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American  Idioms

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Idioms

A slippery customer A slinging/slanging match
Speak the same language Done with mirrors
Spread oneself too thin Heads roll
Still wet behind the ears Let someone in on something
Strong enough to put hair on my chest Up One's Sleeve
Sweet on someone  
Take a hike  
Too big for one's boots  
Take someone under one's wing  
Born with a silver spoon in one's mouth  
Go like a lamb to slaughter  
Rob Peter to pay Paul  
If the cap fits, wear it  
Paint with a wide brush  
Sing someone's praises  
A happy hunting ground  
Make one's head swim  
Like a fish out of water  
Drop like a stone  
Ripe as a cherry  
The penny drops  
A mare's nest  
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A slippery customer

Does Mr. Jansen look like a slippery customer as he stands in the doorway of his business establishment ? If you knew that "slippery" is a colloquialism meaning cunning and untrustworthy, and "customer" means a person, I think you'd say yes. "Be very careful of Mr. Jansen. He has a reputation of being a slippery customer.

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Speak the same language

Timothy the mouse is trying to convince Chad the cat that they speak the same language. This means to have similar tastes, feelings and thoughts, and to have a mutual understanding with someone. "We both like fish so it's obvious that we speak the same language," Timothy smiled. "Let's be friends."

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Spread oneself too thin

Mr. Potts is trying to do several things at the same time. He's spreading himself too thin and, as a result, isn't able to devote much time to either of his jobs. He is distributing or scattering his time, energy and skills, and that's what it means when people spread themselves too thin.

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Still wet behind the ears

Jeremy would like to do things that adult elephants do. "Attend to your studies and don't be silly," his mother laughed. "You're just a kid who is still wet behind the ears." Jeremy frowned for to be still wet behind the ears is to be young and inexperienced.

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Strong enough to put hair on my chest

In this expression the word "strong" means very powerful or potent. It's used ( humorously, of course ) to describe something -- usually a beverage -- that is unusually strong. "Wow, this coffee is strong enough to put hair on my chest !" Mr. Wilson gulped. "I can see that," Mrs. Wilson frowned. "There goes another button."

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Sweet on someone

There seems no doubt that Bumble is sweet on Bea. "Bea, you are a beauty," Bumble mumbled. Bea blushed. "Bumble, you are a busy bee. Is that honey for me ?" "Yes, " Bumble bubbled, "because I'm sweet on you." Bumble is saying he is very fond of Bea. Could it be that this bee is in love ?

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Take a hike

Egbert is in serious trouble. "Look at those sales figures ! They're disgraceful," the boss shouted. "If you don't do something to correct matters you may be asked to take a hike !" Idiomatically take a hike means to go away, to leave. In Egbert's case, he's in danger of being dismissed.

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Too big for one's boots

Bobby has risen through the ranks so quickly that there are some who think he's now much too big for his boots. That is, he is very conceited, acts self-important and is overly ambitious. "Bobby has gotten too big for his boots," the general said. "He's starting to give me orders now !"

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Take someone under one's wing

Mother birds protect their young by bringing them close and covering them with their wings. That has given us this expression, and it means to help -- and sometimes protect -- a person. "Jenny has decided to take our new employee under her wing and show her how to do the job faster." "I don't like going out alone at night. I wish my big brother would take me under his wing and walk with me to the library."

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Born with a silver spoon in one's mouth

Not everyone is born with a silver spoon in his or her mouth. Those who are, though, are born into a wealthy family and it is assumed that they will lead comfortable lives filled with material riches. All of us could probably name several children we know who have been blessed in this way, but the one that comes to my mind is the little Prince. "I notice your son has been born with a silver spoon in his mouth," Nurse Dion said to the King. "I wonder what kind of person I would be if I had been born with a silver spoon in my mouth ? she asked.

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Go like a lamb to (the) slaughter

Lambs are known for their meek and quiet dispositions. They seem to be always calm and they make no protest. Because of that, when a person allows himself to be punished or placed in danger without complaining, we say he goes like a lamb to slaughter. "I won't give up my job without a fight," Muriel cried when she learned she was about to be transferred to another department. "I will not go like a lamb to the slaughter," she said.

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Rob Peter to pay Paul

There are a number of stories concerning the origins of this expression, but no one is sure where it comes from. What is known is that it has been in use since 1380, which may explain why we don't know much about its beginnings. It describes taking or borrowing something from one person ( Peter ) to repay a debt owed to someone else ( Paul ). "Gregory wants to borrow some money from me so he can repay a loan. I declined, saying that would be like robbing Peter to pay Paul."

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If the cap fits, wear it

If something unpleasant is said about someone, something that could just as easily apply to you, you should take notice of it. If necessary, you should accept is as constructive criticism. That's what we mean when we say if the cap fits, wear it. "I didn't say you look funny, but if the cap fits, wear it !"

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Paint with a wide brush

A person doesn't have to be an artist to paint with a wide brush. That's because this means to think, speak, plan or act in a big way. Instead of restricting oneself to individual items, the person painting with a wide brush looks at a variety of issues. Robert agrees with that. "When planning your career, it's a good idea to think big and paint with a wide brush," he said.

