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American  Idioms

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Idioms

At each other's throats   Answer the call of nature
A big hand Brush up on
Break the ice Daylight robbery
Burn the midnight oil Deliver the goods
Call it a day Do things by halves
Catch-22 Double talk
Child's play Get to grips with
Cost an arm and a leg Get hitched
Drink like a fish Give someone the cold shoulder
Get up someone's nose Gut feeling
Go Dutch In black and white
Go over someone's head Whistle in the dark
Hands are tied A walking encyclopedia
Look daggers at someone

Turn night into day

Make a splash Toy with the idea
On pins and needles

Top off / up

On the cheap The telephone is ringing off the hook
A peeping Tom No picnic
Put someone in their place Chew the fat
Run up an account Come clean
Tie the knot All keyed up
To be on the safe side A lame duck
   
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Break the ice

Our Eskimo in the illustration doesn't seem to understand that to break the ice doesn't mean to knock someone's house down. It means to do something friendly in order to overcome shyness or to ease tension in a social situation. "To break the ice, let's invite our new neighbors to lunch."

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Call it a day

"Let's call it a day and go home," Teddy said. Because the person he's addressing doesn't understand the expression, it's up to me to explain that when we call it a day, we stop whatever we are doing, regardless of the time. "After twenty years as a postman, Mr Burr called it a day and retired."

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Do things by halves

I don't know what's wrong with Mr. Long. He's either lazy or disorganized for he always does things by halves. That is, he does things in a careless and incomplete way. "When I read a book, I do it by halves. I never finish it." Mr. Long said. " I guess I've decorated my house by halves too."

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Put someone in their place

George made the mistake of criticizing his boss. His boss responded by putting him in his place. When we put someone in their place we punish them, often by telling them in an angry way that their thoughts or opinions are of little importance. "Having been put in his place, I doubt that George will ever criticize the boss again."

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On the cheap

Things that are cheap are inexpensive. To do something on the cheap is to do it without spending much money. Last summer, for instance, Felix joined a tour to Europe and that it discovered was done on the cheap as the hotels were inexpensive and lunches were from hot dog stands.

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Make a splash

For several years Gilbert has been studying acting. At last he's ready to appear in a play and make a splash as an actor. When we make a splash, we do something that attracts attention. "Did you see Gilbert in the play last night? He made quite a splash playing Macbeth."

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Hands are tied

Angela and Bruce would like to be free to do as they wish. Unfortunately they can't for their hands are tied ! When people's hands are tied they are unable to do as they would like. "I'd like to go shopping with you but my hands are tied for I have to stay at the office today," father said.

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Go Dutch

It takes at least two people to go Dutch for the simple reason that when we go Dutch we share the cost of something, each person paying his or her own expenses. "Hans invited Gretchen to join him for lunch. Knowing he hasn't much money, Gretchen has insisted that they go Dutch."

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Cost an arm and a leg

Whatever is said to cost an arm and a leg is very expensive. "It cost me an arm and a leg to get my car repaired." "George flew to Austria to go skiing. He said that the trip cost him an arm and a leg."

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Catch-22

This expression comes from the title of a book. Situations referred to as catch-22 are unreasonable and unfair in which a person has no chance of winning or succeeding. "If I study medicine, I'll be unhappy. If I study art, my parents will be unhappy. I'm in a catch-22 situation."

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Burn the midnight oil

Mr. Wilcox works all day and attends school at night. When he goes home he burns the midnight oil by studying until dawn. If you are like Mr. Wilcox and work or study long hours at night, you too can say that you burn the midnight oil.

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A big hand

Last night, Fiona was given a big hand at the end of her wonderful performance. Fiona was overjoyed, of course, for a big hand refers to loud and enthusiastic applause. The newspapers say that Fiona performed very well and received a big hand for her role in the play.

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Chew the fat

After a hard day, Nanook and his friend like nothing better than to sit around a nice warm fire chewing the fat. "Normally we are so busyhunting and fishing that we don't have much time to get together to chew the fat, " Nanook noted. To chew the fat is to have a casual chat or a nice little talk. "Our wives have just gone to one of their friend's igloo to chew the fat", Nanook smiled.

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At each other's throats 

Ian and Alfonso have never gotten along together. As Long as I can remember they've been at each other's throats. That is to say they have always been quarrelling, arguing and - on occasion - fighting. ''We've been at each other's throats so long we've forgotten why we're mad at each other,'' Alfonso said.

