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American  Idioms

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Idioms

In mint condition   Not one's piece of cake
In one's heart of hearts On a shoestring
In the bag A one-horse town
In clover Out of the window
Keep one's hair on Packed like sardines
Larger than life Part and parcel of something
Laugh in one's beard The pecking order
A leading question A pillar of society
Left holding the bag Plain sailing
Like a cat on hot bricks Play ostrich
Like a dog with two tails A potboiler
Look a picture A pretty kettle of fish
Make an exhibition of oneself Put someone in the picture
Make oneself scarce A road hog
Make someone's head spin Rub salt into someone's wounds
A man-about-town Ruffle someone's feathers
A marked man Rule of thumb
Marry money Save one's bacon
A mine of information Save one's skin
A mixed bag See how the land lies
A money-spinner Show someone the door
No spring chicken A soap opera
   
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In mint condition

The coins in your purse or pocket are made in a place called a mint. New coins fresh from a mint are said to be in mint condition. So too, is anything else that is in new or like-new condition. "Elmer seldom uses his car. It's ten years old but it's still in mint condition."

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In one's heart of hearts

"In my heart of hearts I think you're the nicest mouse in the entire world," Timothy blushed. Accepting his gift, Josephine answered : "In my heart of hearts, I think you're wonderful too." When we speak of one's heart of hearts we are referring to a person's deep, secret, innermost feelings.

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In the bag

"If I do well on my examination, my promotion will be in the bag," Steven said. He is saying that his promotion is assured. It is a certainty. "There can be no doubt about it. Once you have been promoted, your future in the company will be in the bag," his father smiled.

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In clover

Clover is a type of grass with sweet flowers enjoyed by both cattle and bees. When people are in ( the ) clover, they are living happily and comfortably for they are prosperous and successful. " Mr. Jardine is in clover now that he has sold his business and retired to the country."

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Keep one's hair on

I'd panic if I lost my coat. Not Bob though. He's determined to keep his hair on. That is, he's going to stay relaxed and not get angry. "I'm going to remain calm and keep my hair on," Bob said. "It's pointless to get upset over the loss of a fur coat, don't you agree ?"

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Larger than life

When a person, an object or an event is larger than life, he, she or it is unusually remarkable or significant ... often because reports of him, her or it have been greatly exaggerated. "I suspect the things Owen says about his achievements are larger than life." "I used to think the stories about there being ghosts here were larger than life !" the cat cried.

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Laugh in one's beard

Long ago when most men wore beards, it was easy for a man to conceal a smile when he wanted to mock someone for being foolish, failing at something, or making a mistake. "Do you think people are laughing in their beards at me for having a mouse for a friend ?" Cecil asked.

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A leading question

A leading question is worded in such a way that the person being asked it is compelled to reply with an answer the questioner wants. "Have you stopped beating your dog ?" is a leading question for the person must respond by either confessing or denying that he or she beats the dog.

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Left holding the bag

Kevin went to the beach with his friends. They dug up all kinds of things in the sand, but when one of the things proved difficult to deal with, they all ran away screaming. "They left me holding the bag," Kevin said. To be left holding the bag is to be given a difficult or awkward problem to deal with. "Everyone I was with seems to have disappeared," Kevin frowned.

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Like a cat on hot bricks

"Why's Terry so nervous today ?" Olive asked. "He's like a cat on hot bricks." Looking at his tender toes, Terry replied : "If you had to walk on garden walls without shoes, you'd be like a cat on hot bricks too !" A person described as acting like a cat on hot bricks is tense, excited, nervous or restless.

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Like a dog with two tails

When people are described as being or acting like a dog with two tails it is because they are exceedingly proud or happy -- particularly because they have done something special or achieved some kind of success. "Stuart is so proud and delighted, he's like a dog with two tails since his promotion.

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Look a picture

While to look a picture indicates that something or someone looks very pretty or attractive, it is often used humorously or sarcastically. "Don't you look a picture !" Billy's mother cried. "You've got chocolate ice cream all over your face !" ( Humorously/sarcastically.) "Isn't she lovely " Mariah looks a picture today." ( Attractive/pretty. )

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Make an exhibition of oneself

Robert's paintings are being exhibited at a famous art gallery. "I think I'll make an exhibition of myself, too." Robert said. What Robert doesn't seem to understand is that when people make exhibitions of themselves they behave foolishly in public. "Robert, you're being silly !" his wife cried. "Stop making such an exhibition yourself !"

