows no company


This means that no one really knows what it’s like to go through what other people go through, especially when the situation is
tough. We all go through tough times but none of us truly knows what it’s like to go through that particular situation. We haven’t
walked in that person’s shoes.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Moss doesn't grow on a rolling stone


This phrase generally refers to an active or busy person. This person does not get bored or stay in one place for a long period.
He or she must be always moving around.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Necessity is the mother of invention


Many languages have a phrase similar to this in them. This simply means that somebody invented something out of necessity.
For instance, after a writing instrument such as a pen or pencil was created, society needed something to write on. Over the
years paper has developed into what it is today out of necessity.
Frequency of usage: often

No pain, no gain
This phrase is used a lot among athletes. The general theory is that if you work your body to the point that you are in pain, you
are doing something good for it. If you are not experiencing pain then you aren’t working hard enough.
Frequency of usage: often

Nothing ventured, nothing gained


This means that if you don’t try something you’ll never know if it will work or not. Granted, you may fail at it but you would never
know because you didn’t try.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

One for the money


This comes from a longer phrase, which was originally part of a song, ‘One for the Money, Two for the Show, Three to get
Ready, and Four to go.’ I’ve heard it as a way to count (usually to three). It’s not spoken much anymore.

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Frequency of usage: rarely

One good turn deserves another


This is similar to the Boy Scouts’ slogan: ‘Do a Good Turn Daily.’ A ‘turn’ is a deed or an action committed. It’s spoken when
someone sees that is being done right and wished another could follow quickly.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Out of the frying pan and into the fire


This means that you are going from a difficult situation to a very difficult situation. You are under pressure and you go towards
something with even more pressure involved.
Frequency of usage: Regularly

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones


This means that you shouldn’t be so quick to judge someone, especially if you are in a similar situation. If you lived in a glass
house you wouldn’t want someone to throw a stone at your house.
Frequency of usage: often

Practice what you preach


What you are saying is different than what you are doing. You your self should do what you are telling others to do.
Frequency of usage: often

Put up or shut up
This is often said in a card game. Perhaps a player is talking too much and it’s his turn to play but he’s boasting about his
hand. Someone might tell him to put up or shut up. It’s a funny way of telling a person to make a decision.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Putting a square peg in a round hole


You are trying to make something fit that just does not fit. For instance, if I tell you that you should become a public speaker
and you are terrified every time you stand up to speak, that’s putting a square peg in a round hole. You may one day become a
great speaker but now there’s just no way of doing it.
Frequency of usage: often

Real men don't eat quiche


This phrase was much more popular in the 1980s. Many people were publicly stating what ‘real men’ could and couldn’t do.
This phrase was the most popular. Quiche is an egg dish.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Right track, wrong train


You will hear this often. It means that you are close to a solution or an answer but there’s something flawed with your
reasoning or thinking. For example, …..
Frequency of usage: frequently

Road to hell is paved with good intentions


This is an interesting phrase. It means that your good intentions don’t mean anything unless you put those into action. The idea
behind this is that people frequently ‘intend’ to get their lives right with God but never do.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Seeing is believing
This is a phrase that is fairly closely related to the words. It simply means that I won’t believe something until I can visually see
it with my own eyes.
Frequency of usage: often

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Signed sealed and delivered


This means, ‘the deal is done. There’s nothing left to do.’ It’s usually spoken at the end of a business deal but can be used
elsewhere to mean ‘it’s done.’
Frequency of usage: often

Six in one half, half dozen in the other


This is used often to mean, it doesn’t really matter how you do something, the end result will be the same. ‘You can pay by
cash or credit: six in one half, half dozen in the other.’
Frequency of usage: frequently

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you
This phrase is used by children mostly but an abbreviated form can be found among adults. This means that if someone calls
you names, it’s nothing because at least they didn’t throw anything at you. It’s just a name they called you. As adults, we might
say, ‘sticks and stones, sticks and stones. That’s all that is.’ It means essentially the same thing.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Take a picture, it lasts longer


I used to say this as a child. When someone is staring at you, you might say this. Essentially it means, ‘It’s rude to stare at me.
Please don’t do that.’
Frequency of usage: often

Talk is cheap
This phrase is usually spoken about someone who brags a lot. It means that you can’t believe what a person says. Only
actions mean something. One person may say a lot but it doesn’t actually mean that he’ll do anything about it.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

The bigger they come, the harder they fall


This used to be associated only with fighting and boxing but it has found more usage in everyday conversation. It means that if
you are large and you fail, you’ll fall harder than someone who is smaller and falls. Perhaps you’re a large company. When you
fail, you will hit the ground harder than a smaller business failing.
Frequency of usage: often

The boss is always right


Two rules of business: 1. The boss is always right, and 2) if the boss is wrong, see rule #1. It used to be that no one ever
argued with the boss because he was the boss. You can argue but ultimately the boss is the boss and in his mind always right.
Frequency of usage: frequently

The buck stops here


This means ‘the responsibility is with me.’ This phrase was coined during the Harry Truman presidency and he took the
responsibility for right or wrongdoing. It means to take responsibility for your actions.
Frequency of usage: often

The squeaky wheel gets the grease


People who are noisy and bothersome usually get the most attention.
Frequency of usage: often

There are no foxhole atheists


This phrase has been made popular recently because of war. If you are fighting a war, you are praying and asking God for help
and protection. When you are being shot at, you want a higher power to protect you. You do not have the luxury of not
believing in God.
Frequency of usage: often

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There is no place like home


It’s always good to be home no matter where home is. Wherever home is, there’s no place like it in the world. It can mean as
large as a country or as small as a room in a house.
Frequency of usage: often

There is none so blind as one who will not see


This is a proverb that is not difficult to understand. If the truth has be set before you and you refuse to believe it, you are more
blind than a blind man. The problem isn’t the truth. The problem is that you don’t want to believe the truth.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

There's a light at the end of the tunnel


Despite all of the darkness that you have experienced, you can see the end of the darkness. The standard joke to this is, ‘I
hope the light I see at the end of the tunnel is not the train!’
Frequency of usage: often

There's a silver lining in every cloud


This means that despite of all the adversity you have been through, you can see good that has come out of it. You learned a
lesson and it stands out to you. It’s a silver lining.
Frequency of usage: often

To add insult to injury


When you add insult to injury, you are making matters worse. Not only was I involved in a car accident but the police officer on
the scene wrote me a ticket for speeding in dangerous conditions. That’s adding insult (ticket) to injury (accident).
Frequency of usage: frequently

Too many chiefs and not enough Indians


This can also be phrased, ‘too many bosses and not enough workers.’
Frequency of usage:

Two's company, three's a crowd


This phrase is said when a third party joins a couple. One of the couple might say this to get rid of the third party. Perhaps the
conversation is private. It’s effective but not polite.
Frequency of usage: often

Waste not, want not


This is a phrase often used by mothers to tell their children that they shouldn’t waste things, especially food. It was more
popular 40 years ago.
Frequency of usage: rarely

What you see is what you get


This phrase means that you are not hiding anything. If you see some character flaw about me, then that’s just too bad. Sorry
but I can’t change. More so, I won’t change.
Frequency of usage: often

Whatever turns you on


This is a phrase that has many similar sister phrases. It means that one person’s likes are very different than another person’s.
For example, if I like Kentucky Bluegrass music, my best friend may like Rock and Roll. It usually refers a very specific thing
someone does. The most popular of these phrases, ‘hey, if it works for you.’ ‘Whatever trips your trigger,’ and ‘whatever floats
your boat’ are two more popular phrases.
Frequency of usage: often

When it rains it pours

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This phrase is often used when bad times come along in someone’s life. One bad thing on top of another leads to ‘when it
rains, it pours.’
Frequency of usage: often

Where the rubber meets the road


This idiom is used to mean practical steps. Perhaps you’ve spoken theoretically for a long time. ‘Now, this is where the rubber
meets the road.’ Here are the actions you need to take to solve this problem of yours.
Frequency of usage: often

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink
This means that you can show a person time and again a solution to the problem but that person has to take action. You can’t
do it in his place.
Frequency of usage: often

You can see the writing on the walls


This phrase has its roots in the Holy Bible and King Nebuchadnezzar. The Finger of God wrote on a wall some very specific
things about what was to come for the King. Similarly, ‘reading the writing on the walls’ means to interpret events as you see
them. For example: If an employer has been telling his employees that the company needs to cut back and you know you
haven’t been meeting his expectations, you can see the writing on the wall that your position may be cut.
Frequency of usage: often

You can take the boy out of the country but you can't take the country out of the boy
If a man or woman leaves the country, the country (and its unique cultural traits) will remain with the person no matter where
the person travels. This phrase is usually said after the person does something that resembles what he would do if he were still
in the country. For instance, if a businessman (former country boy) gets out of a cab and wants to take all the luggage to the
hotel from the cab (and ignoring the people paid to help him), someone might use this phrase. Taking all the luggage he might
do if he were still wearing jeans and a cowboy hat on a farm.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

You can't fight City Hall


This phrase is normally said in resignation of the fact that government at all levels is powerful. If you try to go against
government, it can cost you a lot of time and money and you still might not win. You’ve given up all hope of winning.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

You scratch my back; I'll scratch yours


This phrase means that if you do something for me I’ll do something for you. It should be an even tradeoff. Often it deals with
questionable activities.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

RHYMES
Better dead than red
This phrase isn’t used much anymore. It was very popular in the U.S. – Soviet Cold War era. Someone might say this if would
rather die than be a communist. It is probably hyperbole.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Bigwig
A Bigwig is slang for an important person, usually a head of an organization or company. ‘The Bigwigs are meeting today’
means that the top officers in a company have gathered to meet. You probably wouldn’t hear someone use it in front of a
‘Bigwig.’
Frequency of usage: often

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Bling bling
Bling bling is the newest term for money and expensive things such as jewelry and other expensive possessions. It is typically
used in Black American culture.
Frequency of usage: often

Cheat sheet
A cheat sheet is a small piece of paper with answers to test questions on it. It may also be a sheet of paper a speaker uses to
give a speech. He may even refer to it as his ‘cheat sheet’ because he’s not giving the speech without notes.
Frequency of usage: often

Criss-cross
To criss-cross means to go from one corner to the diagonal corner. It has the idea of going back and forth. It can also mean
that two people on two opposing corners cross in front of each other. /////illustrate/////
Frequency of usage: often

Even steven
Even steven means that you and someone else owe each other nothing. All debts and obligations have been paid.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Fair and square


This phrase essentially means honestly. I won the card game fair and square. I didn’t cheat. I didn’t use tricks. I won it
honestly.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Fender bender
A fender bender is an automobile accident. Usually it’s a small accident where the front or rear fender of a car gets dented a
little. A major fender bender would be heavy damage to vehicles.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Flip flop
A flip flop is a reversal of some sort. One day you said one thing; the next day you said the exact opposite. You flip flopped.
Flip flops are also the ‘shoes’ you wear on a beach.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Goody two shoes


This refers to a person that others think is better than the rest. It can be in the form of Miss or Mister Goody Two Shoes. It is
negative in meaning. If accused, people will deny that they are Goody Two Shoes.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Hanky panky
Hanky panky is a general reference to mischievous activities. It can also be a playful reference to sex.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Heebee geebees
If someone has the heebee geebees it means that he has heard about or seen something creepy or scary. You know it when
you feel it. It’s a sensation and a feeling. We might also say that we had ‘shivers up and down the spine’ when you heard the
same news. ‘I had the Gee Willikers’ is also used to mean the same thing.
Frequency of usage: often

Helter skelter
This simply means ‘in chaotic disorder.’ We often use this with the verb ‘to run.’ It means aimlessly.

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Frequency of usage: sometimes

Hodgepodge
A hodgepodge is a mix of things, many of which are unrelated. If you have a printer, a pencil, carpet and a lamp, it is a
hodgepodge of office items. They can be related or not.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Hootchy-kootchy
Hootchy-kootchy can be a number of things. It can mean general mischievous activities as in ‘what’s all the hootchy-kootchy
going on in here?’ It can be what parents say when they tickle their children. The third meaning is similar to the first. It means
mischievous or mysterious sexual activity. It’s not used much anymore but you’ll hear it on occasion, usually with the first
meaning.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Hot to trot
This is normally directed towards a woman who is flirtatious and looking for a man. If you were in a bar and asked if she
wanted to come home with you, she would.
Frequency of usage: often
Hustle and bustle
Hustle and bustle is lots and lots of activity. It speaks of hectic activity. Normally we speak of the ‘hustle and bustle of the
Christmas season.’
Frequency of usage: often

Joe Blow
‘Joe Blow’ is the term we use when are talking about any person. We have no particular person in mind when we say that
name. ‘So, let’s say Joe Blow has $20 to spend on chocolate. What should he buy?’ It’s another way of saying someone.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Left high and dry


If someone has been left ‘high and dry’ he committed himself to doing something with others but he is the only one in the end
who actually did it. The others left him high and dry. If three people decide to rob a bank. One person goes in and gets the
money. The others stay outside looking for the police and driving the getaway car. If the bank robber goes outside and the two
are gone, the robber has been left ‘high and dry.’
Frequency of usage: often

Lo and behold
This essentially means ‘look and see!’ It’s a phrase of pleasant surprise at what you are seeing.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Made in the shade


We tend to use this phrase with the words, ‘we’ve got it made in the shade.’ It means ‘all is easy now, we have no worries.’
This is especially true after a promotion or winning a large prize. It can also be used as sarcasm when we win something small.
Frequency of usage: often

Moan and groan


This means complaining. A similar word is ‘bellyaching.’
Frequency of usage: often

Mumbo jumbo
Mumbo jumbo generally means nonsense talk. The topic can be serious but if a person talks nonsense throughout, it’s mumbo
jumbo. If what the person is saying doesn’t make sense based on the topic, he’s speaking mumbo jumbo. Perhaps it’s
deceptive talk or lies. Anytime someone says something you don’t agree with, it can be mumbo jumbo to you.

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Frequency of usage: often

Nitty gritty
Grit is fine dirt. If someone has grit, he can do some very difficult task. When you ‘get down to the nitty gritty,’ you are doing the
hard details. You are taking the time and energy to see that the job is done well and no detail has been overlooked. You will
almost hear it as ‘get down to the nitty gritty.’
Frequency of usage: often

Okey dokey
Okey dokey is a fun way of saying okay. Adults are saying it more often. It is very informal.
Frequency of usage: often

Palsy walsy
This means ‘friends’ as in friends with. Pal is the root word. A pal is a friend. It’s usually used in a slightly negative context.
‘He’s been palsy walsy with the boss.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Phony baloney
Phony baloney means false or phony. You might hear it as ‘it’s a bunch of phony baloney.’ Baloney, a variant in the spelling of
the meat called bologna, when spoken in an exclamatory manner means ‘that’s totally false’ or ‘I don’t believe a word of that.’
The phrase is not used much anymore. Baloney, however, is used as a tame version of a curse word.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Razzle dazzle
Razzle dazzle has to do with fakery or deception. A razzle dazzle in the game of American football means that the ball will be
passed or given to several team members on the same play in order to fool the opponent. If you’ve been given the ‘ol’ razzle
dazzle’ it means you’ve been deceived.
Frequency of usage: often

Rinky dink operation


This simply means small. A small company. A small store. A small organization. You might hear it as ‘rinky dinky.’
Frequency of usage:

So so
Not good, not bad. Not hot, not cold. Not the best, not the worst. Mediocre. In the middle. Another phrase might be ‘middle of
the road.’
Frequency of usage: frequently

Straight and narrow


The straight and narrow refers to reform you are now undergoing, a change towards the good. This is a phrase that is taken
from the New Testament. Broad is the road that leads to destruction and many go therein. But narrow is the road that lead to
life and few go therein. From now on, he’s going on the straight and narrow.
Frequency of usage: often

Super duper
Someone might use super duper to emphasize the word Super. It’s a fun and silly way of emphasizing it.
Frequency of usage:

Topsy-turvy
Topsy-turvy is rarely used now but it means turmoil. If everything is topsy-turvy in your life, there are probably six or seven
major things happening at once. Your life’s chaotic.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

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Wear and tear


Wear and tear is what happens over time to things. Cars break down. Furniture breaks down. After much usage, things break
down. ‘General wear and tear’ means the everyday wearing down of parts and equipment.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Wheel and deal


Salesmen like to wheel and deal. Perhaps they’ll show you the best of their product and will negotiate with you so that you’ll
buy it. Anyone who is negotiating can be wheeling and dealing.
Frequency of usage: often

Willy nilly
This phrase means ‘in no specific order’ or ‘chaotic.’ There is no plan in place to implement it. We might also say the person
was ‘shooting from the hip.’
Frequency of usage: often

Wine and dine


When someone wines and dines you, he is showing you his absolute best. It could be for a date or for a job. For a job,
management might fly you in and put you in the finest hotel. The people wining and dining you are trying to impress you.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Wishy-washy
Wishy washy means someone who is not decided one way or another about a particular subject. At any moment his mind can
change.
Frequency of usage: often

Ya snooze, ya lose
This is still very popular. It means that if you hesitate, you just may miss out on something. A small example is this, if you are
eating dinner but talking to someone for a long time beside you. If you don’t take the last piece of meat while you have a
chance, someone else might.
Frequency of usage: often

SIMILE
Most of these similes are self-explanatory in that they relate to the adjective or adjectival noun they are being compared to. For
instance, ‘as black as soot or coal’ can only mean that whatever is being described is black. There is no gray or lighter shade
of black. It is black.
Often the similes can be heard one of two ways: ‘busy as a beaver’ or ‘busier than a beaver.’ Those two phrases are identical
in meaning.

