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American  Idioms

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Idioms

A holy terror (1)   No frills
A holy terror (2) Off the hook
Hopping mad An old master
Hot air One in a million
It s a small world One s nearest and dearest
Keep one's head Out of action
Keep open house Over and done with
Land on one's feet Pack one s bags
Lay down the law Paint a gloomy picture
Like it or lump it Part of the furniture
The lion's share Patch something up
Liquid assets Pin money
A lone wolf Plain Jane
Love is blind Pot-luck dinner
Make a clown of oneself Pour oil on troubled waters
Make things hum Pull the wool over someone s eyes
Marry above oneself Puppy love
Marry beneath oneself Put all one s eggs in one basket
Miss the boat Rank and file
Not just a pretty face Rat race
Narrow-minded Read someone
Hole in the head Safety in numbers
   
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A holy terror (1)

Jaime doesn't seem to understand that he's supposed to act like a little angel in his new abode. He's so full of energy and tricks he's a holy terror. In Jaime's case, a holy terror is a badly-behaved child. " I think we'd better have a look into Jaime's past," the director in his neighborhood sighed. "He's a holy terror up here !"

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A holy terror (2)

New visitors to the dining room have found that Cavendish can be very demanding. "He insists that we conduct ourselves like proper ladies and gentleman," Jaime frowned. "He can be a holy terror at times." In this case a holy terror is someone -- a boss or someone in a position of authority -- who causes fear in people.

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Hopping mad

"Hey, down there ! Quiet down 1 You're supposed to be taking your afternoon nap," Mrs K cried. "All that jumping about is making me hopping mad !" What Mrs K is saying is that her sweet little infant is making her very angry. It's not necessary to be a kangaroo to be hopping mad: simply being extremely mad will do.

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Hot air

"Elect me and I promise I will reduce taxes, shorten the work week, and see to it that everyone gets paid a higher wage," Blah declared. "Blah is full of hot air," Someone said. "Yes, and everything he says is hot air," another replied. Promises and boasts that won't or can't be kept are called hot air.

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It's a small world

"That foot looks familiar," Fenton cried. "It sure does," Oliver replied. "I saw it when we lived in Zanesville. It's a small world, isn't it ?" The phrase Oliver hurriedly uttered is used to express surprise when seeing someone or something from the past.

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Keep one's head

Ben's trail of crime has come to an end. I was amazed, though, to learn how he kept his head when his sentence was carried out. To keep one's head is to stay calm, not get excited or frightened. "I'm a relaxed individual," Ben smiled. "I keep my head no matter how bad things get."

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Keep open house

Nothing pleases Fergus more than visiting someone keeping open house. To keep open house is to welcome all guest or visitors to a house -- and not only that, but to entertain them 1 This is often shortened to open house. "Wow, the people who lived here must have had some great open house parties !" Fergus exclaimed.

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Land on one's feet

If a cat falls, it always seems to land safely on its feet. That has given us this idiom, so when a person escapes misfortune or survives an unpleasant situation we say he lands on his feet. "Maxwell was born lucky. No matter what he does wrong he always seems to land on his feet.

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Lay down the law

"The way my employees are behaving is terrible," Grouch grumbled. "I'm going to lay down the law and tell them to concentrate on their work." To lay down the law is to say something or give an order in a way that says "you will obey me or accept my word without argument or question !"

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Like it or lump it

No one seems to know where this expression comes from. What we do know is that it means to put up with something unpleasant -- such as a decision or a situation -- without protesting or complaining. "It's no use making a scene, " Willy's mother said. "Like it or lump it, I insist that you finish eating your breakfast."

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The lion's share

After a hunt, lions always take the largest amount of food for themselves -- and few animals dare dispute their right to it. That's why we have the lion's share, which means the largest part or the greatest amount. "I'm certain I've read somewhere that I'm entitled to the lion's share," Cecil complained.

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Liquid assets

A liquid is something that, like water, flows freely and easily. Assets are all of someone's belongings, including property. Those belongings that can be easily converted into cash are called liquid assets. " Herbert asked for a loan and the bank manager told him to bring in proof of all his liquid assets."

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A lone wolf

Most people enjoy companionship and like doing things in groups. There are some people, however, who are very private and prefer being alone. A person like that is often called a lone wolf. "No wonder Wally is a lone wolf." Martin said. "Listen to the way he sings to the moon !"

