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Welcome back, learners!

If you’ve been on the hunt for a way to spice up your conversations or are just plain curious about the quirks of the English language, you’re in the right place. Today, we’re going on another idiom adventure – this time exploring 10 more popular English idioms.

For those who didn’t join us in part one, don’t worry! It’s never too late. We went through 10 super cool English idioms and explained their meanings and where they came from. If you want to check it out, you can find it here!

You see, idioms are the spice of any language, giving conversations a dash of color, a touch of vibrancy. They make our chats more engaging, our writings more compelling. But as anyone who’s tried to learn English will tell you, they can also be a bit of a pickle, often leaving us scratching our heads in confusion.

And that’s why we’re here! We’ll be your trusty tour guides on this idiom expedition, taking you on a whirlwind tour of each idiom’s meaning, its fascinating origin, and, most importantly, how you can use it in everyday conversations!

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

1. Cool as a cucumber

“Cool as a cucumber” is a popular idiom that describes a person who remains calm and composed, especially in stressful or challenging situations.

The origin of this idiom can be traced back to the early 18th century. The earliest recorded use is in a poem by the British poet John Gay “New Song on New Similes,” published in 1732, where he wrote: “Cool as a cucumber could see / The rest of womankind”. Here, Gay used the idiom to describe a woman who remained unemotional and undisturbed by the actions of others.

It’s believed that the phrase was derived from the cucumber’s ability to retain its cool temperature, as cucumbers seem to remain cool to the touch even in warm weather. This physical property was then metaphorically used to describe a person’s demeanor.

For example, you might use it in a sentence like this: “Even when the deadline was approaching and everyone else was panicking, Sarah was as cool as a cucumber.”

In this example, the phrase is used to highlight the calm and composed demeanor of a person in a potentially stressful situation.

2. Hold your horses

The phrase “hold your horses” is a way of telling someone to slow down, to be patient, or to stop and think before proceeding. It’s often used when someone is rushing or eager to move forward with something, and another person wants them to be more careful or patient.

The idiom dates back to the days when horses were a primary mode of transportation. The phrase was used literally at first, directed to people who were in control of horse-drawn vehicles. “Hold your horses” meant to keep the horses still, to prevent them from running off, or to slow them down.

The earliest known written use of the idiom comes from the American author, David Crockett, who wrote in “Tour to North and Down East” (1835): “I told him to hold on his horses a little.”

Imagine you’re with a friend who is quickly getting excited about a new business idea they have. They’re already talking about quitting their job and investing all their money. You might tell them, “Hold your horses! You need to do some research and think this through before making any big decisions.”

3. Walking on air

The idiom “walking on air” is used to express a state of extreme happiness or elation. It’s often used when someone feels so happy that they feel as light as air or as if they’re floating.

For instance, after receiving the news of her promotion, Sally was so happy that she was “walking on air” for the rest of the day.

This idiom is typically used in more informal, conversational contexts. It adds a colourful, expressive note to descriptions of happiness or elation.

So, if you hear someone say they’re “walking on air,” they’re sharing their happiness and joy with you!

4. Goody two shoes

A “goody two-shoes” is a term used to describe a person who always follows the rules, often to the point of being annoyingly proper or righteous. This person is seen as overly well-behaved.

The term originates from a children’s story from the 18th century, titled “The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes”. The story was published by John Newbery in 1765 and it revolves around a poor orphan girl named Margery Meanwell, who goes through life with only one shoe.

When a rich man gives her a complete pair, she’s so happy that she tells everyone she meets that she has two shoes. Eventually, through her virtue and goodness, she becomes wealthy and marries a rich man. The term “goody two-shoes” has been used since then to describe someone who is virtuously good to an annoying extent.

For instance, if a co-worker never takes a long lunch break, never gossips, and always does everything by the book, another co-worker might say, “She’s such a goody two-shoes. It’s like she’s trying to be the teacher’s pet!”

So if you hear, “Don’t be such a goody two shoes!” it doesn’t mean stop showing off your shoe collection. It’s just a colorful way of saying, “Lighten up! You don’t always have to follow the rules so strictly.”

5. The elephant in the room

When someone mentions “the elephant in the room,” don’t panic!

There’s no gigantic elephant munching on your plants or attempting to squeeze onto your sofa. In idiom land, “the elephant in the room” refers to an obvious problem, issue, or uncomfortable situation that everyone is aware of, but no one wants to discuss or confront.