A tongue worse than a sailor


Sailors are not known for having ‘clean’ tongues. A similar way of saying the same thing is often heard. He has a tongue that
would make a sailor blush. This means that the sailor’s tongue is tame or clean when compared to that person.
Frequency of usage: frequently

As American as apple pie


Apple pie is pure American. Just like the game of baseball is purely American. Using this phrase means that there is absolutely
no foreign influence in the making of the product. A company can be as American as apple pie. People can be as American as
apple pie. In this instance, it means that the person was born, raised and will probably die in America.
Frequency of usage: frequently

As bald as a baby's butt

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I’ve heard this used in reference to automobile tires. A tire that is ‘bald’ does not have any tread left on it. It may not have good
traction at all. It’s not used much and certainly not in polite company.
Frequency of usage: rarely

As black as soot/coal
This is someone or something that is entirely black. Soot is the substance that remains when you burn coal.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

As blind as a bat
A bat uses its sonar to detect objects. Essentially it is blind when using its eyes. This is almost always referred to people, and
very often to referees in sports, especially when they make what the fans think is bad judgment.
Frequency of usage: frequently

As blue as the sky


This means exactly what it reads. It’s blue.
Frequency of usage: frequently

As bold as a lion
This refers almost always to a courageous person.
Frequency of usage: frequently

As busy as a beaver
This refers to a very busy person as beavers are perceived to be very busy animals when building dams.
Frequency of usage: frequently

As clean as a whistle
This often refers to a ‘clean bill of health’ from a doctor. It can also mean any small thing that is really clean upon inspection.
Frequency of usage: often

As clear as a bell
This refers to something that is obvious and understandable. It’s opposite is ‘it’s as clear as mud.’ When a bell rings, it makes a
very distinct and understandable tone. Surprisingly, this is heard a lot.
Frequency of usage: frequently

As clear as mud
This is a sarcastic way of saying that you don’t understand something. It is the direct opposite of ‘as clear as a bell.’
Frequency of usage: often

As cold as ice
Usually this simile refers to people who are stern or mean when spoken to. Perhaps the person is angry and doesn’t want to
talk to you. On the other hand, someone who is warm would be someone you could talk to for hours.
Frequency of usage: often

As cool as a cucumber
Cool in this phrase means calm. Someone who is as cool as a cucumber is very good under pressure. We might also say he
‘keeps his head.’
Frequency of usage: often

As crooked as a politician

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Politicians in every country and probably in every town and village are dishonest. Not every politician is dishonest but many
are. Crooked in this phrase means dishonest. The implication is that something straight is honest. Something crooked or bent
is dishonest.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

As cute as a peach
This generally refers to college aged girls (and younger) or children. It is a compliment.
Frequency of usage: often

As cute as a pumpkin
This phrase refers to children. It is a compliment to them. If you say it about a woman, she might hit you because it might not
be a compliment.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

As dark as the night


You will hear this as ‘as black as the night’ or as ‘dark as the night.’ There is no hidden meaning in it.
Frequency of usage: often

As easy as pie
This means easy or uncomplicated. It usually refers to a task. You might also hear ‘as easy as 1-2-3.’
Frequency of usage: frequently

As fast as greased lightning


This simply means very fast.
Frequency of usage: often

As fast as lightning
This simply means very fast.
Frequency of usage: often

As fit as a fiddle
A doctor might say this after he examines a baby. The full phrase is ‘as fit as a fiddle and ready for loving.’ A fiddle is another
word for a violin.
Frequency of usage: often

As flat as a pancake
This means flat. It is often used in reference to a car tire being flat. It can also be used about people when they are hit and
knocked down.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

As God as my witness
This doesn’t qualify as a simile but you will hear it. When someone is trying to convince others of his innocence, he will use this
to prove that even if he were to go before God, he is telling the truth. You also might hear ‘Boy Scout Honor,’ ‘Scouts Honor,’ or
‘Cross my heart.’ Children generally use these three phrase and others as they learn them.
Frequency of usage: often

As good as gold
This means that what a person says can be trusted. If MaryAnne said she will be the pianist at the wedding, it’s as good as
gold.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

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As green as grass
Very green
Frequency of usage: often

As guilty as sin
Guilty.
Frequency of usage: frequently

As hairy as an ape
Very hairy.
Frequency of usage: often

As happy as a lark
Very happy.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

As happy as can be
Very happy.
Frequency of usage: often

As hard as nails
This usually refers to a very tough woman.
Frequency of usage: often

As hard as steel
Very hard.
Frequency of usage: often

As healthy as a horse
Very healthy.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

As hungry as a wolf
Very hungry.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

As light as a feather
Very light in weight.
Frequency of usage: often

As much help as a hangnail


This is sarcasm. It means a person was not helpful at all.
Frequency of usage: often

As naked as a jaybird
A person is wearing absolutely no clothing.
Frequency of usage: often

As old as dinosaur dust


Very old person

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Frequency of usage: often

As old as the hills


Very old person or thing.
Frequency of usage: often

As phony as a three dollar bill


Not authentic. This usually refers to a person who is not honest.
Frequency of usage: frequently

As plain as day
We use this very often. It means that it was very clear and obvious to me after someone pointed it out.
Frequency of usage: frequently

As plain as the nose on your face


This means ‘it should be obvious.’
Frequency of usage: often

As pleased as punch
This means ‘pleased or satisfied.’
Frequency of usage: often

As proud as a peacock
Very proud person.
Frequency of usage: often

As pure as gold
Very pure. Often refers to pure water.
Frequency of usage: often

As quiet as a church mouse


Very quiet.
Frequency of usage: often

As red as a beet
Very red. Often as a result of blushing (face).
Frequency of usage: often

As red as a fire truck


Very red. Often as a result of blushing (face).
Frequency of usage: often

As rough as sandpaper
Very course or rough. It refers to a surface such as a wall or skin.
Frequency of usage: often

As sharp as a marble
Sarcasm. Obviously a marble is not sharp. Therefore, this refers to someone who is not smart.
Frequency of usage: often

As slow as a snail

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Very slow.
Frequency of usage: often

As slow as Christmas
Very slow.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

As slow as molasses in January


Extremely slow.
Frequency of usage: often

As slow as the day is long


Very slow.
Frequency of usage: often

As sly as a fox
Refers to a very sly and cunning person
Frequency of usage: often

As smooth as a baby's butt


Very smooth. Often refers to worn car tires.
Frequency of usage: often

As smooth as oil
Very smooth. Can be a texture or an action that is flawless and smooth.
Frequency of usage: often

As smooth as silk
Very smooth. Can be a texture or an action that is flawless and smooth.
Frequency of usage: often

As snug as a bug in the rug


Very tight fitting.
Frequency of usage: rarely

As soft as a kitten
Very soft
Frequency of usage: sometimes

As solid as a rock
Very stable and solid
Frequency of usage: often

As steady as a rock
Very steady. Often in reference to a hand. It doesn’t shake. Sometimes the outstretched hand is simplified by saying ‘like a
rock.’
Frequency of usage: often

As stiff as a board
Very stiff.

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Frequency of usage: often

As straight as an arrow
Often refers to a person who is very moral and upright.
Frequency of usage: often

As stubborn as a mule/ox
Very stubborn. You will hear both variations
Frequency of usage: often

As thick as a book
Very thick
Frequency of usage: often

As thick as pea soup


Very thick. Often refers to fog or other bad weather.
Frequency of usage: frequently

As thin as a rail
Very thin.
Frequency of usage: often

As tight as a Scotsman
Very frugal in spending.
Frequency of usage: often

As white as a ghost
White. Refers to a person who has seen something unbelievable.
Frequency of usage: often

As white as a sheet
White
Frequency of usage: often

As wise as an owl
Very wise.
Frequency of usage: often

Blood is thicker than water


This has a complex meaning. It means that relatives are more difficult to ignore, hate or forget. You can tolerate a lot of things
if someone is a relative.
Frequency of usage: often

Cry like a baby


Cries a lot.
Frequency of usage: often

Dead as a doornail
This refers to anything that has stopped and is not working. It can refer to humans but it’s rude.
Frequency of usage: often

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Dropping like flies


This can mean falling down or dropping out. It means many people are falling down, usually because of the heat.
Frequency of usage: often

Drunker than a skunk


Very drunk
Frequency of usage: often

Float like a rock


Sarcasm. Rocks do not float well. They sink quickly.
Frequency of usage: often

His word is as good as gold


What a person says can be trusted. If Ivan said he will be the pianist at the wedding, it’s as good as gold.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

In like Flynn
This is a reference to Errol Flynn, a famous actor 50 years ago. It referred to his ability to get things done. If you’re in like
Flynn, it’s easy for you to get things done.
Frequency of usage: often

It leaks like a sieve


Something leaks badly
Frequency of usage: often

It works like a charm


This is synonymous to worked like magic. It means that you did x, y, and z (as you told me to do) and it worked perfectly.
Frequency of usage: often

It's just like clockwork


Something works exactly like it’s supposed to work
Frequency of usage: often

Kissing you is like kissing an ashtray


A commercial thirty years ago. It means I don’t like to kiss you when you smoke because you smell like an ashtray.
Frequency of usage: often

Lie like a rug


A very dishonest person. Someone who lies often.
Frequency of usage: often

Like a bull in a china shop


This refers to a person who is not delicate when he needs to be.
Frequency of usage: often

Like a drop in a bucket


Your little bit isn’t going to make a difference one way or another.
Frequency of usage: often

Like a fish out of water

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This refers to a person who feels out of place. Often the person is uncomfortable in that setting, as a fish would be out of water.
Frequency of usage: often

Like a hot knife cutting through butter


This refers to a very smooth action. It can also refer to something hot melting through something
Frequency of usage: often

Like a lump/bump on a log


This phrase is often said, ‘don’t just sit there like a bump on a log. Help us move that bed!’ If you are bump on a log, you are
immobile and not helping at all.
Frequency of usage: often

Like a million bucks


This is often said to a woman who is dressed up nicely, ‘You look like a million bucks.’ Always bucks, never dollars.
Frequency of usage: often

Like an icebox in here


Very cold. An icebox is a freezer.
Frequency of usage: often

Like comparing apples and oranges


This is said daily. It means that you are comparing two very different things and is not usually a good comparison.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Like learning to ride a bike


After you know how to ride a bike you don’t forget easily even if you haven’t ridden in years.
Frequency of usage: often

Like living in a fishbowl


This means that you are living a life that others may see very easily. If you are a movie star, photographers and journalists
follow you wherever you live and you have little privacy. Everyone can see what’s inside a fishbowl. Politicians and actors often
complain about living in a fish bowl.
Frequency of usage: often

Like pouring salt in the wound


This is very similar to ‘adding insult to injury.’ When you pour salt into a wound, it burns and is probably not helpful. You
already have a problem with the wound but now you have that problem and a burning problem. It means that you are adding
more problems to someone who already has a problem.
Frequency of usage: often

Like pulling teeth


This is getting people to do something that they would rather never do, like have their teeth pulled by a dentist.
Frequency of usage: often

Like searching for a needle in a haystack


This is an extremely common simile. It means that you are searching for something very small and is next to impossible to find.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Like spitting into the ocean


Your little bit isn’t going to make a difference one way or another.

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Frequency of usage: often

Like spitting into the wind


If you spit into the wind, the spit may come back to hit you. It means that you need to be careful what you say as it might come
back to hit or hurt you later.
Frequency of usage: often

Like taking candy away from a baby


Easy, very easy to do.
Frequency of usage: often

Like talking to a brick wall


If I talk to a brick wall, I get nowhere and only frustrate myself. Exact same concept with a person.
Frequency of usage: often

Like the Hatfields and McCoys


Hatfields and McCoys are two families that still have intense arguments, often with guns.
Frequency of usage: often

Like the plague


This is usually accompanied with ‘avoid him like the plague.’ You don’t want to go anywhere near this person.
Frequency of usage: often

Like two peas in a pod


Identical, usually refers to friends. Or sometimes it refers to two people who do things alike without even knowing that they are
doing it alike.
Frequency of usage: often

Like two ships passing in the night


This means that we are missing each other. We’re close but we just don’t understand each other.
Frequency of usage: often

Like walking on egg shells


Whenever I’m around a person and have to walk on egg shells, I must avoid certain topics so that I don’t upset the person.
Frequency of usage: often

Locked up tighter than a drum


Heavily secured. No chance of getting inside.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Look like a pig pen


Untidy area. A mess. Also ‘looks like a pig’s sty.’
Frequency of usage: often

Look like death warmed over


No one likes to hear this said to them but it’s what someone looks like after they’ve had a difficult night or they are just
recovering from an illness.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Madder than a wet hen


Very angry.

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Frequency of usage: often

Make out like bandits


Got something for little or no cost, a sale possibly.
Frequency of usage: often

Out like a light


Went to sleep quickly, probably as fast as it took to lie down.
Frequency of usage: often

Read someone like a book


If you can ‘read’ someone, you are able to discern things about the person that is not always obvious to the average person.
Frequency of usage: often

Shaking like a leaf


This is used when someone has been in a traumatic accident and is visibly nervous or upset.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Sicker than a dog


Very sick.
Frequency of usage: often

Sing like a canary


This phrase has two meanings. One is as that of a beautiful voice and the other is an criminal informant. It means that the
person will ‘sing’ to the police or authorities about someone else. The second meaning is out of date and not used much. It
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Sleep like a baby


Peaceful, quiet sleep.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Sleep like a log


Peaceful, quiet sleep.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Smoke like a chimney


This is someone who smoke cigarettes constantly.
Frequency of usage: often

So quiet you can hear a pin drop


The sound of a pin dropping on the ground is the ultimate in quietness. Usually it refers to a setting where quietness is not
normal, such as a sporting event.
Frequency of usage: often

Stick out like a sore thumb


This means that something is very very obvious and stands out from the rest.
Frequency of usage: often

Swim like a fish


A good swimmer. The fish analogy is also used like this: to drink like a fish.

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Frequency of usage: often

To drive like a snail


This is a very slow automobile driver
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To eat like a bird


This is a very small or light eater. In actuality, it has been proven that birds eat a lot compared to their size.
Frequency of usage: often

To eat like a horse


This is someone who eats a lot.
Frequency of usage: often

To grow like a weed


This refers to children when they are growing quickly.
Frequency of usage:

To have the memory of an elephant


This refers to someone with a great memory.
Frequency of usage: often

Uglier than a mud hen


This is a very ugly person.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Uglier than sin


This can be a person but it can also be a situation that is ugly or bad to look at such as an accident or how a man destroys a
family by drinking too much, for example.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Walk like a duck


There is a longer phrase associated with this. If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a duck, then it probably
is a duck. Often ‘then it probably is a duck is left off of the phrase. It means that if something looks and acts like it’s supposed
to act, then it probably is that thing.
Frequency of usage: often

Watch like a hawk


If someone is being ‘watched like a hawk,’ someone is watching him day and night. The watcher is looking for anything
suspicious or out of the ordinary.
Frequency of usage: often

Works like a mule


This is a very hard worker.
Frequency of usage: often

Your shoes are like boats


This means that you have very large feet.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

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CRAZY
A basket case
If someone is ‘a basket case,’ she is upset over something or a series of things that have happened quickly. Her nerves can no
longer take the stress. It is often hyperbole and a person might say that he was a basket case after he found out the news
about his best friend’s wife. More than likely, though, his best friend was the basket case. We use this a lot.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Are you out of your gourd?