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Love is blind

According to this old saying a person in love doesn't see -- or admit to seeing -- faults in the person he loves. Pierre, for example, thinks Lulu is the sweetest and dearest girl on earth. "I see what people mean when they say love is blind," Lulu laughed, "but you'd better watch your step, Pierre."

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Make a clown of oneself

In a romantic mood, Humphrey sat down to serenade Hermione. "Oh, Hermione, you've made a clown of me," he said as she rejected him. "Nonsense," Hermione replied. "You've made a clown of yourself. Your singing is awful !" To make a clown of oneself is to make oneself or appear foolish or stupid.

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Make things hum

Until Gustav joined our company we had all sorts of problems on our production line. Gustav has corrected the problems and has really made things hum. Not only that, Gustav has been keeping things humming. To make things hum is to cause things to perform smoothly and efficiently. To keep things humming is to keep them performing well.

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Marry above oneself

For a long, long time Manfred has been afraid to express his love for May. "After all," he said, "May is in what some people call 'the upper class', and people in low positions ( like me ) don't usually marry above themselves." To marry above oneself is to marry someone in a higher social class than one's own.

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Marry beneath oneself

To some people the social position of the person they marry is very important consideration. "People who believe in that kind of nonsense almost never marry beneath themselves, do they Myrtle ?" "No," Myrtle answered " because marrying beneath oneself means to marry a person of a lower social class than the one -- real or imagined -- they belong to."

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Miss the boat

They stood on the shore with the rain beating down and the water rising about their feet. "If you hadn't forgotten our tickets we would have been on time," Amelia scolded. "You've caused us to miss the boat." To miss the boat is to be too late for something or to fail to take advantage of an opportunity.

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Not just a pretty face

"Personally, I favor that girl in the middle to win," John said. "Her name's Miss Leung, and as you can see she's not just a pretty face." A girl characterized like this possesses hidden skills, talents or intelligence. "See, she's loaded with talent. If I were the judge I'd vote for her. She's much more than a pretty face !"

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Narrow-minded

"There's nothing wrong with you that can't be cured," Dr Grouse said. "Just be more tolerant, stop being so critical, show more concern for others, and open your mind to new ideas. " Willies looked shocked. "Are you telling me I'm narrow-minded ? That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard !" Willies shouted -- thus proving his narrow-mindedness.

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Hole in the head

"I need space there like I need a hole in the head !" Bridget screamed. "Madam, that's my style," the artist replied, " and your advice is as welcome as a hole in the head." You'll understand this conversation better if you know a hole in the head means something that is unnecessary or unwelcome.

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No frills

A frill is an extra. It may be nice to have but it's not necessary. An airline, restaurant, tour company, hotel, etc. offering a basic service without extras ( frills ) can be called a no frills airline, no frills restaurant, no frills tour company, or a no frills hotel. "We went on a no frills trip to Europe," Ben said.

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Off the hook

A fish that is able to get off the fishing hook and swim away is free of trouble. That's the idea behind this idiom which means to avoid difficulty or get out of trouble. "I'm late for school," Mack said. "I had better think up a good excuse to get off the hook."

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An old master

Sorry, Paul, you don't qualify as an old master. It's possible you and your paintings will last forever but an old master is an artist or a painting dated before the 19th century. "If I change my name to Rembrandt or Michelangelo, maybe people would call me an old master and my paintings old masters, " Paul sighed.

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One in a million

"My wife is the greatest person in the whole wide world," Peter said. "She's one in a million." What Peter is saying is that his wife is very, very special. She's unusual in every wonderful sense of the word. "I think you are one in a million, too," his rare and wonderful wife answered.

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One's nearest and dearest

"I'm not as rich as Rocketfeller or as strong as Rambo, and no one has ever asked me to star in a film," Herbert said humbly, "yet my nearest and dearest tell me I'm the world's most wonderful husband and father," he grinned. Herbert should be very proud for one's nearest and dearest is one's family.

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Out of action

I'm sure Chad would like to help his friend win an argument with the neighbor's dog but, unfortunately, he's out of action. "Personally," Chad whispered, "the way things are going in there I'm glad I'm out of action today." A person ( or a cat ) out of action is unable to work or perform, usually because of an illness.

