Category Archives: Idiom of the Week

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Idiom of the Week – ‘Money for old rope’

‘Money for old rope’ Meaning: Easy money; profit earned in return for little effort Explanation: First appearing in print in a 1936 novel by James Curtis, this expression is likely to have originated in the early 20th century. Contrary to popular belief, it has no nautical roots, and simply refers to the limited value in…

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Idiom of the Week – ‘Don’t count your chickens before they hatch’

‘Don’t count your chickens before they hatch’ Meaning: Don’t make plans that depend on a certain outcome before you’re sure it will be a positive one Explanation: The first records of this phraseare in rhyme: Thomas Howell’s 1570 work, New Sonnets and Pretty Pamphlets advised, “Count not thy Chickens that unhatched be”. The phrase we’re…

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Idiom of the Week – ‘Beggars can’t be choosers’

‘Beggars can’t be choosers’ Meaning: Don’t question what you are given when in need Explanation: This phrase has a similar meaning to ‘Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth’. It was coined before any meaningful support existed for the poor, and articulates a common medieval belief that gifts should be gratefully received, whatever their…

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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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