Another way of asking this question is, ‘are you nuts?’ or ‘are you crazy?’ Do you know what you are asking of me? A gourd is
a vegetable.
Frequency of usage: often

Climbing the walls


Young mothers generally climb the walls when they are home with their kids day after day after day with no relief. It can also
mean that a person needs to go outside of the house because he has been home all day and has not gone outside.
Frequency of usage: often

Crack pot
This is someone who is slightly crazy or has crazy ideas. It is not used much anymore.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Funny farm
The funny farm is where a person jokingly goes to recuperate after a mental illness. ‘If my kids continually act that way around
guests, they’ll be taking me to the funny farm.’ It’s a euphemism for a mental illness facility.
Frequency of usage: often

He's not playing with a full deck


This is perhaps the most popular euphemism for someone who is slightly crazy. It means that by appearances this person is
not normal. He may not be crazy but does not think normally. There is a series of such phrases as ‘His elevator doesn't go all
the way to the top,’ ‘he’s one brick shy of a load,’ ‘the lights are on but nobody’s at home,’ etc. They mean exactly the same
thing.
Frequency of usage: frequently

His elevator doesn't go all the way to the top


This is perhaps the second most popular euphemism for someone who is slightly crazy. It means that by appearances this
person is not normal. He may not be crazy but does not think normally. There is a series of such phrases as ‘he’s not playing
with a full deck,’ ‘he’s one brick shy of a load,’ ‘the lights are on but nobody’s at home,’ etc. They mean exactly the same thing.
Frequency of usage: often

La la land
La la land can be Los Angeles California or it can mean a place of your own making. If you are ‘off in la la land,’ you are in your
own world or you are day dreaming. The implication is that you are slightly crazy.
Frequency of usage: often

Off his rocker


There is a series of phrases that mean essentially the same thing: slightly crazy. ‘Off the deep end,’ ‘out of his gourd,’ ‘off the
deep end,’ ‘losing his marbles,’ and the longer phrases such as ‘the elevator doesn’t’ go all the way to the top,’ mean the same
thing.
Frequency of usage: often

Off the deep end

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There is a series of phrases that mean essentially the same thing: slightly crazy. ‘Off the deep end,’ ‘out of his gourd,’ ‘off the
deep end,’ ‘losing his marbles,’ and the longer phrases such as ‘the elevator doesn’t’ go all the way to the top,’ mean the same
thing.
Frequency of usage: often

One brick shy of a load


This is perhaps the second most popular euphemism for someone who is slightly crazy. It means that by appearances this
person is not normal. He may not be crazy but does not think normally. There is a series of such phrases as ‘he’s not playing
with a full deck,’ ‘he’s one brick shy of a load,’ ‘the lights are on but nobody’s at home,’ etc. They mean exactly the same thing.
It is a humorous attempt at saying a person is not normal.
Frequency of usage: often

Out to lunch
There is a series of phrases that mean essentially the same thing: slightly crazy. ‘Off the deep end,’ ‘out of his gourd,’ ‘off the
deep end,’ ‘losing his marbles,’ and the longer phrases such as ‘the elevator doesn’t’ go all the way to the top,’ mean the same
thing.
Frequency of usage: often

Porch light is on but no one's home


This is a popular euphemism for someone who is slightly crazy. It means that by appearances this person is not normal. He
may not be crazy but does not think normally. There is a series of such phrases as ‘he’s not playing with a full deck,’ ‘he’s one
brick shy of a load,’ ‘the lights are on but nobody’s at home,’ etc. They mean exactly the same thing.
Frequency of usage:

To be losing his marbles


There is a series of phrases that mean essentially the same thing: slightly crazy. ‘Off the deep end,’ ‘out of his gourd,’ ‘off the
deep end,’ ‘losing his marbles,’ and the longer phrases such as ‘the elevator doesn’t’ go all the way to the top,’ mean the same
thing.
Frequency of usage: often

To come unglued
‘To come unglued’ or ‘to come unhinged’ and ‘to flip your lid’ mean the same thing. Something triggered you and you got angry
or very upset. You were acting like a madman and others noticed it. Normally, it’s after a series of events that occurred to bring
you to this point.
Frequency of usage:

To come unhinged
‘To come unglued’ or ‘to come unhinged’ and ‘to flip your lid’ mean the same thing. Something triggered you and you got angry
or very upset. You were acting like a madman and others noticed it. Normally, it’s after a series of events that occurred to bring
you to this point.
Frequency of usage:

To flip your lid


‘To come unglued’ or ‘to come unhinged’ and ‘to flip your lid’ mean the same thing. Something triggered you and you got angry
or very upset. You were acting like a madman and others noticed it. Normally, it’s after a series of events that occurred to bring
you to this point.
Frequency of usage:

To go bananas
‘To go bananas,’ ‘bonkers,’ or ‘nuts’ means the same thing. You went crazy momentarily over something that has happened. If
someone goes bananas on me, it means their anger was directed towards me.
Frequency of usage: often

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To go bonkers
‘To go bananas,’ ‘bonkers,’ or ‘nuts’ means the same thing. You went crazy momentarily over something that has happened. If
someone goes bananas on me, it means their anger was directed towards me.
Frequency of usage: often

To go nuts
‘To go bananas,’ ‘bonkers,’ or ‘nuts’ means the same thing. You went crazy momentarily over something that has happened. If
someone goes bananas on me, it means their anger was directed towards me.
Frequency of usage: often

To have a screw loose


There is a series of phrases that mean essentially the same thing: slightly crazy. ‘Off the deep end,’ ‘out of his gourd,’ ‘off the
deep end,’ ‘losing his marbles,’ and the longer phrases such as ‘the elevator doesn’t’ go all the way to the top,’ mean the same
thing.
Frequency of usage: often

You drive me batty


‘You drive me batty’ ‘you drive me crazy,’ and ‘you drive me nuts’ are identical. They are often spoken regarding small and
energetic children who keep their parents going and going and going all day long. It can also mean someone who does things
to annoy someone else. For instance, ‘your constant tapping of your foot drives me nuts. Batty is not used as much as crazy
and nuts.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

You drive me crazy


‘You drive me batty’ ‘you drive me crazy,’ and ‘you drive me nuts’ are identical. They are often spoken regarding small and
energetic children who keep their parents going and going and going all day long. It can also mean someone who does things
to annoy someone else. For instance, ‘your constant tapping of your foot drives me nuts. Batty is not used as much as crazy
and nuts.
Frequency of usage: often

EMPHATIC
The emphatic phrases are probably the most difficult to define because they often occur in unique situations. Different parts of
the country have different phrases and what may be popular in one part may not be popular in another. Most of these phrases
are ingrained in someone’s mind. They are used only under unique circumstances. For instance, if I am startled, I won’t say
‘yikes!’ or ‘egads’ because even though they are both appropriate for the setting, I’ve never heard them used like that. Instead,
I might use Oh My God or just plain ‘Ahh!’ Hearing these in context is the key to knowing exactly how they are used.

Back off Jack


This simply means to ease off whatever you were doing. ‘Give me some space,’ Jack is a name, when in context, that can be
anyone male or female. Normally, though, it is used by a man to a man.

Bah, humbug
Ebenezer Scrooge in The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens made this phrase popular especially around Christmas time.
Someone who is tight with his money might say this because he doesn’t want to spend money during the Holidays. Nobody
wants to be called a ‘Scrooge’ or mistaken for one.
Frequency of usage: frequently during the Christmas holidays; rarely otherwise

Beat it!
This phrase means to ‘go away!’ I don’t want to deal with you right now. It is often said to children when they are bothering
adults. This was much more popular 50 years ago.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Beats me

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This may not technically be emphatic. You would say this and shrug your shoulders at the same time. It means you really don’t
understand. Example: When will the delivery truck come today? Beats me.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Big deal!
This was popular in the 70s and 80s but has decreased in popularity. Instead we might say ‘no big deal.’ There is a difference
in meaning between the two. Big deal! means ‘who cares?’ and who cares can be substituted for it to mean the same thing.
‘No big deal’ on the other hand means ‘it’s not a problem for me.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Boy, oh Boy
You might actually hear this as ‘boy oh boy oh boy oh boy.’ This comes with a head shake and a dejected look. It means, ‘what
in the world did I get myself into?’ or ‘how could this have happened?’ Context is extremely important for this phrase. What
happened specifically to encourage someone to say this?
Frequency of usage: often

By George
‘By George’ and ‘by Jove’ are used by Americans but they are British phrases. They are hard to define but they mean ‘wow!’ or
I can’t believe it but...’ ‘By golly’ is American but it means the same thing.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

By golly
‘By George’ and ‘by Jove’ are used by Americans but they are British phrases. They are hard to define but they mean ‘wow!’ or
I can’t believe it but...’ ‘By golly’ is American but it means the same thing.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

By Jove
‘By George’ and ‘by Jove’ are used by Americans but they are British phrases. They are hard to define but they mean ‘wow!’ or
I can’t believe it but...’ ‘By golly’ is American but it means the same thing.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Can it
This simply means ‘stop it now.’ It often refers to loud conversation or lots of noise when someone is trying to concentrate.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Chill out!
This has gained considerably in popularity recently. It means ‘relax. Stay calm. I’ve got it taken care of.’ It is spoken when one
person is very anxious about something and a second person has an idea of how it will play out. ‘Take a chill pill’ is similar.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Cool!
This word as an emphatic phrase has lasted over 50 years. It’s something that someone say when he likes what he sees. You
will hear this daily, and in some circles, hourly.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Cough it up
This phrase means that someone has something such as a ring or money that you want. It means ‘I want it. Hand it to me.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Cut it out
This simply means ‘stop it now.’ It often refers to loud conversation or lots of noise when someone is trying to concentrate.

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Frequency of usage: sometimes

Darn it
This is the cleanest form of several phrases that mean ‘I can’t believe this just happened!’ This is the sanitized version of
‘Damn it!’ and others .
Frequency of usage: frequently

Don't get fresh with me


A woman would say this when a man is getting closer than she wants him to. This was much more popular 50 years ago but
you might still hear it.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Drop dead!
This means, ‘I don’t want to see you again. Get out of my sight.’ It is a very emphatic ‘no!’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Egads
Egads is one of those words that are used when you can think of no other exclamatory phrase to use when surprised. It’s a
rare term nowadays.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Fat chance
This simply means that ‘it’s not likely to happen.’ For instance, fat chance we’ll see that check from the government any time
soon. It is sarcasm in that it means the opposite of the actual words behind it.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Fiddlesticks
Fiddlesticks is one of those words that are used when you can think of no other exclamatory phrase to use when surprised. It’s
a rare term nowadays.
Frequency of usage: rarely

For crying out loud


‘For crying out loud’ ‘for Pete’s sake,’ and ‘for God’s sake’ are identical. You will hear ‘for crying out loud’ more often. It’s a term
of disgust or disdain.
Frequency of usage: frequently

For Pete's sake


‘For crying out loud’ ‘for Pete’s sake,’ and ‘for God’s sake’ are identical. You will hear ‘for crying out loud’ more often. It’s a term
of disgust or disdain used when you can’t believe something like X could be happening. Example: Oh for Pete’s sake, hurry up
with your dessert. We don’t have all day.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Fork it over
This simply means ‘stop it now.’ It often refers to loud conversation or lots of noise when someone is trying to concentrate.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Get a grip
‘Get a life,’ ‘get a clue,’ and ‘get a grip’ are all similar. They mean ‘go talk to someone else about this. I don’t have time for your
nonsense.’
Frequency of usage: often

Get a life

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‘Get a life,’ ‘get a clue,’ and ‘get a grip’ are all similar. They mean ‘go talk to someone else about this. I don’t have time for your
nonsense.’
Frequency of usage: often

Get lost
This is a rude phrase for a person to tell someone else that he doesn’t want to deal anymore with him. It means ‘go away.
Don’t bother me anymore.’
Frequency of usage:

Get off my back


‘Get off my back’ and ‘get off my case’ are identical. It essentially means, ‘don’t hassle me anymore.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Get off my case


‘Get off my back’ and ‘get off my case’ are identical. It essentially means, ‘don’t hassle me anymore.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Get out of my hair


Parents would say this to their kids if the parents are being bothered. It means to just go away.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Get real!
This means, ‘I don’t believe what you’re saying is true.
Frequency of usage:

Get with the program


This is often said in jest when someone seems to be ‘behind the times’ and is living in the past. For instance, I am using
Windows XP now. If I talk with a friend who is still using Windows 95, I might say, ‘come on, get with the program. That’s a 10-
year old operating system.
Frequency of usage: often

Give me a break
Extremely popular but it’s losing it popularity gradually through overuse. An emphatic phrase that is similar is ‘please’ but you’ll
hear it as a 2-syllable word ‘puh-lease.’ Both phrases mean ‘I can’t believe you’re telling me this or that you even believe it
yourself. It is so obviously wrong.’
Frequency of usage: frequently

Go fly a kite!
This is a phrase that means ‘get away from me. I don’t want to see you or talk to you.’ ‘Go take a lone walk off of a short pier’ is
similar.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Good golly Miss Molly


This is a phrase that is rarely used today. It’s an exclamatory remark that is similar to ‘for Pete’s sake’ and ‘good God
Almighty.’ You would use this when you are seeing something unbelievable.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Good grief
‘Good grief’ is in the same family as ‘puh-lease’ and ‘give me a break.’ It essentially means, you can’t expect me to believe
that!’
Frequency of usage: often

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Goodness gracious
This phrase might be followed by the words ‘land sakes alive.’ Again, this is something unbelievable. You might also hear
‘good gracious.’ This phrase tends to be used in the context of ‘what kind of mess did I get myself into?’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Hang in there
This is often said to someone who is having a rough day and needs a little encouragement. This means, ‘continue doing what
you’re doing and it will pass.’ You’ll be fine.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Have a clue
This expression means ‘you have no idea what you’re talking about.’ It is in the same family as ‘get a grip,’ and ‘get a life.’
Frequency of usage: often

Heavens to Betsy
I have no idea why we use this but it’s one of those phrases that you learn over time. It is similar to ‘goodness gracious’ or
‘good God Almighty.’
Frequency of usage:

Hullabaloo
If there is a lot of commotion in one area of a park or a carnival, we might ask, ‘what’s all the hullabaloo about?’ Translated it
means commotion or heavy activity.
Frequency of usage: often

I beg your pardon


This phrase is synonymous with ‘excuse me!’ We would use the full phrase when we want to say, ‘I can’t believe you just said
that. Just for my benefit, please repeat that.’ A shorter version is ‘pardon?’ which is different. It simply means, ‘please repeat
that. I didn’t hear you.’
Frequency of usage: frequently

If that doesn't beat all


Frequency of usage:

Iffy
If something is ‘iffy’ it means that it might not happen or occur. The show is iffy because of the rain. The baseball game is iffy
because the starting pitcher is ill.
Frequency of usage: frequently

I'll be doggone
A shorter and identical phrase is, ‘well, I’ll be...’ It’s a light phrase that means ‘I am pleasantly surprised at this.’ However, it can
also be lengthened in ‘I’ll be doggoned if I’ll do that’ and the meaning is entirely different. That phrase means ‘I will never do it.’
Frequency of usage: often

Knock it off!
This phrase simply means ‘stop what you’re doing.’ Think of a teacher telling her students to be quiet. Exact same thing.
Interestingly, it is also a phrase that I’ve heard a control tower use to tell demonstration jets to cease the show because an
aircraft was down. It means the exact same thing but it’s extremely serious in that context.
Frequency of usage: often

Land sakes alive


This phrase might be preceded by the words ‘goodness gracious.’ Again, this is something unbelievable. You might also hear
‘good gracious.’ This phrase tends to be used in the context of ‘what kind of mess did I get myself into?’