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Child's play

Jaime truly enjoys his new job. It's so easy that he has been able to make child's play of it. Any job or task can be called child's play if the person doing it finds it almost too easy to do or to perform. "Jaime's new job seems like child's play." Helen smiled. "He makes it look so easy."

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All keyed up

Teddy has had a terrible day. It began when he overslept and was late getting to school. Then it rained and he got all wet coming home from school. Not only that he forgot to study for a history quiz! "Now you know why I returned home all keyed up," he explained. To be (all) keyed up is to be nervous, tense or excited. "That's exactly how I feel," he nodded.

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Come clean

"We have ways to make you talk," Officer Mutt grinned. "If you don't tell us the truth, I will find a way to make you come clean." Officer Mutt's dog ground his teeth together and agreed. To come clean is to confess or reveal all the facts about something - expecially after telling lies or hiding the truth. "I'll come clean if you keep your dog away from me," the criminal cried out.

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Give someone the cold shoulder

The snowman in this illustration is happy to allow a bird to rest on its cold shoulder ... but that's not what this idiom means. To give someone the cold shoulder is to be unfriendly, usually by ignoring them. "I'm going to give donald the cold shoulder for not inviting me to his party."

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Gut feeling

Until recently it was considered somewhat vulgar to use the word "gut" when referring to the human abdomen. Gut feeling isn't vulgar, though. It refers to a feeling or an impression that comes from one's innermost self. "I have a gut feeling I shouldn't be here." Wilbur said to himself.

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Get to grips with

Kenneth had difficulty adjusting to his new job but he soon got to grips with it. He was uncomfortable living in a strange city but he came to grips with that too. To get/come to grips with ( something ) is to deal satisfactorily with a problem or a situation that initially proved difficult or confusing.

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Tie the knot

Colloquially, when two people get married they tie the ( marriage ) knot. "Peter and Elizabeth have decided to tie the knot. They make a lovely couple, don't they ?" Also, the person performing the wedding ceremony ties the ( marriage ) knot. The priest at St Teresa's tied the marriage knot for Peter and Elizabeth.

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Get hitched

Trevor and Janet have known each other since they were children. "You love me and I love you." Janet said one day. "Isn't it time we got hitched ?" Trevor resisted a little, but in the end he and Janet did gt hitched. When people get hitched, they get married.

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Drink like a fish

I don't know if people are aware of it but Tim drinks like a fish. When a person is described as drinking like a fish, he drinks great quantities of alcoholic beverages. Not water or cola or lemonade, mind you, but beer, whiskey, wine and other alcoholic drinks ... such as Tim is doing now?

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Top off / up

Bob and Tim are celebrating. With a bottle in one hand, Tim asks: "May I top your glass up!".

"Certainly, old pal, top it off," Bob said. Glug, glug, glug went the bottle as his glass was topped up, for this expression means to fill a partly full container - a glass, a tank, etc. - to the very top with liquid.

"Thanks," Bob smiled. "My pleasure," Tim replied.

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A lame duck

A person described as being a lame duck is helpless. If he is in a position of authority, he lacks power. " Shirley is such a lame duck. She can't do anything without ebing supervised. " ( Helpless ). "Harry's term of office ends next year. meanwhile, he's a lame duck president and none of his plans stands a chance of ebing acted up. " ( Powerless )

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Answer the call of nature

Teddy was on a walk in the forest when suddenly -- and without warning -- he had to answer the call of nature. "I really must obey the call of nature." he whispered. Fortunately for Teddy, there was a WC nearby for to answer/obey the call of nature is to go to the bathroom.

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Brush up on

Professor Oxbridge has been invited to give a talk on the history of his school. He hasn't read anything about it for so long that he'll have to brush up on it. That is, he'll have to refresh his knowledge of it. "There, I've brushed up on the subject." Professor exbridge smiled.

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To be on the safe side

Those who take extra precautions to reduce or eliminate the possibility of a mistake, an error or even danger are taking measures to be on the safe side. "To be on the safe side Felix always makes certain his valuables are kept in a secure place."

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Daylight robbery

One day Malcolm went shopping. He was so shocked at the cost of things that he got angry. "These prices are absurd !" he shouted. "It's daylight robbery to change such prices !" What Malcolm was saying was that in his opinion, the prices were so high that shopkeepers seemed to be robbing people of their money.

