[Repost] If You’ve Never Used These English Idioms, You’re Probably Not a Native English Speaker (by Lana Winter Hébert)

If You’ve Never Used These English Idioms, You’re Probably Not a Native English Speaker

LEISURE LIFESTYLE OCTOBER 9 BY 

 Those of us who grew up with English as our first language have been exposed to idioms and idiomatic expressions for most of our lives. They may have confused us a little when we were children, but explanation and constant exposure not only increased our understanding of them, but likely drew them into our own vernacular. If you’re in the process of learning the English language, you may come across some of these and not be entirely sure what they mean. Here’s a list of 20 that you’re likely to come across fairly often:

1. A Chip on Your Shoulder

No, this doesn’t mean that you’ve dropped part of your snack. To have a chip on one’s shoulder implies that the person is carrying around some grudge or bad feelings about something that happened in the past… like having walked through the wreckage of a building, and ended up with a chip of that building stuck to them for years afterward.

2. Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Like taking a HUGE bite of a sandwich that will fill your mouth up so much that you can’t move your jaw, this idiom implies that you’ve taken on more than you can handle successfully. An example would be agreeing to build ten websites in a week when normally you can only handle five.

3. You Can’t Take It With You

You can’t take anything with you when you die, so don’t bother hoarding your stuff or not using it except for “special occasions”. Live now, because all your stuff is going to be around long after you’re gone.

4. Everything But the Kitchen Sink

This implies that nearly everything has been packed/taken/removed. For instance, if someone said: “The thieves stole everything but the kitchen sink!” it meant that they took everything they could carry; it’s damned hard to remove a sink and carry it around.

5. “Over My Dead Body”

When the only way you’ll allow something to happen is if you’re no longer alive to stop it.

6. Tie the Knot

To get married. This is left over from the old tradition of handfasting, wherein the hands of the bride and groom would be tied together with a length of ribbon to symbolize that their lives were fastened together permanently.

7. Don’t Judge a Book By Its Cover

Things aren’t always what they appear to be at first glance, so it’s a good idea to give something a chance, even if its outward appearance isn’t immediately attractive.

*The exception to this might be actual books that have hideous covers: those tend to be terrible all around, and in cases such as these, it’s best to contact the author or publisher and recommend a good graphic designer.

8. When Pigs Fly

This means “never”. Pigs aren’t about to sprout wings and take flight anytime soon, so if someone says to their kid that they can get a forehead tattoo when pigs fly, it’s not gonna happen.

9. A Leopard Can’t Change His Spots

Basically: you are who you are. Just like a leopard can’t concentrate really hard and change the pattern on its skin, people can’t change who they really are at heart.

10. Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve

To freely show and express all of your emotions, as though your heart were on the outside of your body.

11. Bite Your Tongue!

Stick your tongue between your teeth (gently), and then try to speak. You can’t say a word, can you? To bite one’s tongue means to stay quiet: literally to hold the tongue still so it can’t make a sound. This goes along with:

12. Put a Sock In It

The idea behind this is that if you stuffed a sock in your mouth, you’d be quiet… so if you tell someone to “put a sock in it”, you’re telling them to shut up.

13. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

If a couple of dogs had been fighting and are now sleeping peacefully, it’s best to just leave them alone. The idea behind this one is to avoid bringing up old arguments so they’ll just be argued about again.

14. Foam at the Mouth

To hiss and snarl in anger like a rabid dog (whose mouth would be foamy as he jumps around like crazy and tries to bite people).

15. A Slap on the Wrist

A very, very mild punishment. To be slapped on the wrist doesn’t hurt much, and isn’t a deterrent from misbehaving again.

16. You Are What You Eat

This is the idea that everything you eat influences your health and well-being. If you eat nothing but junk food, you’ll end up unhealthy and malnourished, so be sure to eat a well-balanced diet.

17. “It’s a Piece of Cake!”

…meaning that it’s incredibly easy. No-one has a difficult time eating a piece of cake, do they?

18. It Takes Two to Tango

A person can’t dance the tango alone, nor can they fight by themselves either. If an argument has occurred, there were two people involved, so two were responsible.

19. Head Over Heels

To be incredibly excited and joyful, particularly with regard to being in love. Imagine someone so happy that they do cartwheels down the street: like that.

20. An Arm and a Leg

When something is so ridiculously expensive that you might have to sell your own body parts in order to afford it, it’s said to cost “an arm and a leg”.

Featured photo credit: Opened book with letters flying out of it on bright background via Shutterstock

English Oddities: 10 modi di dire bizzarri sugli animali

Animal Idioms (Articolo in ITALIANO)

Further Examples here: http://www.idiomconnection.com/animal.html

Help Traduzioni - Studio di traduzioni e comunicazione web

IDIOM - Help Traduzioni

di Angela Di Giorno

L’immaginario inglese non finisce mai di stupire. Di pappagalli e asini avevo avevo già parlato in un post precedente dedicato agli idiomi inglesi. Ecco qui di seguito altri 10 modi di dire bizzarri aventi come protagonisti gli animali.