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Frequency of usage: sometimes

Life's a drag
This phrase simply means that life is hard right now and is wearing me down.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Life's rough
A parent might use this with his son. If a son is complaining about something fairly meaningless (being required to eat his
vegetables, for example), the father might simply say, ‘life’s rough.’ It’s subtle and light sarcasm.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Man alive!
This phrase and ‘man!’ are identical. If I have had to do a lot of work and I am sweating a lot, I would say this as I’m taking a
break. It denotes that I’ve done a lot of work and there still more to come.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Neat!
This is synonymous with ‘cool!’ It means ‘this is a very good thing that is happening or has happened.’ It might even be cause
for celebration.
Frequency of usage: frequently

No way, Jose
This simply means, ‘no.’ It is an emphatic way to say it.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Oh, brother
You will normally hear this AND see someone roll his eyes when he says it. It means, ‘here we go again.’ Something incredible
is about to happen.
Frequency of usage:

Oh, my God
This is a phrase that people use when they disbelieve something that has happened. It’s probably the most used phrases like
this. There is a sense of despair or stress associated with using it.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Period!
You will hear this phrase like this: ‘I don’t care how much money he has, I don’t want him to step inside my house. Period.’ It’s
an emphatic ending to a sentence or string of sentences. There will be no more said about the topic. The ‘period!’ is final.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Phooey
Pronounced ‘foo ee’ this is a word we use to display dissatisfaction at something that’s happened. A child might say ‘phooey’ at
having to eat carrots or to take medicine.
Frequency of usage: often

Pipe down, kids!


This simply means ‘be quiet.’ Kids are what it is usually associated with but adults can also pipe down but it sounds rude
among adults.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Put that in your pipe…

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The ending to this phrase is ‘and smoke it.’ It is said as a way of getting back at someone playfully. For instance, you come to
me and tell me my document has dozens of errors. I can’t believe it so I ask, ‘where?’ It turns out that I only 1 error in a 100
page document. To emphasize my point about being right most of the time, I might say, ‘so put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Only 1 error!’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Rats
Rats and ‘phooey’ are similar if not identical. When something happened differently than you had hoped, ‘rats!’
Frequency of usage: often

Rise and shine


This is what someone would say who is waking others up. Most of the time, the hearers don’t want to hear it because they
have been sleeping soundly.
Frequency of usage: often

Shiver me timbers
This is a phrase that the cartoon character Popeye made famous. It is not used much but you could hear it. It is often
accompanied by ‘well, blow me down’ another Popeye phrase. It means ‘what a mess I am in!!’
Frequency of usage: rarely

Skedaddle
This means to go away quickly. If a parent doesn’t want to bother with children, she’ll say, ‘skedaddle’ until supper time.’ You
might also hear adults use it to mean ‘let’s go.’
Frequency of usage: often

Sound like a broken record


It used to be that a record was the only means of having something recorded in hand. It means something that is said over and
over and over again (a vinyl record would get stuck and repeat a small phrase endlessly until someone stopped it).
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Take a chill pill


This means the same thing as ‘chill’. This has gained considerably in popularity recently. It means ‘relax. Stay calm. I’ve got it
taken care of.’ It is spoken when one person is very anxious about something and a second person has an idea of how it will
play out. ‘Take a chill pill’ is similar.
Frequency of usage: frequently

TGIF
Perhaps in every fast paced culture is this phrase: Thank God it’s Friday. The weekend is here and people can relax and they
don’t have to work.
Frequency of usage: often

That sucks!
This phrase has grown in popularity over the last 10 years. It means ‘that’s bad’ or ‘that’s annoying.’ An earlier version of it was
‘that stinks’ which might is a good definition for it.
Frequency of usage: frequently

That's bunk
‘That’s bunk,’ that’s garbage’ and ‘that’s hogwash are identical in meaning. All three are cleaned up versions of ‘that’s bullshit.’
You will hear all four phrases (depending on context) regularly. Most of the time it’s the speaker’s preference.
Frequency of usage: often

That's garbage

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‘That’s bunk,’ that’s garbage’ and ‘that’s hogwash are identical in meaning. All three are cleaned up versions of ‘that’s bullshit.’
You will hear all four phrases (depending on context) regularly. Most of the time it’s the speaker’s preference.
Frequency of usage: often

That's hogwash
‘That’s bunk,’ that’s garbage’ and ‘that’s hogwash are identical in meaning. All three are cleaned up versions of ‘that’s bullshit.’
You will hear all four phrases (depending on context) regularly. Most of the time it’s the speaker’s preference.
Frequency of usage: often

That's the pits


This is similar to ‘that stinks.’
Frequency of usage:

There's a fine how do you do


This is a phrase you would use if something bad (but minor) happens to you after you have done something good to that
person. It’s almost spoken as one word.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Thingamabob
This is the phrase we use when we either forget the name of something or don’t know the name for it. Whatchamacallit is
similar. Whozit or ‘what his face?’ is for people we don’t remember the name. Thingamajig is also used.
Frequency of usage: often

Thingamajig
This is the phrase we use when we either forget the name of something or don’t know the name for it. Whatchamacallit is
similar. Whozit or ‘what his face?’ is for people we don’t remember the name. Thingamabob is also used.
Frequency of usage: often

Tit for tat


Essentially, this phrase means, ‘this for that.’ It’s one thing in exchange for another but both are minor.
Frequency of usage:

To get by
This means to manage or to cope. Often it has financial overtones. The Beatles had an extremely popular song that said ‘I get
by with a little help from my friends.’
Frequency of usage: often

Touché!
This simply means, ‘you scored one against me. I deserved it.’ Example: If I am lecturing you about giving to charities and you
tell me, ‘but I’ve checked the records and you have given exactly zero to charity in the last three years.’ The person lecturing
would say, ‘touché!’ because he was caught being hypocritical.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Tough break
Tough break and tough luck are very similar. They both mean ‘slightly bad luck.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Tough luck
Tough break and tough luck are very similar. They both mean ‘slightly bad luck.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

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Well, blow me down


This is a phrase that the cartoon character Popeye made famous. It is not used much but you could hear it. It is often
accompanied by ‘shiver me timbers,’ another Popeye phrase. It means ‘what a mess I’m in!!’
Frequency of usage: rarely

Well, I'll be
A longer and identical phrase is, ‘well, I’ll be doggone..’ It’s a light phrase that means ‘I am pleasantly surprised at this.’
However, it can also be lengthened in ‘I’ll be doggoned if I’ll do that’ and the meaning is entirely different. That phrase means ‘I
will never do it.’
Frequency of usage: often

Well, what do ya know?


This is a phrase of surprise, as if you have found something pleasant and unexpected.
Frequency of usage: often

Whatchamacallit
This is the phrase we use when we either forget the name of something or don’t know the name for it. Thingamabob is similar.
Whozit or ‘what his face?’ is for people we don’t remember the name.
Frequency of usage: often

Whatnot
Whatnot is similar to et cetera. It’s a catchall phrase for miscellaneous items.
Frequency of usage:

What's eating you?


‘What’s bothering you?’ is a different way of expressing this phrase.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

You da man!
This was extremely popular in the early 2000s. It is decreasing in popularity. It is used to describe men (mainly men, but
sometimes women) who are short-term heroes. What I mean by that is, if a secretary fixes a copier after half the office staff
have been trying, ‘she’s da man.’ You will hear it at ‘you da man’, ‘he’s da man,’ ‘she’s da man.’
Frequency of usage: often

You're darn tootin’


This simply means, ‘that’s exactly right.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

SPORTS
Ace in the hole
If someone has an ‘ace in the hole’ he has a plan or something that he is withholding from the rest of the people. In cards, no
one knows exactly what you have because at least a couple of the cards are hidden from plain view
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Against the ropes


Against the ropes is a boxing term. It’s when one boxer is beating his opponent and the opponent is only trying to stay up for
the rest of the round. If someone, therefore is against the ropes, he is in a defensive position just trying to hold on for a little
while longer
Frequency of usage: often

Back in the saddle again

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A person is ‘back in the saddle again’ when he has come back from an illness or trip and is now in control. A CEO might say
this after he has been gone for a month on vacation. It’s an idiom of being back in control again.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Ballpark figure
You might hear a ‘ballpark figure’ or even ‘give me a ballpark.’ It’s an estimate. The person wants to know approximately how
much it will cost or how many people/items there were.
Frequency of usage: often

Be careful how you play your cards


This phrase means that you need to be careful not to jump with full force into things without knowing what you are getting into.
Some situations call for that but most of the time, you need patience and wisdom.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Beat someone to the punch


When you ‘beat someone to the punch’ you are there first or you did it first. You will hear it as ‘he beat me to the punch’ or I
beat him to the punch.
Frequency of usage: often

Bench warmer
A bench warmer is a person who is not a regular player but tends to get looked over when it’s ‘game’ time. The idea is of a
person who sits on the bench at a baseball game. He doesn’t play but he’s still a part of the team. We would say he is second
or third string.
Frequency of usage: often

Call the shots


If you are ‘calling the shots,’ you are the person in control of the situation. This can be as simple as a father with his family or
as complicated as a CEO running a multi-billion dollar corporation.
Frequency of usage: often

Cheap shot
This phrase means that someone has insulted you and it was an unfair insult. For example, suppose you are overweight and
someone gets into a heated discussion with you. A ‘cheap shot’ is when that person makes a remark about your weight when
he can think of nothing else to say.
Frequency of usage: often

Don't rock the boat


When you ‘rock the boat,’ you are intentionally or unintentionally moving it from side to side. Soon if you continue, the boat
could tip over and you go into the water. When you ‘rock the boat’ in life, you are upsetting the normal flow of things. Perhaps
you are very upset at the waste and fraud you see in your company. Rocking the boat would be going outside the company to
complain about the situation.
Frequency of usage: often

Down for the count


When you are ‘down for the count,’ you are hurt and wounded and it is difficult to get up. Perhaps you are depressed and you
can’t come out of it. We would never use it to say someone was on his death bed.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Figure the odds


The full phrase is ‘figure the odds that this will happen.’ It’s a phrase of doubt, skepticism, and mild sarcasm. You doubt
seriously that someone will do what he says or that a situation will occur.
Frequency of usage: often

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Get the ball rolling


When you ‘get the ball rolling,’ you are starting something. Many things depend on the start of an event or project. Often it
takes one person to ‘get the ball rolling’ officially.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Go out with a bang


When you ‘go out with a bang,’ you do something extraordinary when you leave a situation so that people know that your
‘voice’ has been heard. Often those who have been sentenced to death, go out with a bang by making outlandish statements
about their innocence.
Frequency of usage: often

Go the distance
To ‘go the distance’ means to finish what you’ve started even when it is difficult. It is a baseball term for a pitcher to go a full
nine innings after he has started the game. It is also used in life to mean finishing when it is difficult.
Frequency of usage: often

Go the second/extra mile


This is a phrase that is taken from the Holy Bible. It means to do what you can to accommodate. The parable in the Bible is of
a person who needs you to help. Not only should you help him but you should ‘go out of your way’ to make sure that his needs
are taken care of.
Frequency of usage: often

Got your bases covered?


This phrase means to make sure that you’ve accomplished all the small details in a project. It’s a baseball term.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Handle them with kid gloves


When you ‘handle him with kid gloves’ you are trying your best not to harm him with the words you say because the situation is
very delicate.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Hook, line, and sinker


You played a joke on someone and he ‘fell for it’ ‘hook line and sinker.’ There was no doubt in the person’s mind that you were
telling the truth when in actuality, you were playing with his mind. You were playfully deceptive. It is a fishing term.
Frequency of usage: often

If you play your cards right


If you play your cards right (by going to college), you won’t have to wash dishes for the rest of your life.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

It's all downhill from here


Normally, this phrase means it’s very easy from this point forward.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Jump the gun


When you ‘jump the gun,’ you are beginning something early before everyone else gets a chance to start. This is a track and
field term. When you jump the gun in track, you start the race before the gun fires. It’s considered a ‘false start’ and you must
start over.
Frequency of usage: often

Kickoff this project


You begin a project when you kick it off.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

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Let the wind out of my sails


If you ‘let the wind out of someone’s sails’ you are doing something before another person gets a chance to do it. You are
‘stealing his thunder,’ ‘bursting his bubble,’ and ‘raining on his parade.’ This person was preparing to announce something big
but you got there first and ‘let the wind out of his sails’ by announcing it first.
Frequency of usage: often

Lock, stock and barrel


This means ‘everything.’ You didn’t forget anything.
Frequency of usage: often

Missed the boat


When you ‘miss the boat,’ you miss the mark or fail to do what needs to be done. Often you are too late for an event and the
event has already started.
Frequency of usage: often

No dice
This means ‘no.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Not by a long shot


This means that you are not even close to hitting your target. You are far from the target. Perhaps a better phrase is ‘off by a
long shot.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

On the ball
Some who is ‘on the ball’ is sharp, together and organized. He is prepared for meetings, attentive to the needs of others or any
number of other positive and praiseworthy qualities. You want to hire someone who is ‘on the ball.’
Frequency of usage: often

On the rebound
We speak of divorce and remarriage as being ‘on the rebound.’ It can also be true of boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. After
you lose one person, going immediately to someone else is being ‘on the rebound.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Out in left field


People, ideas and thoughts can be ‘out in left field.’ Most of the time they are unconventional and goes against the grain of
society. ‘Way out in left field’ is even further so.
Frequency of usage: often

Over the first major hurdle


In a project, you are often faced with obstacles or hurdles, things you must go beyond if you want to be successful.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Play for keeps


When you ‘play for keeps’ you are serious and focused because the end result matters. Often it is regarding life and death
issues.
Frequency of usage: often

Play the field


Men and women, boys and girls alike ‘play the field,’ often to their detriment. This means that in a dating relationship, one man
has multiple girlfriends, a woman has multiple boyfriends and he/she is trying to determine who might be the best for a
soulmate or spouse. We also tend to think that someone who does this is probably loose morally. It’s not used much anymore.
Frequency of usage: rarely

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Potshot
Think of someone in a rural area who has pots, pans and cans lined up so he can shoot at them. A potshot is taking a shot at
one of these meaningless items. In life a potshot is taking aim (metaphorically speaking) at a person and wounding them
without regard for how they are being hurt. It also means taking small shots at someone.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Right off the bat


This phrase is used daily. It means ‘immediately’ because in baseball the ball comes quickly off the bat when it is hit.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Right out of the gate


This phrase is used to mean ‘from the outset.’ It’s a horse racing term. ‘On his first day of work - right out of the gate - he
announced his intentions of becoming CEO of the company.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Right up my alley
This is what you do best. It’s something you are familiar with, have experience in, have been trained in, and consider yourself
an expert in. It’s right up your alley.
Frequency of usage: often

Roll with the punches


When you get hit, in order to soften the blow, it is best to ‘roll with the punches.’ It means that you should take what is given to
you in stride, as if it has happened dozens of times in the past and will happen again.
Frequency of usage: often

Shadow boxing
When someone ‘shadow boxes’ he is punching into the air without hitting anything. When you ‘shadow box’ in life, you are
throwing punches but they are not landing on anything or anybody. You are merely boxing the air.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Shoot down an idea


This idiom relates to the sport of skeet shooting. After the skeet is in the air, it is the rifleman’s job to shoot it down. This is
exactly the same concept. An idea (good or bad, makes no difference) is thrown into the air and anyone who doesn’t like it is
free to ‘shoot it down.’
Frequency of usage: often

Shoot from the hip


This simply means that you have not clearly defined a target and are just hoping to hit something. Shooting from the hip also
means that you are throwing an idea into the mix or ‘thinking out loud,’ taking a guess. You have no idea whether the idea has
merit or not.
Frequency of usage: often

Shoot holes through my theory


When you shoot holes in a theory, you are debunking or disproving an idea.
Frequency of usage: often

Shoot the breeze


Old men tend to ‘shoot the breeze’ much more often than the younger generation. Shooting the breeze means you are sitting
around and chatting about nothing in particular. You may be gossiping or just telling stories. You have no aim or ending point.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Sink or swim
This phrase essentially means fail or succeed. It’s usually in reference to a project or a production.

