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American  Idioms

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Idioms

Eyes popped out   Know someone in high places
Feather in one's cap Labor of love
Fed up to the teeth Long arm of the law
Filthy rich Lose one's marbles
Fly-by-night Lounge lizard
Flying visit Make a pig of oneself
Get carried away Make one's mark
Give the willies Miles away (1)
Get the third degree Miles away (2)
Go halves Mince words
Go to any lengths Money to burn
Good egg My lips are sealed
Grease someone's palm Not one's scene
Hang in the balance Not for love or money
Have a nice day Nurse the grudge
Have a nodding acquaintance A nutcase
Mud in your eye On the rocks (1)
In a flutter On the rocks (2)
In bad odor Once in a blue moon
In the cold light of day Poison-pen letter
In the driver's seat Pull up one's socks
In the soup Put someone in his place
   
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Eyes popped out

My eyes popped out when I saw my electricity bill last month. In that case, I was surprised -- even shocked -- at what I saw. It's much better, though, to have one's eyes pop out when he or she is nicely surprised. "My eyes popped out when I saw Miriam. I hadn't seen her in years."

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Feather in one's cap

The American Indians used to wear feathers as a sign of bravery. From that comes a feather in one's cap which refers to an honor or a special achievement that a person can be proud of. "It must be a feather in your cap to have graduated from school at such an early age," Sylvester said.

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Fed up to the teeth

To be fed up has nothing to do with food : it refers to a feeling of unhappiness when a person is bored or disturbed. One can also be fed up to the teeth or fed up to one's back teeth depending on how bored or disturbed one feels. "I'm fed up with work, fed up to the teeth with this cold weather and fed up to my back teeth with worry," Winston said.

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Filthy rich

It's not often that you'll see Paddy gambling -- probably because he's too poor to waste his money. Recently, though, he placed a small bet and now it's rumored that Paddy's filthy rich. To be filthy rich is to be very, very rich. "I can get used to being filthy rich very easily," Paddy smiled.

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Fly-by-night

Fly-by-night businesses, people or organizations have no established reputations in a community. They begin business only to make a quick profit, often by dishonest means. Having made their money, they often disappear without a trace. "The fly-by-night agency that sold me my air ticket promised me a first-class seat to Athens."

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Flying visit

A flying visit is a very brief visit. The last time I went to Thailand, for example, it was a flying visit for I was there only one day. When I returned home, grandmother paid us a flying visit while she was out doing her shopping.

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Get carried away

To get carried away is to become so emotionally affected that we are unable to control our actions. "When we gave Doris a gift, she got so carried away she began to cry." "The robbers got carried away and took everything they possibly could."

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Give the willies

Simon has never been fond of camping out. The sounds he hears in the night give him the willies. The willies are uncomfortable, nervous or fearful feelings. "I have the willies," Simon shivered. "I always get the willies when I'm alone in the forest."

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Get the third degree

When arrested, people suspected of committing a crime are often given the third degree by the police. This means they are subjected to intense questioning. Form that, when a person is severely questioned he or she can be said to be given the third degree. "If I'm late getting home, I ways get the third degree from my wife."

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Go halves

Have you ever gone halves ? You have if you've ever agreed to share half of something with someone. The thing we most often go haves on are expenses. "Let's go halves and buy a car." "No, I'm not interested in buying a car. I'll go haves on dinner, though."

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Go to any lengths

A person who will go to any or to great lengths to do something is very determined. That's because this expression means to do everything possible to achieve a desired result. "Penelope would go to any lengths to be an astronaut." "Ken has gone to great lengths to develop a new and unusual business."

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Good egg

However wonderful your favorite teacher or your boss might be, it isn't likely that you would ever call him or her a good egg. This expression means "a nice person" and it's used informally. "My mother-in-law is so generous she would do anything for me. She's a good egg."

