Thursday, June 4, 2015

5 more (American) IDIOMS and their Origins.

Idioms are the heart of languages because they are expressive and reveal the nature of the people who speak the language.

Here are five of my favorite IDIOMS in English:

  • "Close but no Cigar":  This idiom means that you've almost accomplished something or guessed something.  

--"Where are you from?" 
--"Close but no cigar...I'm from the United States."

Origins:  This expression is from the end of the 19th century when fairs were very popular.  Kids and their parents would go to play games and win prizes, except back in those days, the prizes weren't stuffed animals (as is the case today.)  Rather than giving a prize to the kids, the carnival workers would give the parents a cigar.  Thus the expression was born when somebody almost won the prize: a cigar!

  • "A New York Minute": This idiom means a minute that passes very quickly!

--"When will you arrive?...I've been waiting for a half-hour!"
--"Don't worry...I'm on my way...I'll be there in a  New York minute."

Origin:  Obviously this idiom lends itself to the fast-paced atmosphere and life style of New York City.

  • "In the Same Boat":  This idiom means that we're all in the same situation or facing the same challenges. It's a great idiom to express solidarity.

--"Have you finished your evaluations yet?"
--"No,...I have to write 207, and I've only written 24!"
--"Oh my goodness!  Well, I'm in the same boat...I have to write 150, and I've only finished 4!"

Origin: As I'm sure you know, this expression owes itself to traveling by boat upon dangerous open seas and oceans.  In the old days, people traveled by boat instead of planes, so this expression was born then. 

  • "Backseat Driver":  This idiom is funny...It describes a person who, as a passenger in a car, tells the driver exactly what to do and when.  These people are annoying!

--"Don't drive so fast!"
--"You're going to hit the wall if you don't turn sharply right now!"
--"You have to turn wider around the corners otherwise you'll get in an accident!"
--"Please!  Enough of being the backseat driver!"

Origin:  This expression's origins are fairly obvious.  A person who isn't in the driving seat is usually riding shotgun (in the front) or he or she is in the backseat.

  • "Bite my Tongue": To try very hard NOT to talk or say something explosive or rude.
--"Here are the final drafts...I spent the last two weeks working on this.  Isn't it great?"
--"Well, actually, I don't like the fact that there are no videos of monuments, just of the children."
--"Well, I think the children are more important than the monuments."
--"Well, I don't.  Do it over, now!"
--(Thinking: I have to bite my tongue...otherwise I will get in trouble with my boss!")

Origin: As with in the same boat, bite my tongue's origins are fairly obvious.  A synonym, hold your tongue, expresses the same idea: Don't speak!

I hope you like these expressions as much as I do...You will sound like a native speaker!

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