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Frequency of usage: often

Start off with a bang


‘Start off with a bang’ the direct opposite of ‘go out with a bang.’ This means that you start quickly and with much zeal. It’s
uncertain if you will continue that way but you started off that way.
Frequency of usage: often

Take a hike
This is a rude way of telling someone to leave. This person is bothering you. Often it is a friendly (yet rude) way of doing so.
Frequency of usage: often

Take a shot in the dark


When you ‘take a shot in the dark’ you have no idea where you’re aiming. You don’t know if you’ll hit your target. This simply
means ‘to guess’ based on the evidence you now have (which could be nothing).
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Take the ball and run with it


This phrase means that you are now in charge of the project and however you want to go with it is up to you. You ‘have the
ball’ so to speak.
Frequency of usage: often

That's one for the Gipper


Knute Rockne was the coach of the Notre Dame football team in the 1920s and George Gipp was his star player. Gipp fell ill
and when dying he asked Rockne to promise that, when things were going badly for the team, he should inspire them by
asking them to 'win one for The Gipper'.
President Ronald Reagan played the part of Gipp in the 1940 film ‘Knute Rockne: All American’
Reagan was given the nickname Gipper, which lasted throughout his life.
Frequency of usage: often

That's the way the ball bounces


A simple way of saying this is ‘oh well.’ This phrase means that there is little that you can do about something that’s already
been done. It’s similar to ‘that’s the way the cookie crumbles.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

The cards are stacked against you


In this situation, you cannot win because the cards are stacked against you. It means that several things have lined up
opposed to you and your ideas and there’s little chance for you to win.
Frequency of usage: often

The whole nine yards


This is another of the phrases that mean ‘everything’ or ‘all the way.’ Normally, it’s at the end of an entire list of items.
Frequency of usage: often

Throw in the towel


In boxing, if the manager ‘throws in the towel,’ it’s a signal for the referee to stop the match. It means to quit or to give up.
Frequency of usage: often

Throw the fight


This simply means to lose something intentionally. Any time you ‘throw’ something, you want to lose it intentionally.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To be out of my league

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If something is out of your league, it means that you are not qualified or not able to do it. For example, I play golf but Tiger
Woods is clearly out of my league. He’s in a league of his own (even among his peers!).
Frequency of usage: often

To be ridden hard and put away wet


This refers to riding horses. After a horse has been ridden, he needs to be brushed down and cooled off before being put away
in the stall. This phrase usually is a self-reference. More than anything it’s a feeling that you are entirely wiped out and spent.
You have no energy left and you probably look that way too.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To be way off target


This means that you are not even close to hitting your target. You are far from the target. Perhaps a better phrase is ‘off by a
long shot.’ It could be a project or a goal.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To go overboard
When someone ‘goes overboard’ upon your arrival, that’s a good thing. It means that they planned and prepared and
welcomed you into their midst. A small welcome party is nice but going overboard means that 100 people showed up and
treated you royally. It can also be sarcasm as in when a restaurant gives you a very small portion: they certainly go overboard
on my account.
Frequency of usage: often

To miss the mark


This means that you are not even close to hitting your target. You are far from the target. It could be a project or a goal.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To play hard ball


‘Playing hard ball’ and ‘playing for keeps’ are similar. It means that it’s a serious thing now and only the professionals can
‘play.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To play the favorites


This is a horse racing term. Men and women, boys and girls alike ‘play the favorites,’ often to their detriment. This means that
in a dating relationship, one man has multiple girlfriends, a woman has multiple boyfriends and he/she is trying to determine
who might be the best for a soulmate or spouse. We also tend to think that someone who does this is probably loose morally.
It’s not used much anymore.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To run with it
This phrase means that you are now in charge of the project and however you want to go with it is up to you. You ‘have the
ball’ so to speak.
Frequency of usage: often

To shoot for that date


This simply means ‘let’s plan on that date.’ If it changes, so be it. If not, then we’ll meet. This can be shoot for ‘that timeframe,’
‘goal,’ ‘date,’ ‘time’ and others.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To stick to your guns


When you ‘stick to your guns’ you are standing by your convictions. You will not move. You have goals and ideas, and you will
not turn from them.
Frequency of usage: often

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To strike out
‘To strike out’ means to fail temporarily. You will get other chances but right now you have failed. It’s a term used in baseball.
The batter will try again soon in the game. He has only failed slightly now.
Frequency of usage: often

To throw a curve
‘A curve’ is something unexpected. If you ‘throw me a curve,’ it means that even though I knew I would be talking to you, I had
no idea that you would bring XYZ into the conversation. I had not expected it.
Frequency of usage: often

Touch bases with


This is another baseball term. It means ‘to connect with.’ It is used daily in the business world. It can mean ‘ask,’ ‘talk to,’
‘email,’ ‘phone,’ or ‘write.’ It is almost always used about a person who is not present. Often, the introductory phrase, ‘I just
wanted to touch bases with you’ regarding xyz is used when you first meet with that person.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Trump card
‘Trump card’ and ‘ace in the hole’ are very similar. The trump card is like a wild card. There are rules to when it can be played
but essentially, it’s a wild card. It is frequently played close to the end of a game (when a person is in a difficult situation). In
life, a trump card can be any number of things that will get you out of a difficult situation at just the right time.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Two can play that game


This simply means, ‘if you can do that, so can I.’ It is often used in playful competition.
Frequency of usage: often

Two strikes against him


In baseball, a batter is out after three strikes. Having two strikes against him puts him in a dangerous position. He must be
careful which pitch he swings at. Similarly, someone with two strikes against him must be careful of the choices he makes. A
wrong move or bad choice could be trouble for the person.
Frequency of usage: often

Up the creek without a paddle


When you are ‘up the creek without a paddle,’ you are in serious trouble. The idea is that you are in a canoe and don’t have a
paddle and you must get to your destination. It’s a playful way of saying you’re in big trouble.
Frequency of usage: often

You don't pull punches, do you?


This is a boxing term that means, you are playing to win. You are not holding anything back. You are giving it all you can.
Frequency of usage: often

BODY PARTS
...Coming out of our ears
If something is ‘coming out of your ears,’ you have an overabundance of it. You have too many of it and you don’t need any
more.
Frequency of usage: often

A bird's-eye view
This would be if you were looking in on a situation from the air. It is an aerial view. Or in a broader sense, it means ‘a wider
perspective.’ Often situations call for a bird’s-eye view to gain perspective.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

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A crackerjack mechanic
A crackerjack anything is someone who is extremely knowledgeable with something, usually mechanical or electrical or
construction. A crackerjack electrician. A crackerjack carpenter.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

A knucklehead
This is a phrase that has lost a lot of meaning in recent years. It used to be a great insult because it meant someone who was
stupid or did stupid things. Now, though, you can say even to yourself, ‘that was a knuckleheaded thing to do.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

A no-brainer
This is a very popular phrase now. It means that something is very obvious and should be done. In other words, you don’t even
have to wonder if it should be done; it should.
Frequency of usage: frequently

A nose for news


This is used to describe a person who is gifted at finding out factual information about local people and events.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

A silver tongue
This is used to describe someone who is very gifted in speech, mainly in deceptive speech. He or she is often referred to as a
‘silver tongued devil.’
Frequency of usage: often

A thick skull
If someone has a ‘thick skull’ you have been trying to get an idea for some time now but it’s not ‘sinking into’ his head. He is
not understanding. It can also mean someone who is very stubborn.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Airhead
An airhead is someone who is not a smart person. Often it refers to a person who is beautiful but doesn’t have a lot of brains
behind the beauty. This has lost a lot of popularity lately. A person might call herself an airhead if she does air headed things.
Frequency of usage: often

An about face
In the military ‘an about face’ is given when soldiers are lined up and go exactly in the opposite direction they were headed. It
is normally a 180 degree turn from a stand. An about face otherwise is going exactly in the opposite direction you were
headed.
Frequency of usage: often

An earful
When someone gives you ‘an earful’ he is scolding you and you know it! The person is obviously upset and you are the target
of their anger. It’s never fun to ‘get an earful.’
Frequency of usage: often

An eyesore
An ‘eyesore’ is something that has been laying around and does not enhance the beauty of an area. An old rusty car sitting in
a yard is an eyesore. Interestingly enough, a ‘sight for sore eyes’ means the exact opposite. It is a welcome sight.
Frequency of usage: often

Apple of my eye

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The ‘apple of my eye’ is my pride and delight. A father might say this about his only child but it can be from one lover to the
other as well.
Frequency of usage: often

Armed to the teeth


This refers to someone who is heavily surrounded by guns and knives for protection.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

At hand
This phrase simply means ‘currently.’ A similar phrase is ‘on hand.’
Frequency of usage: frequently

Bad hair day


This was very popular in the late 90s. It simply meant ‘a bad day.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Barefoot and pregnant


This is the stereotypical phrase about a woman who is under the authority of a controlling husband. The phrase ‘keep her
barefoot and pregnant’ is the full phrase.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Beachhead
A beachhead is a military term for the first landing place (normally a beach) when they invade a land. It’s used today to mean
an area that is set up as a staging area.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Beat your head against a wall


Crazy things are happening so you want to hit your head against the wall. It does no good to hit the wall but you feel like doing
it.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Beforehand
‘Let’s prepare that report beforehand so that we have an idea of where we want to go. It’s the noun for ‘before.’
Frequency of usage: frequently

Bite your tongue


Another way of saying the same thing is ‘don’t say that. Watch what you are saying.’ Perhaps you are a cat lover and others
are not. One person makes a remark about cats, to which the cat lover would say, ‘bite your tongue.’
Frequency of usage: often

Bone of contention
This is a single problem issue, probably the issue that is delaying progress. Normally, one person would tell another that he
has a ‘bone of contention’ with him. It’s a very specific issue.
Frequency of usage: often

Brain teaser
This is anything that gets people thinking. Normally it’s a puzzle or a riddle.
Frequency of usage: often

Brainstorm
There is an entire field devoted to ‘brainstorming.’ It’s when a group of people go into a room to come up with ideas. They are
trying to solve a problem or get a new idea. An entire brainstorming session is one where people write down ideas and sort
them later.

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Frequency of usage: frequently

Break a leg
This is a phrase that actors use to wish other actors good luck. The story goes that an actor once wished another actor good
luck and the actor broke his leg before the performance.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Brown noser
This is a person who wants the boss or authority figures to notice him and will do things to enhance his standing with the boss.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Butt in
This means to come into a subject or conversation that is currently in session. A ‘buttinsky’ is a person who does this. It is also
a person who ‘butts in’ line by going ahead of others who are in front of him.
Frequency of usage: often

Butt out
This is said by someone who no longer wants your input because it is not ‘your’ subject to begin with.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Butterfingers
A person who has butterfingers is someone who is clumsy with their hands. He drops things a lot.
Frequency of usage: often

Button your lips


This phrase is a slightly rude way to say ‘be quiet.’ ‘Zip your lips’ is similar.
Frequency of usage: often

By the skin of his teeth


When someone shoots at you and you get away ‘by the skin of your teeth,’ it isn’t by much. He came very very close to hitting
you. It is a very slim margin.
Frequency of usage: often

Can you shoulder that load?


This simply means, ‘can you bear the load?’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Can't find hide nor hair of it


This phrase simply means, ‘I can’t find it, not even a little of it.’
Frequency of usage: often

Caught red-handed
This phrase means you were caught committing the ‘crime.’ The crime could be as simple as stealing cookies from the jar.
Frequency of usage: often

Cauliflower ear
Someone with a ‘cauliflower ear’ was a boxer in his career. There is no metaphorical meaning.
Frequency of usage: rarely

Change of heart
When you have a ‘change of heart,’ you’ve changed your mind and your thinking.
Frequency of usage: often

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Chip on your shoulder


You will recognize a man with a chip on his shoulder. He is angry about something very specific. For example, some men have
chips on their shoulders about women and women have chips on their shoulders about men. You can tell by the way they act
towards the opposite sex.
Frequency of usage: often

Cold feet
You normally have ‘cold feet’ just before you get married. You are afraid and don’t want the ceremony to continue. It’s a
momentary panic at the thought of living your entire life with one person.
Frequency of usage: often

Cold shoulder
If someone gives you the ‘cold shoulder’ he is clearly upset with you. You have done something to offend. You may not know
what it is but you are likely talking to the person’s back (shoulder) until the matter is cleared up, sometimes literally.
Frequency of usage: often

Cross my heart
This phrase is a shorter version of a longer children’s poem: ‘cross my heart/hope to die, stick a needle in my eye.’ It means
that you will not divulge any secret that a person is preparing to tell you. It’s a promise.
Frequency of usage: often

Cross your fingers


People cross their fingers for good luck. You are asking a person to wish them good luck if you ask them to cross their fingers.
Frequency of usage: often

Did you get your ears lowered?


‘Getting your ears lowered’ is a euphemism for getting a hair cut.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Don't go in empty handed


If you are emptying groceries from the back of your car, a mother might say to her teenager, ‘don’t go inside the house empty
handed.’ In other words, there are plenty of groceries in the car and there’s only two of us, so please carry groceries into the
house.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Don't jump down my throat


This is another way of saying, ‘don’t blame me.’ It’s harsh and rude but people still say it
Frequency of usage: often

Down in the mouth


This is someone who is temporarily depressed, typically about an incident that has just happened.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Earmarked
This means ‘set aside for a specific purpose.’ People generally think of this as a government spending issue, as earmarks are
considered wasteful spending by the government for the purpose of maintaining getting votes from a specific voting bloc.
Frequency of usage: often

Eat your heart out


This is an interesting, if not gruesome phrase. Essentially it means, ‘you should envy this. I have something that this person
should envy.’ It is normally directed toward a third person who is not present.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

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Eating out of my hand


This phrase is often accompanied with the words ‘I’ll have him/her eating out of my hands.’ It means that I have a way of
handling this situation that will make this person want me to show them more. This person will be begging to do XYZ after I
present my case to him.
Frequency of usage: often

Elbow grease
‘Elbow grease’ is very hard work. The idea is that of a person rolling up his sleeves (showing the elbows) and working hard.
‘$50 and a lot of elbow grease will get this car restored.’
Frequency of usage: often

Eyes in the back of the head


Parents of little children are often described as people with ‘eyes in the back of their heads’ because they can sense danger
(and mischief) from their small children.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Face lift
A ‘face lift’ is the surgical or non-surgical stretching of the skin to reduce or eliminate wrinkles. A ‘face lift’ metaphorically
speaking is any changes made to existing structures or projects so that it looks newer.
Frequency of usage: often

Fair game
This phrase essentially means ‘available.’ For example, normally children of presidents are ‘off limits’ while they are still under
the age of 18, but after the president is out of office and the child is able to speak for herself, she’s ‘fair game’ for praise,
criticism, etc.
Frequency of usage: often

Finger licking good


‘Finger licking good’ was KFC’s slogan. It means so good that when you’re done, you’ll be licking even your fingers. It’s still in
use regarding other food items. Example: Man, you’ve got to try those ribs. There’s finger licking good.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Five-fingered discount
This means ‘to steal.’ The five fingers is making the ‘discount’ possible. Example: He got that watch with a five-fingered
discount.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Fly in the face of ...


Simply translated, this means ‘goes against.’ Often ‘conventional wisdom’ follows the phrase. Example: I don’t know what she
was thinking. That flies in the face of wisdom and common sense!
Frequency of usage: often

Footloose and fancy free


This means that a person is free to travel about with very few things holding him back.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Give me a hand
This means ‘help me.’ Normally, this is said when one person is doing a job alone and needs help. Most people will also
recognize this as ‘applause.’ Giving someone a hand also means ‘clap your hands for them because they did a wonderful job.’
Frequency of usage: frequently

Give my own left arm

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This is a euphemism for something that is very valuable or that you’d really want to do. Example: Man, I’ve give my right arm to
own a car like that!
Frequency of usage: often

Give yourselves a hand


‘Giving someone a hand’ also means ‘clap your hands for them because they did a wonderful job.’ The phrase as listed, ‘give
yourselves a hand,’ means to clap for yourselves.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Grease my palm
When you grease someone’s palm you are bribing them to do what needs to be done.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Green thumb
Someone who has a ‘green thumb’ is good with gardens, plants, and shrubbery. They are able to make things grow.
Frequency of usage: often

Hand over fist


Often this refers to the amount of money someone wealthy is making. ‘He’s making money hand over fist’ means that he is
making a lot of money quickly.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Hand-me-down
A ‘hand-me-down’ is a used item passed on from an older brother or sister.
Frequency of usage: often

Handsome
Most often this is in reference to boys or men. It has the same meaning that beautiful has in reference to girls and women.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Harebrained idea
This speaks of a wild and unrefined idea. Perhaps it has no connection with the current topic being discussed.
Frequency of usage: often

Have the upper hand


If you ‘have the upper hand’ you have the advantage over something.
Frequency of usage: frequently

He doesn't have a leg to stand on


This phrase means that this person has no basis for arguing the way he is arguing because ......
Frequency of usage: often

He doesn't lift a finger to help


This is a euphemism for ‘he doesn’t help at all.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

He fell head over heels for her


This refers to a boy or man who falls completely in love with a girl or woman. He does everything in his power to express his
love for her.
Frequency of usage: often

He laughed his head off


This is a person who laughs hard. It is a euphemism.

