Funny idioms (with pictures!) part I – English

Posted on: 7. Februar 2013


Hey everyone! Long time, no blog entry. Sorry for that! I had a lot to do, especially last week. I had to proofread the translation (English -> German) for an entire user’s manual. It was quite interesting, especially writing comments and see what the translator says about them was a good experience. You always learn something new.


So, what do I have for you today? As the title says, I’m going to post some kind of “blog series” about idioms. Proverbs and idiomatic expressions never get boring. Let’s start!


1. A bitter pill.

A situation that is unpleasant, but must be accepted.

Example: “Losing the championship to a younger player was a bitter pill to swallow.”


2. Flash as a rat with a gold tooth. Australian expression.

Ostentatious. A man who tries hard to impress people by his appearance/behavior. In spite of a superficial smartness, he is not to be trusted. In spite of the gold tooth, he is still a rat.

Example: “You’re looking as flash as a rat with a gold tooth!”


3. To make a good fist of… British & Australian. Old-fashioned.

To do something well; it’s generally used when the results are perhaps disappointing, but not because of the person’s efforts.

Example: “He made a good fist of explaining why we need to improve our public transport system.”/“He did those tasks for the first time, and although the results aren’t perfect, he made a good fist of it.“


4. A hard/tough nut to crack.

Someone who is difficult to deal with because they are unpleasant or very determined to get what they want./A difficult problem to solve.

Example: “It won’t be easy getting her approval; she’s a tough nut to crack.”


5. On tap.

available, ready, to be expected, on the schedule

Example: “What’s on tap for today?”


6. To raise hell.

to complain in a loud and angry way/American: to behave in a noisy or wild way, upsetting other people

Example: “She raised hell when she realized her office had no windows.”/”Some kids were raising hell in the street.”


7. To grin like a Cheshire cat.

to grin/smile broadly, showing one’s teeth

Example: “When she walked in grinning like a Cheshire cat, I knew that she got the job.”


8. The worm has turned.

Someone who was always weak and did what he was told has now become strong and confident.

Example: “Yesterday, she just came in and told him to stop bossing her around. The worm has turned!“


9. To pick someone’s brains.

to ask for information or advice from someone who knows more about a subject than you do.

Example: “The new employee was working for our main competitor before coming here, so the boss has been picking his brains to find out what they’re doing over there.”


10. To blow one’s own horn/trumpet.

American & Australian: to blow one’s own horn. British & Australian: to blow one’s own trumpet.

to tell other people how good and successful you are

Example: “She’s one of the best journalists we’ve got, although she’d never blow her own horn/trumpet.”

Last but not least ~


11. To pay through the nose.

to pay too much for something

Example: “If you want a decent wine in a restaurant, you have to pay through the nose for it.”

There are dozens of idioms, I just picked some of them. I hope you liked this blog entry! More languages to follow ~

5 Antworten to "Funny idioms (with pictures!) part I – English"

Great little list! It seems that the pictures on the webpage are minute, fortunately they come through full-sized on the subscription email 😉

And making a good fist of something is old-fashioned? You make me feel old! Would look forward to seeing some German ones… in particular, what do you say for „picking someone’s brains“? I usually end up saying something awkward when that comes to mind…

Thank you, I hope everything is correct!

Hahah, is it old-fashioned?? I found it on…“The free dictionary“.
Oh yes, I want to post more German idioms. Good that you’re asking, I have a question about this one. Does it only have a positive meaning? In German, we say „jemanden ausfragen“/“jemandem Löcher in den Bauch fragen“ (neutral), but I also found „jemanden aushorchen“ (negative, „to spy“) or „sich Ideen bei jemandem holen“ (- to steal someone’s ideas) 😮

They look pretty correct to me, though I can’t speak for the Australian expressions. One thing I would mention about „making a good fist of something“ is that it’s generally used when the results are perhaps disappointing, but not because of the person’s efforts (e.g. somebody does something for the first time, and although the results aren’t perfect, they made a good fist of it).

As for picking someone’s brains, yeah, it’s a fairly innocuous phrase, it sounds a little cheeky, which is why I often use it in English! So „mind if I pick your brains?“ becomes „darf ich dir ein paar Löcher in den Bauch fragen?“

Looking forward to learning some new German ones in a future post!

Ah okay, interesting. I didn’t know. I’ll add that to „make a good fist of“. Thanks!

„Darf ich dir ein paar Löcher in den Bauch fragen?“ Haha 🙂
I think in German you only use this idiom indirectly, e. g. „Jim and Sally had their first date. The next day, she met her best friend and she was picking Sally’s brains about how the date was“.
-> Jim und Sally hatten ihr erstes Date. Am nächsten Tag traf sie ihre beste Freundin und sie fragte Sally Löcher in den Bauch, wie das Date war.“
I wouldn’t say „Sally, darf ich dich Löcher in den Bauch fragen, wie das Date war?“ Using this idiom „directly“ sounds weird in German, but I think it sounds perfect in English 🙂

[…] however, the origins of these phrases are often mysterious or disputed. Inspired by this short post series over on the World Text blog, I thought I’d take a look at a handful of German […]

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