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Grease someone's palm

The only time Mr. Clark tried to grease someone's palm, he made the mistake of choosing the wrong man. To grease/oil someone's palm is to give someone money in the hope of gaining a favor or information. In other words, Mr. Clark tried to bribe someone ... and that's why Mr. Clark is in serious trouble today !

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Hang in the balance

It's an uncomfortable feeling when something hangs in the balance. That includes our lives or the things important to us, for when they hang in the balance, the result of an event is uncertain and the future is unclear. "David failed the examination and his future here now hangs in the balance.

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Have a nice day

Most cultures have, at various times, sayings that quickly spread until they are used by almost everyone. One of those currently very popular in the United States is have a nice day. It is used when people wish to say either goodbye or thank you. "You are very thoughtful, sir. Have a nice day," Bobby grinned.

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Have a nodding acquaintance

When passing people we know only slightly, we sometimes politely nod our heads at them. From that comes this idiom which means to know a person or a subject only slightly. "I have a nodding acquaintance with my neighbors," Brian said. "I only have a nodding acquaintance with the works of Rembrandt," Cameron said.

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Mud in your eye

This rather unusual expression is used as a toast or a salute when people are drinking. It is thought that it began during World War I when soldiers returned to their camps all muddy from battle. "Let's drink a  toast to Dick's success. Here's mud in your eye, Dick."

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In a flutter

Whenever Gordon is with Isabella he finds himself in a flutter. As for Isabella, she gets in a flutter being near Gordon. It may be that Gordon and Isabella are in love for to be in a flutter is to be in a state of nervous excitement.

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In bad odor

Chadwick's owner may think he's a sweet and adorable pussy cat ... but he's certainly in bad odor with the mice ! "He's been in bad odor with us since the moment we saw him," one of the mice frowned. To be in bad odor with someone means to have a terrible reputation and to be thoroughly disliked. This expression is primarily British.

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In the cold light of day

When making plans we should be careful and thoughtful, always considering them in the cold light of day. That is, we should be unemotional, use good common sense and look at things realistically. "My ideas seemed wonderful last night, but in the cold light of day I can see they wouldn't work."

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In the driver's seat

Some people enjoy being in the driver's seat. One doesn't even need a driver's license to be there. That's because to be in the driver's seat is to be in a position of authority or in a position where one can control events. "Jack's in the driver's seat now that he's been made supervisor."

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In the soup

This colloquial expression originated in the United States. It means to be in trouble. "I'll be in the soup if I don't remember to buy my wife a birthday gift." "Penny and her brother got in the soup playing with the carts at the supermarket."

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Know someone in high places

Long ago villages and towns constructed buildings of worship on hilltops to stress their importance. Today, however, we find that "high places" means a position of importance in business, industry or government. To know someone in high places is to know someone holding an important position in one of those areas.

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Labor of love

We do most jobs because we have to. Those that give us the greatest satisfaction, though, are those we do purely for pleasure. Such a job is called a labor of love. "It took me days to make this," Martin smiled, "but what does that matter ? For me it has been a labor of love."

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Long arm of the law

Police forces have remarkable ways of finding and capturing criminals. Regardless of where they hide, the police are able to use their powers to locate them. This power is called the long arm of the law. "Years after the criminal had committed his crime, the long arm of the law caught him and sent him to prison."

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Lose one's marbles

In slang, the term "marbles" refers to (1) a person's common sense; or (2) his or her sanity. "What ? You're going to bet all your money on one horse ? Have you lost your marbles ?" ( Common sense ) "The way Yvonne keeps shouting makes me wonder if she hasn't lost her marbles." ( Sanity )

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Lounge lizard

Some idioms are popular for a while, disappear, and then return. This is one of them. A lounge lizard is a particular type of man who dresses neatly, is a good conversationalist, and shows a fondness for meeting wealthy ladies at social events. "Lance has a reputation of being a lounge lizard. It's said he's seeking a rich wife."

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Make a pig of oneself

If we know that when pigs eat or drink they exercise no control and don't seem to know when to stop, the meaning of this expression shouldn't be difficult to understand. "The food was so good that I made a pig of myself at the party and sampled everything on the table."