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Frequency of usage: frequently

He spilled his guts


This person is considered an informant, normally dealing with criminal activities. In exchange for an easier prison sentence, he
will ‘spill his guts’ about what and who he knows.
Frequency of usage: often

He would give you the shirt off his back


This is someone who is very generous.
Frequency of usage: often

Head to head
This also means face to face or against each other in competition.
Frequency of usage: often

Heads up
This can mean at least two things. First it is what is said when a ball flies into a crowd of people. Heads up! It is also used
when you want to caution someone about something. ‘I just wanted to give you a heads up about the upcoming report.’
Frequency of usage: frequently

Heads will roll


‘Heads will roll!’ means that the person saying this is very displeased and wants someone to blame. Obviously, it’s a
euphemism.
Frequency of usage: often

Heart to heart talk


This is what fathers have with their sons and daughters. Women tend to have ‘heart to heart’ talks. It is talking about very
personal and emotional things.
Frequency of usage: often

He'd forget his head if it


The full phrase is, ‘he’d forget his head if it wasn’t connected.’ This is a very forgetful person. A euphemism
Frequency of usage: sometimes

He'll talk your ear off


This is someone who talks a great deal, man or woman. A euphemism.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Here's mud in your eye


This phrase is obsolete but you will hear it in older movies.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

His business went belly up


This means that a person’s business failed or went bankrupt.
Frequency of usage: often

His face rings a bell


This person resembles someone else I know. He reminds me of someone else I met.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Home is where the heart is


This is often said when a person is away from home and is homesick. He wants to go ‘home.’ No matter where home is, ‘home
is where the heart is.’

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Frequency of usage: sometimes

I can't believe my ears


This is very close in meaning to the words. It means ‘I can’t believe what I am hearing.’
Frequency of usage: often
I can't seem to put a finger on
This means ‘I am not able to pinpoint exactly.’ You know something is wrong but you just don’t know what it is.
Frequency of usage: often
I know this like the back of my hand
This means that you know something well. For example, ‘follow me. I grew up here so I know this area like the back of my
hand.’
Frequency of usage: frequently
I'd give my arm and leg for that
This is a euphemism for something that is very valuable and would give even an arm and leg to get it.
Frequency of usage: frequently
I'd give my eyetooth for that
This is a euphemism for something that is very valuable.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
If you had brains you'd be dangerous
This is an insult. It means that you don’t have any brains at all. Another related phrase is ‘if brains were dynamite, you wouldn’t
have enough to blow your nose.’ There are many related to the above phrase but this is by far the most used.
Frequency of usage: often
I'll keep my eyes open for it
This is almost literal. For example, if you are looking for a friend’s car and you ask another friend if she’s seen it. ‘No, but I’ll
keep my eyes open for it.’ It seems like it’s sarcasm but it’s not. It simply means ‘I haven’t been looking but now that I know I’ll
be more aware.’
Frequency of usage: often
I'm all ears
This means, ‘you have my full attention. I will stop what I’m doing to listen to you.’
Frequency of usage: often
I'm gonna have your hide
The person saying this is very upset and wants to blame you for something. Beware!
Frequency of usage: sometimes
In one ear and out the other
Children are often guilty of hearing everything the parent says but doing none of it. The literal meaning is best here, the words
went in the left ear and exited out the right ear.
Frequency of usage: frequently
It blows my mind
This is a term that was used a lot in the 60s with psychedelic drugs. It means something that is unbelievable and inconceivable
and would expand your mind if you could conceive it.
Frequency of usage: often
It didn't cross my mind
This means, ‘I never really thought about it.’
Frequency of usage: often

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It slipped my mind
This phrase means, ‘I forgot about it.’
Frequency of usage: often
It's like music to my ears
This phrase means that I like the sound of what you’re saying. It really has nothing to do with music.
Frequency of usage: often
It's written all over your face
This simply means ‘it’s very obvious to others because of your facial expressions.’
Frequency of usage: often
Just don't see eye to eye
We just do not agree. Usually it is regarding a specific issue.
Frequency of usage: often
Keep your ear to the ground
This phrase is a request for someone to listen and see if he hears anything that might be of value to the speaker.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
Keep your ears open
This phrase is a request for someone to listen and see if he hears anything that might be of value to the speaker.
Frequency of usage: often
Keep your eyes/ears peeled
This phrase is a request for someone to keep a close watch for the person asking.
Frequency of usage: often
Keep your nose clean
This is a command to behave yourself and stay out of trouble. Law enforcement officials might say this to criminals.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
Lazy bones
This is a person who is very lazy or a playful way of telling someone that he is lazy.
Frequency of usage: often
Lie through your teeth
A person who lies through his teeth is a liar who is obvious about his lies.
Frequency of usage: frequently
Light on his feet
A good dancer is ‘light on his feet.’ A person who evades tough questions is also ‘light on his feet.’
Frequency of usage:
Lip service
‘Lip service’ means someone is only saying what she wants you to hear. There will be no action to follow it up. No action is the
key to this idiom.
Frequency of usage: often
Live from hand to mouth
This is a person who is moderately poor. For example, he makes $100 a week and by the end of the week, that $100 is gone.
He has no money for luxury items. We might also say that he is ‘making ends meet.’
Frequency of usage:
Long arm of the law

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This is a euphemism for justice. You can never escape ‘the long arm of the law.’ It will find you wherever you go.
Frequency of usage: often
Make up your mind
This is said to a person who has a difficult time deciding something. Essentially, it means ‘decide.’
Frequency of usage: often
Maneater
This is a euphemism (and derogatory term) for a woman who has dated many men.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
Money coming out your ears
If you have ‘money coming out of your ears,’ you are very wealthy. You have so much money that you don’t know what to do
with it all.
Frequency of usage: frequently
More than meets the eye
This phrase means ‘there’s more to this story than what you’ve heard or read.’
Frequency of usage: often
Mouth off
This verb is normally reserved for children who talk badly to their parents. A similar word verb is ‘to sass.’
Frequency of usage: often
Mouth-watering
This is something that you really want to eat. You can smell it, taste it in your head, and are ‘drooling’ over it.
Frequency of usage: often
My back teeth are floating
This is one of many phrases that means you really have to go to the bathroom.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
My hands are tied
When your hands are tied at a company, you are limited in what you can do. The company rules have limited you. If you do
what you know should be done it will be against company rules and you will be violating them.
Frequency of usage: frequently
My head was spinning
This implies that you are trying to figure it all out but you can’t because there is a lot of information to process.
Frequency of usage: often
My heart belongs to her
This phrase is similar to ‘she stole my heart.’ A boy would say this about a girl he loves.
Frequency of usage: often
My heart bleeds for you
This is clear sarcasm. It means exactly the opposite. You could not care at all about the person.
Example: If you don’t agree with someone politically and something mildly bad happens that knocks him out of the race, you
might say, ‘Pity, my heart bleeds for him. Now I’ll have one fewer choice to make.’
Frequency of usage: often
My heart sank
The best way to describe this is with an illustration. When I heard the news about Princess Diana, my heart sank. It’s a sudden
sadness about something very real to us.
Frequency of usage: often

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My heart skipped a beat


This phrase is one of surprise and excitement upon hearing good news. When I found out that I had won the lottery, my heart
skipped a beat.
Frequency of usage: often
My lips are sealed
This means, ‘I am not saying a word.’
Frequency of usage: often
My neck of the woods
This means, ‘the area that I am most familiar with.’ What a surprise to see you in my neck of the woods. What brings you here?
Frequency of usage: frequently
Neck and neck
If you are ‘neck and neck,’ you are in a very close competition. The reference is to horse racing where two horse necks are
side by side racing to the finish line.
Frequency of usage: frequently
Nerves of steel
People who do very risky things have ‘nerves of steel.’ If you work on a skyscraper, you have nerves of steel.
Frequency of usage: often
No sweat off my back
Another way of saying this is ‘that doesn’t worry me at all.’
Frequency of usage: often
Nose job
A ‘nose job’ is when a person has plastic surgery to change the nose. Often it is women who want to have smaller noses but it
can be men too.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
Nosey
If you are ‘nosey’ you are poking your head into others’ affairs without their consent. No one likes nosey people.
Frequency of usage: often
Not by the hair on my chinny chin chin
It’s a playful way to say ‘no!’ This phrase was used in children’s story called ‘The Three Little Pigs.’ The Wolf wanted in to their
house and they replied, ‘not by the hair on my chinny chin chin.’ The Wolf got in twice, but that’s not the point.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
Nothing but skin and bones
Someone who is ‘nothing but skin and bones’ is extremely thin to the point of being unhealthy.
Frequency of usage: often
Offhand do you know
‘Offhand’ and ‘off the top of your head’ are identical. They both mean, ‘without looking it up in a book or calling someone else,
do you know....’ xyz? Essentially they mean, do you remember or recall?
Frequency of usage: frequently
On its last leg
If something is ‘on its last leg,’ it means that the object (it’s very rude to refer to a person) is nearing its end. Cars, furniture,
computers, anything that wears down can be ‘on its last leg.’
Frequency of usage: often
On the one hand

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This phrase is used when trying to list the advantages and disadvantages of two different things. The corollary to this is ‘on the
other hand.’
Frequency of usage: frequently
On your toes
If someone keeps you ‘on your toes,’ you are probably really busy and aware of what’s happening. Children keep their parents
on their toes. A boss keeps his workers on their toes by walking the floors and making sure that the work is being done.
Frequency of usage: often
One foot in the grave
This is a course way of saying that someone is ready to die or is seriously ailing.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
Open mouth, insert other foot
This saying is similar to ‘foot in mouth disease.’ When you put your foot into your own mouth, you have said something that
you regret saying. Foot in mouth disease, therefore, is the habit of saying things you shouldn’t say. This is what a person would
say if he realizes what he has just said. He’s being sarcastic toward himself.
Frequency of usage: often
Out of hand
This phrase means ‘out of control.’ This generally applies to children who are out of control.
Frequency of usage: often
Out the ying-yang
Simply put, this means that you have a lot of something. For example, if someone asked you if you needed coupons to take to
the store with you, you would reply, ‘we’ve got coupons out the ying-yang,’ which when translated means we have an
overabundance of coupons. An identical phrase is ‘out the wazoo.’
Frequency of usage: frequently
Pain in the neck
This is a more polite term for someone who is a big bother and annoyance. The rude term is ‘pain in the ass’ and you will hear
that more often than pain in the neck.
Frequency of usage: frequently
Pay through the nose
When you ‘pay through the nose’ you are paying an extraordinary amount of money for something.
Frequency of usage: often
Pick his brain
When someone wants to pick your brain, that’s a good thing! It means he wants to find out all he can about a subject that you
are probably an expert in. He will ask questions and probe you for all the information he can
Frequency of usage: frequently
Poker face
A poker face reveals no emotion at all. It’s a face that poker players use to try to fool their opponents. The other opponents try
to ‘read’ the other players’ faces to see if they are bluffing. Outside of the game, this is any face that is harsh, cold and void of
all emotion.
Frequency of usage: often
Put your best foot forward
If you ‘put your best foot forward,’ you are dressing your best, acting your best, displaying your best qualities. You are trying to
make an impression.
Frequency of usage: often
Put your money where your mouth is

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In essence, this means, ‘if you really believe what you are saying, why don’t you
Frequency of usage:
Rack your brains
This means to strain through mental effort. You are trying and trying and trying to figure something out. You’re ‘racking your
brains’ so that you can begin to understand it.
Frequency of usage: frequently
Right hand man
Good ‘right hand men’ are hard to find. Whenever the ‘master’ calls, the right hand man is there to solve the problem, handle
the details, type the letter, clean up after his boss, etc. He is the person who is closest to his boss and handles all of his details.
Frequency of usage: often
Right off the top of my head
This phrase is similar to ‘offhand.’ ‘Offhand’ and ‘off the top of your head’ are identical. They both mean, ‘without looking it up in
a book or calling someone else, do you know....’ xyz? Essentially they mean, do you remember or recall?
Frequency of usage: frequently
Rub shoulders with
When you rub shoulders with someone, normally the person is ‘above’ you in status. It means you have loosely associated
yourself with that person...temporarily. For example, ‘yesterday, I rubbed shoulders with the CEO of the company. He invited
me to play golf with him.’ I don’t expect to befriend him
Frequency of usage:
Rule of thumb
A ‘rule of thumb’ is a general rule. It’s an approximation of what you should do. For example, when measuring your height, a
general rule of thumb is to take off your shoes and your had, and stand on a flat surface.
Frequency of usage: frequently
Rules with an iron hand/fist
This kind of a person is a dictator and will stop at nothing to maintain power. If you break one of his laws, he will show you who
is in control and may literally crush you.
Frequency of usage: often
Save your hide/skin
More often, ‘I saved your skin’ is heard. It means that someone has helped you when you were in trouble. By their words or
actions (probably when you weren’t there to defend yourself), they spoke favorably on your behalf.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
Shake a leg
This means ‘hurry up, we need to get moving’ and is almost always preceded with ‘come on, shake a leg.’
Frequency of usage: often
She teased her hair
Men never tease their hair. It’s a way of brushing or combing out the kinks. To tease someone, on the other hand, is to make
fun of them.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
Shoot your mouth off
People who are loud and obnoxious tend to shoot their mouths off more. It means to brag and generally be boisterous.
Bragging loudly is the general meaning.
Frequency of usage: often
Shorthanded
If you are shorthanded at work you are working extra because you probably need more help.

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Frequency of usage: often


Sight for sore eyes
This is a said by a person who is glad to see someone else after a long and tiring day. ‘Boy, are you a sight for sore eyes,’ is
almost always how you will hear it.
Frequency of usage:
Silver-tongued devil
A person is said to be a ‘silver-tongued devil’ if he is smooth in his speech with evil intent.
Frequency of usage: often
Single-handedly
This simply means, ‘by myself/himself/herself.’ No one else helped me. I did it alone. It’s usually something that you
accomplish or have victory over.
Frequency of usage: frequently
Slapped up side the head
This is how almost exactly how you will hear it but a it’s hard to know the exact words that are in this phrase. It means, ‘if
you’re not careful, I will slap you on the head. It’s often said in jest among adults. As parents to children, it is merely a reminder
of who is in control. ‘I should slap you upside the head for that comment’ should not be taken literally. You will hear it in the
South more than anywhere else in the United States.
Frequency of usage: often
Sore spot
A ‘sore spot’ is an issue or a problem that a person has but is not yet willing to discuss it openly or if he does, he will go on a
rant about it.
Frequency of usage: frequently
Stabbed in the back
This is often used about a person close to you. It’s a sign that the person has betrayed you to some degree. You are probably
no longer friends after this.
Frequency of usage: often
Stick his foot in his mouth
This saying is similar to ‘foot in mouth disease.’ When you put your foot into your own mouth, you have said something that
you regret saying. Foot in mouth disease, therefore, is the habit of saying things you shouldn’t say. A person might even admit
that he ‘stuck his foot in his mouth’ after he realizes what he has just said.
Frequency of usage: often
Sticky fingers
A person is said to have ‘sticky fingers’ when he is known for his stealing tendencies. It’s not large scale theft but theft
nonetheless.
Frequency of usage: often
Sweet tooth
If someone has a sweet tooth, he or she likes very sweet foods and can’t get enough of them.
Frequency of usage: often
Take the wax out of your ears
This is said, normally by parents though not always, when someone does not want to repeat what was just said, mainly
because the listener wasn’t listening.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
Talk out of both sides of the mouth

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Politicians tend to talk out of both sides of their mouths. They say one thing to one group of people and can say something
entirely opposite to another group. A person who doesn’t know what they’re talking about is said to be ‘talking out of both sides
of his mouth.’
Frequency of usage: often
That makes my skin crawl
Frequency of usage:
That should raise some eyebrows
This phrase is often used about questionable or controversial topics. It would shock and upset the elite if they heard about that.
That’ll raise some eyebrows and turn some heads.
Frequency of usage: often
The baby is cutting teeth
The baby is acquiring his or her first teeth. That’s all.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
The boss works you to the bone
If you are ‘worked to the bone,’ it is extremely difficult and tiring.
Frequency of usage: often
The shoe's on the other foot
This will normally be a question as in, ‘the shoe’s on the other foot, isn’t it?’ It means that it’s easier to criticize when you’re not
actually going through something that another person is going through at the moment. It’s sort of a harsh response to words
that a critic has been using.
Frequency of usage: often
The weight falls on his shoulders
Usually this means ‘responsibility’ or burden. It is his responsibility.
Frequency of usage: often
They were in my hair all day
Young mothers with small children will use this daily. It is similar to ‘they drove me up a wall’ or ‘I was climbing the walls.’ It
means that the children were hyperactive and probably disobedient.
Frequency of usage: often
Thick skinned
If you are thick skinned, you are able to take insults and criticism without much thought. If you are thin skinned, it’s the exact
opposite. Every insult and criticism hurts.
Frequency of usage: often
Throw out your back
When you throw out your back, you have probably strained a muscle. You will be resting your back for awhile. There is no
metaphorical meaning to this phrase.
Frequency of usage: often
Tickled pink
This means ‘very very pleased.’
Frequency of usage:
Time on my hands
You will often hear this phrase as ‘you’ve got way too much time on your hands.’ It’s said when you see something that
obviously took a long time to create but in the end is considered useless. This simply means you have too much spare time;
you need to be active doing something.
Frequency of usage: frequently