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Deliver the goods

The goods referred to in this idiom mean an expected -- or hoped for -- result. "Deliver" means to come forth with. "Now that I've had my car repaired it's running fine and delivering the goods." ( Hoped-for results ) "I knew Sam would deliver the goods once he understood his job. That's why I promoted him." the boss said. ( Expected results )

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Double talk

"I thought I understood you, but now I'm not sure." Patrick complained. "You're speaking double talk!" Double-talk is written or spoken langauge that seems clear and meaningful but, on close examination, proves to be ambiguous and nonsense. Sometimes, but not always, this is done in a deliberate attempt to confuse or mislead people.

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In black and white

In this idiom, black refers to words and white refers to the paper that they are written on. Very simply, then, when something is in black and white it is written or printed on paper. "Inever sign a contract without first looking carefuly at the conditions in black and white." Leon said.

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Whistle in the dark

To whistle in the dark means (1) to guess wildly about something or (2) to keep up your courage. "I don't know when the last bus leaves the terminal," Douglas said, " so I'd be whistling in the dark if I said it was at midnight.

 

During the terrible storm, we sat inside the house whistling in the dark hoping it would quickly pass."

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A walking encyclopedia

An encyclopedia is a book or a series of books containing a wide range of information about many subjects. A person who is a walking encyclopedia is someone who has a wide rage of information about many subjects. "By the time I finish college, I suspect I will be a walking encyclopedia, "Melissa said as she returned to her studies.

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Turn night into day

Robert certainly has strange working habits! But being a genius isn't easy, so when he is in a creative mood he turns night into day. You don't really have to be a genius to turn night into day, though, for this idiom means to stay up at night working or playing, and sleeping during the day. "You just reverse the order of doing things, "Robert explained. "I work all night and sleep until noon."

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The telephone is ringing off the hook

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, but it was the users of telephones who invented this remark. The hook is the cradle on which the receiver rests, and this remark refers to a telephone that is constantly ringing. " Steve won the swimming championship, and ever since his name appeared in the newspapers his telephone has been ringing off the hook.

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Toy with the idea

Teddy is toying with the idea of studying to be an engineer. That, of course, will be a few years away so he may change his mind between now and then. To toy with an idea is to think of one in an easy, light and speculative manner. "I don't know. I may or may not want to be an engineer," Teddy said. "I'm just tyoing with the idea."

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Run up an account

Instead of paying cash each time he shops, Mr. Long finds it more convenient to run up an account at the stores where he makes his purchases. To run up an account is to increase the money you owe. You can also run up a bill or a debt, which means the same as run up an account. Mr. Long does this ( very easily, I might add!) by using credit cards.

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Get up someone's nose

Hubert is unhappy. He's annoyed, too. The cause of it all is Franklin who has got up his nose. That means that Franklin is making a nuisance of himself .... and that's annoying ! "Go away," Hubert shouted. "You're getting up my nose today," he growled. This is a British expression.

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Go over someone's head

Poor Penelope, Mathematics has never been one of her favorite subjects. she simply isn't able to comprehend it. She often complains that most of what her teacher says goes over her head. As Penelope knows, things that are said to go over our heads are too difficult for us to understand.

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Look daggers at someone

A dagger is a weapon with a short, pointed blade. In fact, daggers look exactly like those things coming from this mother bird's eyes. She is looking daggers at a cat who is threatening her young. To look daggers at someone is to glare at him or her with mean, hostile, angry eyes.

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On pins and needles

When people are on pins and needles they are either very excited or very anxious. "The children are on pins and needles thinking about their trip to the zoo tomorrow." ( Very excited ) "Mr Singh is on pins and needles wondering if the noise he heard is from his pet cobra which escaped. ( Very anxious )

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A peeping Tom

When a little boy peeps through fences or windows he is probably just being curious. When a man does the same thing it's often because he has indecent intentions. A man who snoops like that is called a peeping Tom. "The neighbors are convinced that we have a peeping Tom in the area."

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No picnic

This outing is turning out to be no picnic, "Teddy declared. To say that something - a job or an examination, for example is a picnic is to say it is enjoyeable or easy. If it is unpleasant or difficult, it is described as being no picnic. "It was a picnic getting here," Angela said, " but trying to eat with all these ants around has been no picnic!"

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