Unlock the charm of the English language with insights from our talented Advanced Class students. They take you on a journey through the heart of idiomatic expressions, showcasing the essence and wit of the English tongue.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. When in Britain, do as the Brits do and use the following idioms to sound more British:
1. Under the weather
People around the world tend to think that the weather in the UK is always bad with rain and strong wind. Consequently, it has a direct effect on the language, particularly on idioms. For instance, the idiom “to be under the weather” means that somebody is feeling unwell, not that the weather is literally bad.
2. Come rain or shine
Another stereotype is that people in the UK love to talk about the weather, so in this regard, it is important to mention another idiom regarding the weather. “Come rain or shine” means that you provide a strong promise to another person, that you will stay with them in good and bad times, regardless of the weather condition.
3. It’s like a walk in the park
British people use this idiom to describe something that is very easy to do. The interesting thing is that you can easily find loads of parks in London and people are pleased to have a walk there. A walk in the park has been one of the most popular habits for British people. In Japanese,
people would say “before breakfast (Asameshi mae)” to describe something which is very easy to do.
4. When pigs fly
This idiom is used as a sarcastic way to express the fact that something will never happen, because obviously pigs can’t fly. In Italian, we have an identical idiom, but instead of pigs we use donkeys. In French, you would say “when chickens have teeth”. In Turkish, you would say “when the red snow falls” (I’ll clean my room when the red snow falls).
5. Once in a blue moon
This idiom is used to express that an event happens very rarely exactly like a blue moon which is an astronomic event that is a rare and unique occasion. In French, people would say: “Once every 36th day of the month”. In Italian, people would say: “Once every Pope’s death”.
6. To read the room
This idiom means that you are sensible enough to always know what to say. In fact, British are famous for keeping a stiff upper lip and not speaking their minds. So, when you are with your British friends, you need to learn how to read the room. In Japanese, people would say “read the air (kuuki wo yomu)”, and most of the time you will be required to “read the air” when you are in Japan.
7. Hit the nail on the head
You might think that this idiom is used to describe something negative, but in reality, it is used in a very positive way. By saying that someone “hit the nail on the head” you mean that someone gave an exact and accurate response to a statement or a question. Many languages have an equivalent of this idiom, in Italian it would be “to make the centre” (fare centro).
8. Bits and bobs
This expression normally refers to a large amount of different little objects. Historically this idiom was mostly used by carpenters, in fact their tool kit would often be full of little objects such as drill attachments. Nowadays, the use of the idiom has also been extended to little tasks and chores. To give an example you could say “my drawer is full of bits and bobs” or “I have a few bits and bobs to do before heading home”. In German and Italian, we can also find similar expressions untranslatable in English such as “krimskrams” in German and “cosucce” in Italian.
9. It’s a piece of cake
This very British idiom means something is not overly complicated to do or understand and it is basically just as easy as eating a piece of cake. Another idiom that has a similar meaning is “It’s not rocket science”. In Turkish, people would say “It’s like a children’s game”.
10. I missed the boat
This idiom is common because Great Britain is an island and has a long tradition in maritime trade, so it probably means that when we have a chance, we must not miss it. In Italy, there is a similar idiom which is "I missed the train".
11. All mouth, no trousers
This British idiom describe people who tend to brag a lot but when it comes to action, they chicken out. In Spanish, an idiom with a similar meaning is “Barking dogs don’t bite” (Perro que ladra no muerde).
12. To beat about the bush
This idiom is used to describe someone that doesn’t get to the point of an issue and instead focuses on the unimportant aspect of the main issue. Normally when someone beats around the bush for too long, people respond with “cut to the chaise” meaning that they should go straight to the point. In Italy you could say “to throw the dog around in the air”.