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Over and done with

"That's it, it's finished," the supervisor said. "I'm glad that job is finally over and done with." There's nothing difficult about this idiom for it's another way of saying that something -- a job, a relationship, etc. -- is finished. "I've enjoyed working with you," Aarok said. "I hope our association isn't over and done with and that we'll work together again."

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Pack one's bags

"This place is beginning to bother me," Albert mumbled. "I'd like to pack my bags and say goodbye." In anticipation of making an escape, he practiced putting his valuables into a bag. "To pack one's bags is to leave a place in anger or annoyance or after a disagreement," the guard whispered. "And Albert isn't going anywhere !"

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Paint a gloomy picture

Robert is depressed. That may be why he is painting a gloomy picture. To paint a gloomy picture is to describe something -- an event, a situation, the future, etc. -- in a cheerless, gloomy or unpromising way. "I'm sad because the weatherman has painted a gloomy picture for the weekend," Robert sighed. "he said it's going to rain."

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Part of the furniture

Colin has been waiting in the doctor's waiting room so long that he's beginning to feel that he's now part of the furniture. For a person to feel that he's part of the furniture, he has been at one job or in one place so long that he actually feels he has become part of the environment.

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Patch something up

When we patch something up -- something torn or broken -- we repair something that is damaged. Disagreements between people can also be patched up, though it must be remembered that such repairs are sometimes only temporary. "The manager was called in to try to patch up a quarrel between the two departments," Molly said.

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Pin money

When we speak of pin money, we are always referring to a small amount of money. "I'm going to look for a better job. I'm working for pin money here," Ned said. It can also refer to a small allowance a man gives his wife, or moneys he saves from other sources. "Sarah saved her pin money to buy a new dress."

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Plain Jane

A plain Jane is a girl or young woman whose looks are ordinary or common. Because "plain" and "Jane" rhyme, this is a rhyming idiom used to describe a girl -- regardless of her name -- who is neither pretty nor ugly. "Betsy was a plain Jane when we were in school but she's certainly a beautiful girl today."

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Pot-luck dinner

A pot-luck dinner is an informal dinner where each of the guests brings a pot of food to share with others. Because nobody knows what anyone is bringing, the guests hope they'll be lucky and the food will be interesting. "Good heavens ! Look what Egbert's bringing to our pot-luck dinner !"

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Pour oil on troubled waters

Before its dangers to the environment were known, oil was poured on rough seas to calm them. Today this idiom refers to settling disputes or bringing calm to a troubled situation. "This isn't working," Alex said. "Let's see if we can pour oil on troubled waters by sitting down and having a quiet talk about it."

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Pull the wool over someone's eyes

This expression means to trick or deceive someone. "Vote for me and I promise to reduce taxes, increase wages, and give everyone a guaranteed job for life," Blah proclaimed. "I think Blah is pulling the wool over our eyes," someone in the audience muttered. I suspect they're right.

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Puppy love

The word puppy is from the French word 'poupee' meaning a little doll. Perhaps that's why puppy love describes a temporary feeling of affection experienced by a young boy or girl. "It doesn't take a genius to see that Angela and Tim like each other," Billy winked. "I think it's puppy love."

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Put all one's eggs in one basket

"A wise and cautious bird does not put all her eggs in one basket," Winifred said. "To do that would be to invite disaster." Those who put all their eggs in one basket place all their hopes, money or trust in one plan, scheme or adventure. And that, as Winifred will tell you, is risky !

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Rank and file

Are you a leader in a club or an organization ? If not, you could say that you belong to the rank and file. The rank and file refers to the ordinary people within a group, a club, or an organization. "The general is very busy today. He's out inspecting the rank and file."

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Rat race

"Hey, Rupert, why do people call their struggle to succeed a rat race ?" "Don't ask me, Roger. I'm too caught up in the rat race to think about it." For their information, a/the rat race is a term that describes our daily struggle to live, compete or survive.

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Read someone

We often reveal how we think or feel by the gestures we make. If we know the meaning of these gestures we often understand what a person is thinking simply by looking at him. We say we are able to read him. "I wonder if Millie and Clarence have ever been able to read each other ?"

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Safety in numbers

I wish someone would tell the boss that when a person talks about safety in numbers he isn't talking about a safe with a number of locks: he's saying that there's greater protection against misfortune when a person is in a group. "If it's true that there's safety in numbers my records should be secure now," the boss said.
 

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