Let’s say there’s a team meeting at work, and everyone knows that layoffs are coming because the company has been struggling, but no one brings it up during the meeting. After the meeting, you might say, “The layoffs were the elephant in the room that no one wanted to talk about.”

6. Bring home the bacon

The phrase “bring home the bacon” is used to describe the act of earning money to support a family. In a broader sense, it can also mean to achieve success or to win something.

The phrase has a rather interesting history! One popular theory suggests it dates back to 12th-century England. The story goes that a church in the town of Dunmow would award bacon to any man who could swear before God and the congregation that he had not quarreled with his wife for a year and a day. The man who could “bring home the bacon” was highly respected in his community!

However, its current usage, referring more generally to earning a living, originated in the USA in the early 20th century. It was popularized by the boxing world, where it was used to refer to the prize money.

To use this idiom, you can say something like “I work long hours at my job to bring home the bacon.”

7. Jack of all trades

“Jack of all trades” refers to a person who has knowledge of and skill in many different areas, or who can do many different kinds of jobs. It’s typically used to express admiration for someone’s versatility.

The term “Jack of all trades” has been in use since the 1600s. Back then, ‘Jack’ is a generic term for ‘man’, The full version of the phrase is “Jack of all trades, master of none,” suggesting that while this person may be able to do many things well, they do not necessarily excel at any one thing. However, in contemporary usage, the second part of the phrase is often omitted, and a “jack of all trades” is typically viewed positively.

Suppose you have a friend who can fix a computer, cook a gourmet meal, write beautiful poetry, and also knows a lot about gardening. You might say, “My friend is a real jack of all trades. There’s almost nothing they can’t do!”

8. Playing with fire

If someone says you’re “playing with fire,” don’t panic and check for flames! This idiom isn’t usually about real fire. Instead, it’s a way of saying that someone is taking unnecessary risks or acting in a way that could have dangerous consequences.

The phrase plays on the danger inherent in literally playing with fire. It’s pretty universally recognized that such an action can easily get out of control and lead to injury or destruction, right? Well, the idiom applies that same reasoning to risky behavior in general.

Imagine a friend is considering investing all of their life savings into a very risky and unstable business venture. You might caution them by saying, “I think you’re playing with fire if you put all your money into that company.”

9. Draw the line

Ever had a moment where you just had to say, “Enough is enough!”?

Maybe someone keeps borrowing your clothes without asking, or perhaps your neighbor insists on blaring really loud music well after midnight.

Well, when you decide there’s a limit to what you can tolerate, that’s when you “draw the line.”

You might be thinking, “Draw the line? What, like drawing a sketch?”

But no, don’t go rummaging for your art supplies! This phrase isn’t about actual drawing. It’s about setting boundaries and limits.

The origins of the idiom are believed to come from sports, where literal lines are drawn to denote boundaries or starting points. In a broader context, “drawing the line” refers to setting clear boundaries or standards of behavior.

Here’s another example about when to use this idiom. Imagine you’re willing to work overtime occasionally, but not every weekend. You might say, “I don’t mind working late sometimes, but I draw the line at giving up my weekends.”

10. Ring a bell

The idiom “ring a bell” is used when something sounds familiar or you think you’ve heard of it before, but you can’t quite remember the details. It’s often used when a name, a song, a phrase, or a situation is vaguely familiar to you.

The phrase likely originated from the association of bells with getting attention or triggering memory, much like how a school bell or alarm clock would remind you of something you need to do. This idiom began to be used in the 1930s.

Suppose your friend is talking about a new restaurant in town and while you don’t remember all the details, the name does sound familiar. You might say, “I’m not sure, but the name of that restaurant rings a bell.”


And that’s a wrap! We’ve reached the end of our exciting idiom exploration journey! We’ve visited the vibrant world of idioms, feeling ‘cool as a cucumber,’ recognizing the ‘elephant in the room,’ and knowing exactly when we should ‘draw the line!’

If you’ve enjoyed this idiom adventure, be sure to check back for future posts. We’ve got plenty more linguistic treasures to uncover together. In the meantime, why not try using one of these idioms in a conversation this week? You’ll sound more natural, more fluent and, who knows, you might even surprise a native speaker with your knowledge!

Don’t forget to revisit our earlier blog posts for even more English language goodies. Until next time, stay curious, keep practicing, and enjoy your English learning journey!

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