Rane - Help Traduzioni

1. To juggle frogs: letteralmente il verbo to juggle significa ‘fare il giocoliere’ o in senso figurato ‘destreggiarsi’, quindi l’espressione suonerebbe tipo ‘maneggiare le rane’. È usata in situazioni complicate in cui si sta svolgendo un compito particolarmente difficile e impegnativo. Se immagino la scena direi che sono d’accordo: le rane sono piuttosto viscide!

2. In a pig’s eye: indica incredulità e scetticismo. Dire che qualcosa si verificherà in a pig’s eye equivale a dire che è molto improbabile. L’implicazione si basa sull’idea che il punto di vista di un maiale non può essere molto attendibile…

scimmie - Help Traduzioni3. To have more fun than a barrel…

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[Repost] 4 Good Reasons Why People Say “I Could Care Less” (by Arika Okrent)

4 Good Reasons Why People Say “I Could Care Less”

IMAGE CREDIT:
THINKSTOCK

March 4th: It’s not only a date, it’s an imperative (march forth!). Since 2008 it has also been National Grammar Day, a holiday conceived by Martha Brockenbrough of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar. Rather than use the occasion as a chance to go around correcting mistakes or teaching the finer points of usage (plenty of other people have those beats covered), I like to take the opportunity to focus on the sometimes weird and wonderful things that languages do (or that people do with languages). Last year I had fun with 7 Sentences That Sound Crazy But Are Still Grammatical. This year I’d like to go over a few good reasons why people say, “I could care less.” The list does not include “because they’re stupid and have no idea how logic works.” It turns out, there are a number of things about English that conspire to make “I could care less” a less irrational phrase than it might seem.

1. SARCASM

A number of language writers have suggested that “could care less” has a sarcastic reading, conveying something like “Ha! As if there were something in the world I could care less about.” There are some American Yiddish-inflected phrases that work this way, like “I should be so lucky!” (meaning “there’s no way I’m ever gonna be that lucky”) or “I should care!” (why should I care?). Even if “could care less” didn’t originate from a sarcastic intent, it matches up well enough with these other forms in the language to help give it staying power.

2. POSITIVE/NEGATIVE PHRASE PAIRS

Why use “could care less” if we also have “couldn’t care less”? There are other pairs of phrases in English about which you could ask the same question. Why say “that will teach you to leave your car unlocked” when you really mean “that will teach you not to leave your car unlocked.” Some other phrases that can mean the same thing with or without the negation:

You know squat about that. You don’t know squat about that.

I wonder whether we can make that work. I wonder whether we can’t make that work.

You shouldn’t go, I think. You shouldn’t go, I don’t think.

I can hardly wait. I can’t hardly wait.

Again, there’s an existing framework that helps “could care less” blend right in.

3. IMPLIED COMPARISON

Evidence for the use of “could care less” goes back to 1955, with “couldn’t care less” appearing only about 10 years before that. But long before that the phrase “No one could care less than I” was in use. Think about how you might respond to such a phrase in a certain type of conversation. “I’ve never been so insulted in my life! How dare they imply such a thing! No one could care less for the trappings of fame than I!”

“I could, darling. I could care less.”

The rest of the comparison, “than you,” is left understood. Perhaps “I could care less” also carries a shadow of the original phrase and a hidden comparison. “I could care less … than anyone.”

4. IDIOMS DON’T CARE ABOUT LOGIC

People might not have any thought of sarcasm, positive/negative phrase pairs, or implied comparison when they use “I could care less,” but when they use it, it’s as a set idiom, something they’ve heard before and learned as a unit. We have plenty of idioms that serve us perfectly well, despite the gaps in logic that appear if you look at them too closely. Consider “head over heels” (shouldn’t it be heels over head?) or “have your cake and eat it too?” (shouldn’t it be eat your cake and have it too?) or “the exception proves the rule” (shouldn’t it be the exception invalidates the rule?). There are reasons these idioms developed the way they did, but we don’t have to know anything about those reasons, or the original meanings, to use them perfectly sensibly. Same goes for “I could care less,” which people only ever use to mean “I couldn’t care less,” never the opposite. It doesn’t cause legitimate confusion, though it does cause quite a bit of consternation. In any case, it’s here to stay.

For more on “could care less” see the collection of links on this topic at LanguageLog, columns by Jan Freeman at Boston Globe, John McIntyre at the Baltimore Sun, and Ben Zimmer at Visual Thesaurus, and the snappy overview by Bill Walsh in Yes, I Could Care Less: How to Be a Language Snob Without Being a Jerk.

March 4, 2014 – 11:00am

Linguist, author of In the Land of Invented Languages, lives in Philadelphia, talks with a Chicago accent.
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