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Tip of my tongue
It’s on the ‘tip of my tongue’ is heard daily. It means you know the answer. You’ve studied it and it’s very close to coming out of
your mouth. It will drive you crazy until you figure it out.
Frequency of usage: often
To bat an eyelash
This phrase is often heard in the negative as in ‘he didn’t bat an eye.’ [Lash is understood]. It means that he didn’t even pay
attention to something, often the extremely high price of something. ‘When I told him the price of the house was $3 million, he
didn’t even bat an eye.’
Frequency of usage: often
To be head and shoulders above
This means that something is superior to something else.
Frequency of usage:
To be out for blood
Typically this phrase is used in reference to courts and lawsuits. It means that a person or lawyer was willing to risk a lot just to
make sure that ‘justice’ was served. The idiom is about as close to the actual phrase as it can be. The idea is that the lawyer
will not stop until blood has been spilled. There is an anger and ferocity to the phrase.
Frequency of usage: often
To be starry eyed
Children and teens are often starry eyed. They dream and dream and dream about what will become of their lives. Women and
men can get starry eyed over the opposite sex when they are dating.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
To be tongue-tied
All of us have been ‘tongue-tied’ at one time or another. We know what to say but it’s hard to get it out for some reason. Often
we become tongue-tied when we’re surprised and don’t know what to say!
Frequency of usage: often
To be up in arms
This simply means ‘to be angry.’ It’s accompanied with the words ‘up in arms over’ or ‘up in arms about.’
Frequency of usage: often
To bellyache
A bellyacher is a complainer or a whiner. ‘Stop your bellyaching’ is a very common phrase even among adults.
Frequency of usage: frequently
To bite my head off
You will probably hear this as ‘don’t bite my head off.’ It means ‘don’t yell at me. It’s not my fault.’
Frequency of usage: often
To bite the hand that feeds you
When you ‘bite the hand that feeds you,’ you are potentially cutting off your source of revenue. If a dog bit his master, he is
cutting off his primary food source.
Frequency of usage: often
To bone up on
Simply put, this means to study or research or practice something. ‘I need to bone up on my soft skills.’
Frequency of usage:
To breathe down someone's neck
This phrase means that you are trying to hurry someone along who isn’t quite ready. Often it relates to a project not being done
on time. ‘The boss has been breathing down my neck to get that project cleaned up.’

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Frequency of usage:
To browbeat someone
This means ‘to try to intimidate someone’ normally by the way you look at that person.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
To bust a gut
This phrase means to laugh hard. You would hear it as, ‘he busted a gut when he heard that news.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes
To change hands
This normally means to change ownership of something.
Frequency of usage: often
To change your mind
‘To change your mind’ means to make a decision that is different than what you’ve already decided.
Frequency of usage: often
To cry his eyes out
This means to cry a lot over something.
Frequency of usage: often
To dive in head first
If you ‘dive in head first,’ you do not check the water at all for depth or temperature. You are fully committing yourself to
something and will do what it takes to at least start the project quickly.
Frequency of usage: often
To do all the leg work
The ‘leg work’ to a project is the details and the ‘ground work,’ meaning the preliminary work that makes a project successful.
Frequency of usage: frequently
To do it by hand
This simply means to do something manually.
Frequency of usage: often
To drag your feet
When you ‘drag your feet,’ you are procrastinating, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. You are slow in getting the product
or service out.
Frequency of usage: often
To eye her
Boys can eye girls. Girls can eye boys. Men and women eye each other. He has a specific girl in mind that he’s been watching.
That’s eyeing a girl.
Frequency of usage: often
To fall flat on your face
In life if you ‘fall flat on your face’ physically, you are humiliated and temporarily halted. You get up, brush yourself off and go
on with life. Metaphorically, using this phrase is a little different. It means you fell hard, perhaps with a business or a
relationship. It’s a temporary failure.
Frequency of usage: often
To feel it in my bones
This is a feeling or belief that something specifically named is going to happen. I’m going to win the lottery; I can feel it in my
bones.
Frequency of usage: frequently

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To fight it tooth and nail


When you fight something ‘tooth and nail,’ you are in the battle to stay. You are not leaving until you win. Normally, it isn’t a
physical battle but a moral or emotional battle such as fighting for your rights or arguing your case in court.
Frequency of usage: often
To force someone's hand
If you want to ‘force someone’s hand,’ you are provoking that person to reveal something about themselves or their project that
they would not otherwise reveal without your help. For example, if as a parent I know that my son has done something wrong
but he has not confessed it yet, I will try to make it uncomfortable as possible about the subject without actually mentioning the
subject so that it will force his hand to tell me ‘on his own.’ It’s a coercion technique that many people have mastered.
Frequency of usage: often
To get in over his head
This means to have more to do than you thought you could reasonably do. A similar phrase is ‘to bite off more than you can
chew.’ You are overwhelmed and will do anything to get out from under your burden.
Frequency of usage: often
To get inside his head
When someone wants ‘to get inside your head,’ he wants to know what she is thinking! It can mean that he wants to find out all
he can about a subject since you are probably an expert in it. But more generally it means, What is she thinking? Why does
she think that way?
Frequency of usage: frequently
To get off on the right foot
If you ‘get off on the right foot,’ you are starting something correctly. It’s the general direction you want to go in.
Frequency of usage: often
To get on someone's nerves
This is a great idiom to know because you will hear it daily. An annoying person often gets on your nerves. Since personalities
are different, what is annoying to me may not be annoying to you and vice versa. Perhaps it’s a habit or how a person speaks
or other mannerisms. When people are in confined situations for long periods of time, they tend to get on each others’ nerves.
Frequency of usage: frequently
To get some shut-eye
This is the phrase we use to say ‘let’s get a little sleep.’ You don’t need a long time but enough to be a little refreshed.
Frequency of usage: often
To get your feet wet
This is said to someone who is new to a project. By doing a little work on it, he is able to get his feet wet. He is able to see
what the project is actually like and get a feel for the work involved. The opposite to this is ‘diving in head first.’ You will get
your feet wet, as well as your entire body!
Frequency of usage: sometimes
To go for the juggler
This refers to the juggler vein located in the neck. Someone who goes for the juggler is ‘out for blood’ and ready to pounce. It is
someone who is very aggressive and ruthless in his tactics and will stop at nothing for his personal gain.
Frequency of usage: often
To go hand in hand
This means ‘to go alongside.’
Frequency of usage: often
To hand over something
Another way of saying this is to ‘turn it over to someone.’ It means to turn control over to that person.
Frequency of usage: frequently

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To have a good head on your shoulders


Often this refers to a boy or girl who probably has a good future ahead because they are smart and wise.
Frequency of usage: often
To have foot-in-mouth disease
When you put your foot into your own mouth, you have said something that you regret saying. Foot in mouth disease,
therefore, is the habit of saying things you shouldn’t say.
Frequency of usage: often
To have that on hand
This phrase means that you have something in stock. It is on the shelves and available.
Frequency of usage: often
To have your back to the wall
When you ‘have your back to the wall,’ you are in trouble and on the defensive. Things are not looking great for you. You might
also hear it as ‘having your back against the wall.’ They are identical.
Frequency of usage: often
To have your hands full
There are two meanings to this. First, the obvious, you cannot carry any more things in your arms. Secondly and this is how it
is used more often, you are very busy. You often hear this regarding a mother with three or four little children around her. She
obviously has her hands full with them (even though she may not be holding any of them in her arms). It means to be very very
busy with something and can no longer take on more.
Frequency of usage: frequently
To have your hands into everything
This person is probably a micromanager. He must be involved in every detail.
Frequency of usage: often
To knuckle down
This phrase means to focus on the task at hand, to start working.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
To knuckle under
This means that something has collapsed.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
To lose your head
This means the person became very angry.
Frequency of usage: often
To pull someone's leg
Someone has played a joke on you or is playfully lying to you if he has pulled your leg. You might even hear me say ‘quit
pulling my leg.’
Frequency of usage: often
To put our heads together
The idea behind this phrase is ‘two heads are better than one’ when it comes to ideas and solutions. You will put your heads
together so that you will have better ideas.
Frequency of usage: often
To put your noses to the grind
This phrase means to start working diligently. The idea is one of focus.
Frequency of usage: often

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To risk life and limb


This is another way of saying he risked his life over a matter.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
To say a mouthful
This simply means that a person has said a lot in a short period of time.
Frequency of usage: often
To shoot themselves in the foot
This means that you are hurting yourself and may not realize it. For example, if someone says to me, ‘I want you to come work
for me but you need to understand that I am an impossible boss to work for,’ he has just shot himself in the foot by revealing
something about himself that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.
Frequency of usage: often
To show your hand
This is a poker term and it means to reveal your cards to the other players. In life it is not good to show your full hand to
everyone, meaning it’s not good to let everyone know everything about you at one time. It’s also a negotiation tool so that the
competition doesn’t know all about the competitor.
Frequency of usage: often
To stare death in the face
This is what someone would say after he was in a near death situation. Perhaps he was headed straight for another car. It
implies bravery.
Frequency of usage: often

To steal my heart
This is a romantic term. If someone steals your heart, it is no longer yours and belongs to someone else. Most likely a girl stole
the boy’s heart. “She stole my heart!’
Frequency of usage: often

To stick his neck out


This phrase is all about risk. ‘Sticking your neck out’ means to risk. It’s always in reference to a specific factor. ‘I’m sticking out
my neck for you.’
Frequency of usage: often

To take a shot in the arm


This phrase means to be encouraged about something. It’s as if the person was injected with a boost of encouragement.
Normally it’s pertains to a specific thing. It’s like a ‘booster’ shot.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To throw up one's hands


This means that you have resigned and given up over a matter. We would say it like this: ‘I throw up my hands to that.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To try one's hand at


This simply means ‘to try at least one time.’
Frequency of usage: often

To wash one's hands of


This phrase means that a person does not want anything else to do with a subject. He doesn’t want to be held liable for
anything that happens. The most famous instance of this was King Herod regarding Jesus. He said, when translated, ‘I wash
my hands of this situation.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

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Tongue in cheek
Frequency of usage: sometimes
‘Tongue in cheek’ talk refers to a type of speech where the speaker is clearly playing a joke with the words he uses. An
example of this would be if a pilot told the control tower that he’s not able to read the taxiway sign because he was born blind
in one eye. Everyone – including the control tower workers - knows that pilots must have exceptional vision to fly
Frequency of usage: frequently

Tongue twister
Tongue twisters exist in every language. These are the syllables that are put together in sequence that would be very difficult
for native speakers to say quickly. ‘She sells seashells by the seashore’ is a common tongue twister in English. In everyday
speech, however, we find phrases that are not intended to be difficult but end up being difficult to say, such as ‘cinnamon’ and
‘aluminum.’
Frequency of usage: frequently

Too rich for my blood


This simply means too expensive. It’s generally spoken in a card game but when a player no longer wants to bet higher and
higher.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Twist my arm
This is a phrase that is almost always said as ‘tongue in cheek’ comment. If someone has a new job assignment located in
Florida or Hawaii for two weeks, he might say, ‘okay, I’ll go but only if you twist my arm first.’ You would twist someone’s arm to
get her to do something she would not normally do.
Frequency of usage: frequently

Two heads are better that one


This means that two minds can think better than only one at a time.
Frequency of Usage: often

Two left feet


If someone has two left feet, he stumbles easily (mainly physically but can be in moral or emotional ways).
Frequency of Usage:

Under your wing


If you take someone under your wing, you are mentoring or training him. It has the idea of mother hen with her chicks.
Frequency of Usage: often

Underhandedly
Something that is underhanded is deceitful or deceptive. You are trying to undo what someone else has already done.
Frequency of Usage: sometimes

Walls have ears


This is almost always spoken in the presence of little children since they would not know what is meant. It usually means to be
careful what you say around the children as they often repeat what they hear.
Frequency of Usage: often

We got it second hand


Second hand is used. It normally refers to clothing. You might also hear it as ‘hand me downs.’
Frequency of Usage: often

We got off on the wrong foot

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Relationships usually get off on the wrong foot. It means that the initial interaction did not go well. In fact, it means that you’re
surprised that it has even lasted based on the bad first interaction.
Frequency of Usage: often

We're splitting hairs


When you split hairs you are arguing over minor details. For instance, ten years ago how long were you on your honeymoon,
10 or 11 days? It doesn’t matter; you’re splitting hairs over something that is unimportant now…10 years later.
Frequency of Usage: frequently

Were your ears burning?


An example of this phrase is best illustrated. If A is talking to B about C and C walks up to A and B as they are finishing, A or B
might say to C, ‘we were just talking about you. Were your ears burning?’
Frequency of Usage: often

Wet behind the ears


A person who is wet behind the ears is new and inexperienced. We might even say he or she is ‘green.’
Frequency of Usage: often

Who will foot the bill?


Simple put, this means ‘Who will pay?’ You might hear it as ‘who’s gonna foot the bill?’ or ‘Who’s footin’ the bill?’
Frequency of Usage: often

Win it hands down


This phrase means that there was really no competition when you won. You won it without a fight.
Example: She won the beauty pageant hands down. There was no one close to her talent and beauty.
Frequency of Usage: sometimes

You don't have the guts


This means that you don’t have the courage to do something. Guts are slang for stomach and intestines. Guts is courage.
Example: He doesn’t have the guts to come to the restaurant after he embarrassed himself last week.
Frequency of Usage: Frequently

You gotta hand it to him


It means, ‘you must give someone credit’ for the choice or selection he makes. Normally it is based on previous knowledge that
the person has about the selection. Or it could mean that the person is lucky with his choices. He is an expert. How he became
an expert is not known.
Example: You gotta hand it to him. He knows how to choose his white wines.
Frequency of Usage: Frequently

You took the words right out of my mouth


This means, ‘I was just going to say what you just said.’
Example: Unbelievable. You took the words out of my mouth. How did you know I was thinking about that television show.
Frequency of Usage: Frequently

Your foot in the door


If you have your foot in the door, you have succeeded in getting started at a company or in a field of work or play. The idea is
something like after the door is opened, you put your foot inside the door and it can’t closing properly because you are
stopping it from closing.
Example: After you get your foot in the door with that company, they’ll train you and give you money for education.

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Frequency of Usage: Frequently

Your head in the clouds


If you have your head in the clouds, you are not paying attention to what’s going on around you. You are not concentrating. It is
often stated in the negative. A coach might say this in the middle of a sporting event.
Example: If you want to win this game, you’ll have to get your head out of the clouds.
Frequency of Usage: Frequently

FOOD
A tough nut to crack
‘A tough nut to crack’ is someone who is very elusive and hard to understand. You cannot through logical means understand
what this person has been doing when he has everything in the world but seems empty, for example.
Frequency of usage: often

Bite off more than you can chew


This phrase means that you have taken on a very large task and didn’t realize how large it would be when you first took it.
Frequency of usage: often

Corny
Many jokes are corny. It’s a style of wit. A silly joke. It lacks sophistication.
Frequency of usage: often

Couch potato
This is someone (usually a child or man) who sits around all day watching television (from the couch) and does little else.
Frequency of usage: often

Dead meat
‘Dead meat’ is a phrase that means ‘you’re in big trouble for what you did.’ A similar and more popular phrase is ‘you’re toast.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Do you want a Brownie Button?