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Make one's mark

For years and years Joe struggled to be recognized as an important artist. Now that his paintings are in great demand, he has finally made his mark. "It's wonderful to know I've been able to make my mark," he said. He is saying it is wonderful to have made a contribution to art and to be recognized as a successful person.

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Miles away (1)

If a person answers a question incorrectly -- and if his or her answer is very, very wrong -- it can de described as being miles away. That is, the answer is nowhere near being correct. "No, no, no ! That's not the answer to this. Your answer is miles away," Izzy frowned.

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Miles away (2)

When applied to people who are thinking, if they are miles away they are not listening to or concentrating on the subject immediately before them. "Sorry, I didn't hear you," the stranger said. "My mind was miles away. i was wondering what my mother would be serving us for dinner tonight."

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Mince words

In this idiom, "mince" is an old word meaning to choose words carefully for the sake of politeness ... or even deception. Those who mince words, therefore, aren't speaking as openly or as honestly as they could. "I like people who speak truthfully and frankly without mincing words," Berg said.

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Money to burn

Simon has inherited a fortune from his uncle. Since then, he has been spending freely as he had money to burn. This is a sarcastic way of saying Simon is so rich he could burn some of his money and never miss it.

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My lips are sealed

This statement is used -- sometimes humorously, sometimes sarcastically -- to say, "I'm not going to tell you," or "I'm not going to answer that question." "I know the answer to the riddle but my lips are sealed. You'll have to discover the answer for yourself."

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Not one's scene

"I'm not sure I want to be an actor," Fed said. "It's not my scene." What Fed is saying is that acting doesn't appeal to him .. and it's certainly not something he does well. "Now I'm certain it's not my scene," he said as he walked on to the stage at the wrong moment.

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Not for love or money

When Max asked Ayala to marry him she said not for love or money. Mike promised to give her riches if she would marry him. Again Ayala said not for love or money. From this it should not be difficult to guess that this is a strong and emphatic way of saying "No".

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Nurse a grudge

A grudge is a feeling of ill will or resentment. A person who refuses to stop thinking about something -- or someone -- that has caused him or her unhappiness or pain is said to nurse a grudge. "Mr. Grundy is furious. He'll nurse a grudge against the person who caused him his injuries for years to come."

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A nutcase

In slang, a nut is a silly, crazy, foolish or stupid person. A case is a person being treated by a doctor. A person who is describe as a nutcase thinks, speaks or acts strange, the idea being that he or she is mentally disturbed and in the care of a doctor. "I'm going to become a nutcase if I don't get a holiday soon," Lionel moaned.

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On the rocks (1)

A business that is on the rocks is in serious financial difficulty. It does not have enough money to pay its bills. "I understand that the JP Mongoose Company is on the rocks. If sales don't improve, Mr. Mongoose may have to cease doing business."

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On the rocks (2)

People asking for an alcoholic drink ( but never beer ! ) on the rocks are asking for one poured into a glass containing nothing but ice cubes. "Rocks" is a slang term for ice cubes, but this idiom is not slang. "Charles asked the hostess for a whiskey on the rocks."

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Once in a blue moon

On rare occasions if you look at the moon on a certain night and in a certain way, you will find that it seems light blue in color. Because that doesn't happen often, once in a blue moon means "rarely". "I miss my school friends. I only see them once in a blue moon."

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Poison-pen letter

Poisonous things can injure or kill. While a person writing a poison-pen letter to someone doesn't kill, he or she often succeeds in causing injury for such letters contain evil and untrue things about that person. They might even contain threats. Writers of poison-pen letters are usually too cowardly to sign their names on them.

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Pull up one's socks

When it is suggested that you pull up your socks it's because you're acting or performing badly. Therefore, to pull up one's socks means to attempt to do better, either in one's behavior or at a task one is doing. "I'll have to pull up my socks if I want to make sure that I don't get fired by the boss."

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Put someone in his 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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