Category Archives: Idiom of the Week

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Idiom of the week – ‘Damp squib’

‘Damp squib’ Meaning: Something that fails to meet expectations Explanation:A squib is a kind of firework that delivers a mild explosion. If damp, a firework won’t work, as the touch paper can fizzle out – hence a damp squib referring to a disappointment. The first printed reference to the phrase is in The Morning Post,…

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Idiom of the week – ‘Mad as a March hare’

‘Mad as a March hare’ Meaning: A person who is crazy or irrational Explanation: Hares traditionally have a reputation for acting oddly in March, which is nowadays attributed to their behaviour during mating season. The first record of hares’ alleged madness is in 1500, with the exact citation occurring in 1529 in Sir Thomas More’s…

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Idiom of the Week – In one’s bad books

‘In one’s bad books’ Meaning: To be in disgrace Explanation: Originating in the Middle Ages, being in someone’s books meant you were held in high esteem. Being out of their books, conversely, meant you were no longer of any concern to them. This developed into several versions of the phrase including good, bad and black…

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Idiom of the Week – Mutton dressed as lamb

‘Mutton dressed as lamb’ Meaning: An older woman who has dressed to look younger Explanation: This expression, the first print example of which appears in 1811, is a disparaging description of a woman who is trying to deceive men into thinking she is younger than she is. Traditionally, this is because it was necessary for…

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Idiom of the Week – When in Rome, do as the Romans do

‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’ Meaning: When you’re a guest in a different country or society, it’s best to follow their customs Explanation: Often shortened to simply, “When in Rome”, this phrase dates to the early Christian times, when dogma was considered flexible and travellers upheld different customs according to local societal…

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Idiom of the Week – All fingers and thumbs

‘All fingers and thumbs’ Meaning: Clumsy, lacking dexterity in the hands Explanation: This expression has evolved from an earlier phrase, ‘all thumbs’, the earliest example of which is in a text from 1546 which details the English proverbs of the time. It became ‘all fingers and thumbs’ sometime in the 19th century, first appearing in…

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Idiom of the Week – Pig’s ear

‘Pig’s ear’ Meaning: To make a pig’s ear of something is to mess something up Explanation: A relatively recent phrase, ‘pig’s ear’ is first found in print in a copy of the Reader’s Digest from 1950. The expression originates from the 16th century saying, “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”,…

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Idiom of the Week – Pulling your leg

‘Pulling your leg’ Meaning: Deceive someone in a playful, harmless way Explanation: It’s unclear where this phrase originates, as the literal references to leg pulling don’t have any relationship to fun and playfulness. The most commonly cited derivation is when thieves would trip up a passerby and use their confusion as an opportunity to rob…

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