This is sarcasm and often said to people who think that what they have just done (usually minor accomplishment) deserves a
reward of some sort. A Brownie is a junior division of Girl Scouts.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Don't cry over spilled milk


This phrase is from a fable. It means that you cannot worry about something that you cannot change. The milk is no longer in
the pail and you cannot get the milk back.
Frequency of usage: often

Don't egg him on


When you ‘egg someone on,’ you are trying to get them to do something that they have already considered doing and probably
will do. It means ‘to coax.’
Frequency of usage: often

Don't put all your eggs in one basket


When you ‘put all of your eggs in one basket,’ you are hoping risking all over one idea or product in the hopes that this idea or
product will produce great rewards.
Frequency of usage: often

Eat drink and be merry

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The current meaning of this phrase means to live while you can because there is nothing else. The full phrase of this comes
from the Book of Ecclesiastes and reads, ‘eat drink and be merry for tomorrow you will die.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Eat my dust
When you ‘eat someone’s dust,’ you are lagging behind. The person is intentionally pulling ahead far so that you won’t be able
to catch him. When not in reference to vehicles, it means ‘I will be so advanced or far ahead, that my competition does not
have a chance to come close to me.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Food for thought


“Food for thought’ is ideas. ‘I just want to give you some food for thought on that’ or when translated, ‘I want to give you
something to think about.’
Frequency of usage: frequently

Fruity
This has two definitions. The first is a reference to homosexuals. The second is someone who is crazy or weird. It’s very similar
to the word ‘fruitcake’ which means that the person’s ideas are off balance or off center.
Frequency of usage: often

Get egg/pie in his face


Normally the phrase is with ‘egg’ in it. It means that a person embarrassed or humiliated himself by what he did or said.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Goody goody gum drops


This phrase is a carryover from childhood and is not said by most. When I hear the news about something fun that is about to
happen, most will say, ‘good!’ or ‘excellent.’ Sometimes I say ‘goody goody gum drops.’ Most people recognize it as being
childlike but not necessarily childish.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Half baked idea


Someone with half-baked ideas is probably half baked himself. It means that the idea hasn’t fully developed but that’s a polite
definition. It means that the idea is downright loony or weird. ‘Nobody in their right minds’ would follow the idea.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

He can dish it out but he can't take it


This is often heard as ‘he can dish it out...’ The ending is implied. For example, it means that a person can use harsh words
towards someone else but when that person uses harsh words against him, ‘he can dish [the harsh words] out but he can't
take it [when someone fights back with harsh words.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

He knows where his bread is buttered


This means that a person knows who he must pay allegiance to if he has a choice. For example, as a clerk in a store, if a
friend asks you to give them an extra pack of gum for free, he might say to the friend, sorry, but I know where my bread is
buttered. I am an employee and my employer pays me. If I am caught doing this for my friend, I could lose my job. My
employer butters my bread, so to speak. My friend doesn’t pay me anything.
Frequency of usage: often

Heard it on the grapevine


The grapevine is gossip. It is nearly identical to ‘the word on the street.’ Also, ‘a little bird told me,’ is similar but that implies that
one particular person told me. The grapevine and the word on the street are anonymous.
Frequency of usage: frequently

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His bread and butter course


This is in reference to professors or teachers. The bread and butter course is the teacher’s favorite. It’s the course that he gets
the most enjoyment out of. Normally, the is the teacher’s best course because he enjoys teaching it. Anything ‘bread and
butter’ is someone’s favorite.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

Hot potato
‘Hot potato’ issues are issues that are controversial avoided. No one wants to touch them because of the potential arguments
that could occur.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

How do you like them apples?


Frequency of usage:
Humble pie
‘Humble pie’ is what you ‘eat’ when you have to admit that you were wrong and it is obvious that you were wrong.
Frequency of usage: often
Hurry or you'll turn into a pumpkin
This phrase comes from the Cinderella fairy tale. At midnight if she wasn’t home, her chariot would turn into a pumpkin. This is
a light way of saying, ‘we need to hurry up a little.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes
I feel like pizza today
Pizza here could be switched with anything on a menu. I means I feel like eating xyz today. It does sound strange even to the
native ear.
Frequency of usage: often
I inhaled my food
Simply put, this means, ‘I devoured the food quickly.’
Frequency of usage: sometimes
If he's worth his weight in gold/salt
This means that a person or a thing is being compared favorably to gold or salt. If he is good, then he’s worth his weight. If not,
he’s not worth his weight in salt.
Frequency of usage: often
Is it soup yet?
Another way of using this phrase is ‘is the food on the table and ready to eat yet?’
Frequency of usage: frequently
I have a bone to pick with you
This is a single problem issue, probably the issue that is delaying progress. Normally, one person would tell another that he
has a ‘bone to pick’ or a ‘bone of contention’ with him. It’s a very specific issue that causes one person to seek out another.
Frequency of usage: often
In a nutshell
This means, ‘in its simplest and/or summarized form.’ ‘In a nutshell’ I don’t think we should go to Vegas this year.
Frequency of usage: frequently
It doesn't cut the mustard
This phrase is incorrect but this is how you will hear it. The correct word is ‘muster’ or standard. This phrase simply means that
whatever is being referenced doesn’t meet the standards.
Frequency of usage: often

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It was a cakewalk
A cakewalk is something that is very very easy to do. In reality a ‘cakewalk’ was a promenade or march of African American
origin in which the couple who promenaded the best or had the most intricate steps were awarded a prize – a cake!
Frequency of usage: often
It's icing on the cake
A cake is good without icing. ‘Icing on the cake’ is just that much better. Icing isn’t necessary but it makes the product better.
Similarly when you are in a good situation, anything that enhances it is ‘icing on the cake.’
Frequency of usage: often
It's not my cup of tea
The meaning of this is simple: others may do this and it may be a good thing, but it doesn’t excite or thrill me. It’s not where I
thrive. For example, I can write and call my congressman every day to change legislation but if you were to ask me to go to
D.C. to hold a sign and protest, ‘well, that’s not really my cup of tea.’
Frequency of usage: frequently
Meal fit for a king
This is a euphemism for a large table spread of food. Even a king would be pleased at what he say.
Frequency of usage: often
Milk that for all it's worth
When you ‘milk something,’ you are trying to squeeze as much ‘mileage’ out of it as you can. For example, a number of years
ago, I was singing in a group. We were performing two songs. I was the jokester in the group. In the first song I pulled a sock
out of my front pocket to rub my eyes because of the sad words we were singing. Three minutes later I raised my pant leg (as
part of the second song) to reveal a bare leg. I milked the joke from the first song to the second. The original joke was the sock
handkerchief; the ‘milking of that joke’ was the bare leg of where the sock came from.
Frequency of usage: often
No such thing as a free lunch
This means that there is always a cost even though the cost may not be seen. Free lunches were are big item when I was in
school. The money for the lunches had to come from somewhere. In this case, the tax payers helped pay for lunches. A ‘free
lunch’ is a hidden cost.
Frequency of usage: frequently
No help from the peanut gallery
The ‘peanut gallery’ is any audience or bystanders watching a person answer a question. It can be 2-3 people or it can be
1000. The person giving the question says, ‘no help from the peanut gallery.’ In other words, don’t help; keep quiet. Let this
person answer the question himself.
Frequency of usage: frequently
One bad apple spoils the bunch
This is often said about a large group of people who are basically good or honest. As I write this there are U.S. Army personnel
on trial for their inappropriate and possibly criminal actions during the War in the Middle East. In Iraq and Afghanistan there are
160,000 people, but ten soldiers are bad apples spoiling the whole bunch. Their bad actions make it difficult for the people who
are good (99.999%).
Frequency of usage: often
Peachy
This is hard to describe but essentially it means ‘good!’ It is often used as sarcasm: if a person says that it will cost $1500 to fix
your car when you expecting a $20 oil change, you might say ‘that’s just peachy’ while rolling your eyes. You might also hear
this with the word ‘keen’ as in ‘peachy keen.’ This only means ‘good.’
Frequency of usage: often
Pie in the sky by and by

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‘Pie in the sky’ often refers to dreams or hopes or unattainable fantasies someone may have. We might even say ‘pipe
dreams,’ which is a fantastic story
Frequency of usage: sometimes
To be the big cheese
‘The Big Cheese’ is the boss in any given situation.
Frequency of usage: often
To bring home the bacon
‘Bringing home the bacon’ means providing for your family, essentially bringing home the money so that you can buy the
bacon.
Frequency of usage: often
To butter him up
This phrase means to get on someone’s good side or to try to curry favor with this person. Often it’s because you want
something in return.
Frequency of usage: often
Make it short and sweet
This means to say what you came to say quickly. Often a manager will call a meeting and say, ‘I’m going to make this short
and sweet.’
Frequency of usage:
Piece of cake
This means very very simple. Can you have this to me by 3:00 today. ‘It’s a piece of cake’ or just ‘a piece of cake’ is the
response.
Frequency of usage: frequently
Polly want a cracker?
Polly is a talking parakeet. For some reason, the parakeet’s name is Polly and she always wants a cracker.
Frequency of usage:
Put the cookies on the lowest shelf
Frequency of usage:
Quit hogging all the room
Someone who ‘hogs all the room’ or hogs anything for that matter is someone who is not careful or considerate about the
amount of room he is taking up. References to pigs and hogging things are quite common in English.
Frequency of usage: often
Rat race
‘Rat race’ refers to the fast paced existence most of us lead.
Frequency of usage: often
Rice burner
A ‘rice burner’ is a non-USA built motorcycle. If it’s made in Japan, it’s a rice burner.
Frequency of usage: often
Smart cookie
This is someone who is very intelligent. You will hear it as ‘that’s one smart cookie.’
Frequency of usage: often
Sourgrapes
This word is from a fable. The ending to the story goes like this. ‘I didn’t want those grapes anyhow. They are probably sour.’
Frequency of usage:

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Spineless
Someone who is spineless is weak and ineffective. He is afraid to make difficult decisions because it might offend others. It’s a
great insult to be spineless.
Frequency of usage: often
Sugar and spice and everything nice
Little girls recite this poem. As adults we might jokingly use it when we see two adults arguing or trying to defend their
viewpoints.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
Sugar coat it
If you sugar coat something, you are putting a ‘sweet’ flavor to it. You are not telling it like it is but hiding its true meaning. It’s
usually in reference to bad news. For example, an older man is at the doctor’s and has just received a physical. He tells the
doctor when the doctor is taking a long time to review his results. ‘Give it to me straight, Doc. Don’t sugar coat it.’
Frequency of usage: often
Sweet dreams
This is the phrase that many parents tell their children as they go to bed. ‘Have sweet dreams.’
Frequency of usage: frequently
Sweet talker
Usually ‘sweet talkers’ want something. They are trying to make pleasant talk or do pleasing things in order to get something in
return. A salesman is often referred as a ‘sweet talker.’
Frequency of usage:
That and 50 cents will buy you a cup of coffee
This changes as the price of coffee changes. The best way to define this is by illustration. Let’s suppose I get an award for
having the highest number of idioms on one poster: 1100. They present me with an award and backstage I overhear, ‘that and
$0.50 will buy him a cup of coffee.’ In other words, it’s a meaningless award, especially to a coffee vendor.
Frequency of usage: frequently
That takes the cake
This is similar to ‘that’s the last straw.’ It means that this one action is all I can take because of the previous 10 or 20 or 100
bad actions.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
That's gravy
This is similar to ‘icing on the cake.’ Potatoes are good. Gravy on top of potatoes make it that much better It’s not necessary
but it makes the product better. Similarly when you are in a good situation, anything that enhances it is ‘just gravy.’ Gravy also
has the meaning of being very easy. Context is important to distinguish the two. Often it’s not possible so you must ask exactly
which meaning the person had in mind.
Frequency of usage: often
That's peanuts
‘Peanuts’ here means small and unimportant. If you saw a billionaire driving a Porsche, you might say ‘that’s peanuts to him.’
In other words, a $100,000 vehicle is inconsequential to a billionaire.
Frequency of usage:
That's the way the cookie crumbles
This is a flippant way of saying, ‘oh well.’ It has sister phrases such as ‘that’s the way the ball bounces’ and ‘that’s life.’ You
would use it when you are no longer in control of the situation or something has happened (and it’s not too severe) that was
totally out of your control.
Frequency of usage: often
The proof of the pudding is in the eating

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Often you will hear this as ‘the proof is in the pudding.’ This means that you will not know about something until you actually try
it. It takes theory to practice.
Frequency of usage: often
The whole enchilada
This phrase means ‘absolutely all of it.’ Normally it’s used as a fragment sentence for emphasis. It is similar to ‘the whole kit
and caboodle.’
Frequency of usage: often
This cake is out of this world
Any food item that is ‘out of this world’ is excellent in taste.
Frequency of usage: often
To buy a lemon
A ‘lemon’ is anything you buy that looks good until you use if for a short time, then it turns bad. You got a good deal on it but
it’s now bad.
Frequency of usage: often
To earn Brownie points
When you ‘earn brownie points’ you are trying to earn someone’s favor, i.e., a boss or spouse.
Frequency of usage: often
To eat brunch
Brunch is a cross between breakfast and lunch. It usually consists of breakfast food from served around 11 a.m. or 12 noon.
You will often see it in restaurants on weekends.
Frequency of usage: frequently
To eat like its going out of style
This phrase describes a very fast eater, often a teenager. It means eating a large quantity of food quickly.
Frequency of usage: often
To eat someone out of house and home
This refers to a teenager who eats a lot of food at home.
Frequency of usage: often
To eat your Wheaties
You will probably hear this as: ‘what’s the matter? You didn’t eat your Wheaties this morning?’ Wheaties is a breakfast cereal
that is supposed to be for athletes. There are sports figures on all of their cereal boxes.
Frequency of usage: often
To extend an olive branch
An olive branch refers to peace. If you are extending that olive branch you are trying to make peace with someone.
Frequency of usage: sometimes
To get chewed out
You know very clearly if you’ve been chewed out. It means that someone, often an authority figure, has scolded you for doing
something incorrectly or not doing it at all. Coaches and managers often chew out their players during practices and games.
Frequency of usage: frequently
To get more from using honey than vinegar
This is a proverb that means ‘it is much easier to get something done by talking to someone nicely than by demanding things
from them.’
Frequency of usage: often
To go like hot cakes

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Hot cakes are also called pancakes and flapjacks. This phrase means that something is selling or being given away very
quickly.
Frequency of usage: frequently
To have all his eggs riding on this
This phrase means that you are risking it all for one thing. A similar phrase is ‘have all your eggs in one basket.’ You have not
diversified your risk but instead have it in one area.
Frequency of usage:
To sow his wild oats
This is in reference to someone, normally a boy or young man, who is carefree and living a wild lifestyle. He is living as if there
were no tomorrow.
Frequency of usage: sometimes

To spill the beans


This phrase means to reveal something verbally. For example, I’m planning a party for my wife. Don’t spill the beans. In other
words, it’s a secret; don’t tell her.
Frequency of usage: often

To throw another potato in the pot


This is a euphemism for cooking a little more food for unexpected guests.
Frequency of usage: often

To upset the apple cart


If you ‘upset the apple cart,’ you are trying to change the status quo or the way things are normally done.
Frequency of usage: often

To wait on me hand and foot


This has the idea of a servant but it is often used in relationships. If you wait on someone hand and foot you are serving them
in much the same way a servant would but you certainly won’t get paid to do it.
Frequency of usage: often

Tough cookie
A tough cookie is a tough individual. He or she is rugged and built to last a long time. He or she has strong character,
especially under stress.
Frequency of usage: often

We got creamed
This is one of many phrases that relate to losing an event. This means that we lost by a lot.
Frequency of Usage: often

What's cooking?
This is another way of saying ‘what’s happening?’ It’s very colloquial. Another way is ‘what’s shaking?’ Identical meanings.
Frequency of Usage: often

Who cut the cheese?


This phrase will bring a smile to others’ faces. It means ‘who passed gas?’ or ‘who farted?’
Frequency of Usage: often

Work for peanuts


When you work for peanuts you are not being paid well at all. The idea is that an elephant is large and works all day but in the
end, he is fed peanuts.

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Example: I wouldn’t work for him. If you do, you’ll be working for peanuts. His reputation is terrible.
Frequency of Usage: rarely

You can take that with a grain of salt


This phrase is often used in the negative. It means that someone a particular person says may not be worth much because he
cannot be trusted. It’s often an awkward construction. ‘You can take that with a grain of salt.’ ‘I wouldn’t take that with a grain of
salt.’
When the person speaking prefaces his comments with this, it means that you can take it for what it’s worth to you. It may or
may not have any validity for you right now.
Example: The man’s a known liar. I wouldn’t take what he just said about the committee with a grain of salt.
Frequency of Usage: Frequently

You can't squeeze blood from a turnip


This usually means that a person doesn’t have the financial means to pay what is owed. Trying to get the money from the
person will only frustrate you because he doesn’t have it to return.
Example: I wouldn’t worry about that money anymore. You won’t get paid. After all, you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.
Frequency of Usage: Sometimes

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