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Make oneself scarce

When something is scarce, it is hard to find; there's not much of it around. When mother wants them to do some chores, there's not much of Clara and Albert around either. They make themselves scarce. that is, they hide or disappear. "Oh ! Here comes mother. Let's make ourselves scarce," Albert whispered.

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Make someone's head spin

When we feel dizzy, we say our heads spin. Metaphorically, when people say something makes their heads spin, it's because they're bewildered or confused. "It makes my head spin to think of the amount of work I have to do." "Charlton is so full of energy it makes my head spin just watching him play."

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A man-about-town

We see here two very dignified men-about-town. They are, of course, Joe and his nephew Anderson who know that a man-about-town is one who is sophisticated, worldly and socially active. "Uncle Joe is taking me to the theater with him," Anderson laughed. "I'm all dressed up like a man-about-town tonight."

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A marked man

Matthew is in the process of learning that a marked man is one whose conduct has made him the object of suspicion. In extreme cases, it could mean a man whose life is in danger. "You've been caught doing naughty things, Matthew," the guard said. "From now on, you're a marked man and I'll be watching."

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Marry money

Thanks to Henry, Sylvia will never again have to wonder how to pay her bills. Henry, you see, is a very rich man so she is about to marry money. This does not mean Sylvia doesn't love Henry; it simply means she is marrying someone who is very, very wealthy.

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A mine of information

While searching for material to write a report Maya discovered a book that proved to be a mine of information. Anything -- a book, a person -- that is a valuable source of information is a mine of information. A dictionary can be a mine of information. "My boss is a mine of information too," Maya said.

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A mixed bag

You'll find a strange collection in a mixed bag. It could be a varied group of people, ideas, objects ... just about anything. "That was a mixed bag of people at the conference." "This report is a mixed bag of opinions." "I didn't go to the market so we're having a mixed bag for supper tonight," Mother said.

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A money-spinner

Grandmother's hobby was knitting woolen scarfs, socks, sweaters and thins like that. People admired her work so much that she turned her hobby into a money-spinner and began selling her goods. A money-spinner is anything that earns money. "Grandmother's hobby became such a successful moneyspinner, I was able to retire," Grandfather smiled.

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No spring chicken

Idiomatically, a spring chicken is a young and inexperienced person -- male or female. It's more common, though, to refer to a woman who is no longer young as no spring chicken. "What ? Me wear a bikini to the beach ? You must be joking. I'm no spring chicken, you know," Mary laughed.

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Not one's piece of cake

If something is not one's piece of cake, it is something a person doesn't appreciate or is not particularly fond of doing. "I'm afraid Italian food isn't my piece of cake. I don't like it," Gerald said. "I'm not interested in selling so being a saleslady is not my piece of cake," Amelia said.

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On a shoestring

A shoestring is a shoelace. Because they are so common and, in particular, so cheap, a shoestring means a small amount of money. From that, to do something on a shoestring is to do it without spending much money. "We've been living on a shoestring since Tim lost his job," Tina said.

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A one-horse town

Long before cars, a one-horse town actually referred to a town so small that it had only one horse. It now refers to a small town in which nothing exciting happens. "I like living in this one-horse town," George said. "Everyone here knows and smiles at his neighbors."

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Out of the window

Brown was looking forward to a quiet dinner at home when his boss asked him to work overtime. "Well, there goes my evening at home out of the window," Brown sighed. When something -- an opportunity, a plan, etc. -- goes out of the window, it is gone. "If I didn't obey my boss, I'm sure my job would go out of the window," Brown said.

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Packed like sardines

Sardines are fish. The only way most of us ever see them is when we turn a key and find them in tin cans. Fin to fin and back to front, they are pressed in so tightly there's hardly room to turn. "The trains are so full during rush hour that we were packed like sardines."

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Part and parcel of something

In this expression the word "parcel" means a portion, share or section of something. When joined with the word "part", the idiom part and parcel of refers to a basic, necessary or natural part of something. "Being considerate and friendly iis part and parcel of my job," Max smiled.