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Sing someone's praises

One sunny day Andy came across the most magnificent peacock he had ever seen. "There has never been such a remarkable peacock !" he cried out. "That surely must be the most beautiful bird in the entire kingdom !" From that day on, Andy went on singing the bird's praises. In fact, so full of praise was he that no one dared tell him that the peacock he saw was himself ! To sing someone's praises is to say wonderful and complimentary things about someone, and it usually means saying those nice things over and over.

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A happy hunting ground

The North American Indians believed that when they died their souls would move on to a place where they would spend eternity happily fishing and hunting. However, when people speak of a happy hunting ground today, they mean an area rich in opportunities or one that will prove profitable to them. "I have discovered that the library is a happy hunting ground for my research work." "This beach is a happy hunting ground to anyone interested in collecting seashells."

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Make one's head swim

"A sight like that makes my head swim !" Seth exclaimed. "Why ?" Bighead asked. "For the simple reason that nobody here knows how to swim. Therefore, if one of those guys falls into the sea, none of us could rescue him !" he cried. "I guess that explains why on one has ever left this island alive. Bighead replied. Something that makes one's head swim is something that is puzzling or causes confusion.

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Like a fish out of water

A person said to be like a fish out of water is in a strange situation or environment and therefore feels uncertain what to do or how to conduct himself/herself. "I went to Martha's party but I was like a fish out of water for I didn't know anyone there," Iris said. "When I first got to Canada I knew very little English so I often felt like a fish out of water," Peter said. "But now that I've learned the language, I no longer feel that way," he added.

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Drop like a stone

Hamingway has been trying to sell a select piece of property for months. "I want to get rid of this place before it falls !" Hamingway whispered. People looking at the property watched as hamingway's price kept dropping like a stone until someone finally bought it. "When the price of something drops like a stone, it falls far and it falls quickly," the new owner grinned.

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( As ) Ripe as a cherry

Rodney was taking a stroll when he came upon a nice big plate of fresh cherries. "I don't know where those cherries came from," he burped, "but I could see that they were as ripe as a cherry, so I ate them." He burped again. "Besides, I wanted to see if it's true that fruit said to be ( as ) ripe as a cherry is really fully mature and ready to eat." Having said that, Rodney slid away. To a hungry bird, he probably looked ripe as a cherry himself !

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The penny drops

Oliver was sound asleep when a short but violent trembling action shook his room and rattled his bed. "That may be an earthquake," he thought, but then he remembered that he was an ant and the penny dropped. "Oh, that's just someone around overhead," he said. This expression means to finally realize or understand something after spending a little time thinking about it.

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A mare's nest

A mare is a female horse, and we know that female horses do not built nests in trees ! That's why a mare's nest is either something that does not exist or a discovery that turns out to be worthless. Nelly has generously agreed to sit in a tree and provide you with examples. "My friend Angus says he has found a way to turn stone into gold, but I suspect it will be another one of his mare's nests," Nelly said. "He also says he has  away of knowing which horse will win in a race. I think his wisdom is something of a mare's nest too."

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A slinging/slanging match

There are two ways to say this expression : The Americans say slinging, and the British say slanging. It may help to know that sling means to throw something, while slang means to shout naughty words. In the end, though, a slinging / slanging match is a loud, angry quarrel with two or more individuals shouting at each other. "The debate ended when the participants got into a slinging / slanging match. " "Tommy left the playing field to avoid getting into a slinging / slanging match with the visiting players."

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Done with mirrors

We often wonder how magicians perform their tricks. We think they use mirrors, and that has given us this expression. It's used ( humorously ) to explain how something that appears difficult, clever or unusual is done. "When I asked Sally how she could work full-time and still get straight As in her distance learning classes, she laughed and said it was done with mirrors." "I don't know how Felix manages to stay looking so young. Maybe it's done with mirrors."

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Heads roll

Alves is realistic. "To live together in harmony we can't tolerate any nonsense," he said. while most of Alves's neighbors understand that, now and then one of them gets awfully silly. That's when Alves displays his anger and that's when heads roll ! The expression heads roll means that someone is being punished, in particular because he or she has failed in the performance of a duty. In a job situation, the person can be dismissed or demoted !

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Let someone in on something

I'll let you in on something : Barton is very fond of Emma. See, he's always doing something to impress her. Right now he's entertaining her. "Gee, how did you do that ? Let me in on your trick !" she asked. To let someone in on something is to share information or a secret with someone.

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Up One's Sleeve

 

All right, Sara. We know that you're planning something big for Jean's birthday. Mind telling us just what you have up your sleeve ?

I wanted to make his birthday a very special event.

Jean has a sister living in France, and I sent her an airplane ticket so that she could be here for his birthday.

Boy! That is something special. We kind of guessed that you had some concealed plan and were waiting for the right time to reveal it.

Well, I didn't want to say anything until I was sure she could come.

 

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