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The pecking order

Chickens maintain order and establish rank by pecking each other. People too, group themselves and others into ranks of importance and we call that the pecking order. "Gregory has been with the firm for many years, so he's high up in the pecking order here. I'm new so I'm very low in the pecking order."

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A pillar of society

A pillar is an upright structure supporting a building. People described as pillars of society are leading figures contributing to the support and well-being of the society in which they live. "A director of the hospital and supporter of many charities, Mr. Smith is a pillar of society."

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Plain sailing

Long ago when it was thought the earth was flat, plane sailing was a method of navigating at sea by treating the earth as if it were a plane. Somehow the expression became plain sailing, and it means to proceed without difficulty. "Te storm's over. It should be plain sailing now, sir."

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Play ostrich

It was once thought that when an ostrich was in danger it hid its head in the ground believing that if it couldn't see anyone, no one could see it. That has led to the idea that if people refuse to face painful facts or unpleasant truths, they play ostrich. "Play" here means "to act like."

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A potboiler

A book, play or film written for the sole purpose of earning money for the author is called a potboiler. A combination of the words pot + boil + er, a potboiler is an inferior work done by the writer to keep his or her food pot boiling. "Reading a potboiler before bed helps me to sleep," Professor Lee said.

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A pretty kettle of fish

This expression refers to a mess, an awkward state of affairs, or a situation that is confused or unpleasant. It's also said as a messy kettle of fish. "Good Heavens, I left home and forgot to put the cat out ! The house will be a pretty kettle of fish by the time I get back !"

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Put someone in the picture

Winston thought it would be exciting and romantic to visit the African jungles. he wasn't aware that it could be dangerous, so I put him in the picture by telling him about the wild animals there. When we put someone in the picture we inform him or her of all the facts of a situation.

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A road hog

Drivers of automobiles who selfishly take up more space than necessary on roads and refuse to allow other drivers room to pass are road hogs. "Mr. Wilson should never be allowed to drive a car. He's a terrible road hog who seems to think he's driving the only car on the road."

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Rub salt into someone's wounds

We all know what it's like to accidentally get salt in a wound. It hurts ! It hurts too, when someone or something deliberately adds to our pain when we feel shame, regret or defeat. "Must you rub salt into my wounds by telling me how much fun I missed by not going to Tracy's party ?" Heather sighed

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Ruffle someone's feathers

If a bird's feathers are rubbed the wrong way, they stand up. We say the feathers are ruffled. Idiomatically, to ruffle someone's feathers is to annoy or upset someone. "It ruffles my feathers when people insist that I dress to please them instead of pleasing myself."

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Rule of thumb

To do something by rule of thumb is to follow a practical method which has proved successful or useful in the past. "It's a good rule of thumb to look up all unfamiliar words in your dictionaries." "As a rule of thumb I never go out when I have an examination the following day."

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Save one's bacon

To save one's bacon is to escape trouble or to save one's life. This idiom is frequently used light-heartedly. "So, you're late for work again," the boss frowned. "What excuse do you have to save your bacon this time ?" ( Escape trouble ) "During the fire I had to jump from the window to save my bacon," Roy said. ( Save one's life )

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Save one's skin

Because he's a snake, Simon can afford to lose his skin once a year. We can't, though, for "skin" is a colloquialism for one's life. Therefore, to save one's skin means to escape danger or save one's life. "When his boat sank, Tom saved his skin by clinging to a life preserver until a passing ship rescued him."

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See how the land lies

To sailors, this term means to see where their ship is when it's at sea. To us, it means to look at something carefully to learn everything possible about it before making a decision or taking action. "Jim has gone ahead to see how the land lies before deciding where to set up our camp for the night."

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Show someone the door

"Edna is such a terrible secretary I have decided to show her the door," Mr. Wilkin said. Idiomatically, to show someone the door is to tell him or her to leave a place. "I don't know why but the boss got angry and showed me the door today," Edna said as she put away her knitting and went home.

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A soap opera

Before television, daily radio serials were aimed at housewives and were sponsored primarily by manufacturers of soap products. That led to them being called soap operas. Today's sentimental, sensational and melodramatic radio and television serial dramas are still called soap operas. "DYNASTY and DALLAS are my favorite television soap operas."

 

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