English Idioms Daily Blog

... your resource for English idioms, ESL and more!


A Bum Rap

to take a pot shot at someone or something

If you read newspapers or magazines, you will always be able to find articles about people or things that are supposedly getting a bum rap. The English idiom to get a bum rap means to receive unfair criticism or blame. Here is an example:

Teachers are getting
a bum rap. They are being blamed for all of the problems in our education system today.

Here are some other people, animals or things that have supposedly been
getting a bum rap:

President getting bum rap over oil and energy policies
- dailyinterlake.com, 29 April 2012, Francis Breidenbach
Is Ethanol Getting a Bum Rap?
- businessweek.com, 1 May 2008, John Carey
Nat geo WILD: Bum Rap - A History of Vilifying Sharks
- newswatch.nationalgeographic.com, 24 November 2011, Matthew Zymet

The authors of these articles feel that the President, ethanol and sharks have been unfairly criticized, i.e. they have
gotten a bum rap.
Is there anyone or anything that you feel has been
getting a bum rap lately?




A person who worries too much or worries about unimportant things is called a worrywart. Worrywarts are worriers who worry excessively and unnecessarily. Here is an example of how this English idiom can be used:

Walter constantly worried about his children, Waltraud and Wilma. He was a

The following two articles talk about
worrywarts, the impact that they have on others and, quite interestingly, themselves:

Are you a worrywart parent?
- annarbor.com, 1 November 2011, Kerry Novick
Being a Worrywart Can Shorten Your Life
- healthguidance.org, Mark Thomas
Women are Worrywarts - For Good Reason

The second article claims that worrying, which always goes
hand-in-hand with stress, can shorten a person’s life. Do you believe that worrywarts have shorter lifespans?


Go Overboard

If you go overboard, you over-do or do too much of something. For an example, have a look at the following headline:

Parents go overboard to help college kid get job
- msnbc.msn.com, 24 May 2010, Eve Tahminciogiu

This article talks about how some parents help their children
too much in the job-search process, i.e. how parents go overboard trying the help their children find a job.
Naturally, there are many, many other areas in which people can
go overboard. Watch this YouTube video for another good example:



The English idiom busybody refers to someone who is overly interested in the lives of others. Busybodies are extremely curious. A busybody likes to ask you personal questions, watch what you are doing, interfere in your affairs and, of course, talk about you behind your back. Does this sound like anyone you know?

Test your
busybody vocabulary! Which of the following English idioms is a synonym for the term busybody?

a) nosy parker
b) party pooper
c) half-wit
d) fuddy-duddy

Go to the following article on
personality types to find the correct answer.


Miss the Boat

Miss the boat

Do you know what to miss the boat means? Look at this sample sentence and select the correct definition of this English idiom:

miss the boat! Apply for the job today!

To miss the boat means...

a) to misunderstand something
b) to be silly
c) to do or say something that causes problems
d) to lose an opportunity

Click here to go to the correct definition of
to miss the boat.



The word gaffe refers to a social mistake or faux pas, which often results from having said or done the wrong thing at the wrong time. Here is an example to show you how the expression gaffe can be used:

Mistaking Sweden for Switzerland was the worst
gaffe that the Ikea CEO has ever made.

Finding good examples of
gaffes on the internet is not difficult. People like to write and read about the mistakes of others and gaffes, therefore, tend to make the headlines. Here are some examples of gaffes:

Barack Obama makes Falklands gaffe by calling Malvinas the Maldives
- dailytelegraph.co.uk, 16 April 2012, Jonathan Gilbert
France’s Nicolas Sarkozy admits Fukushima nuclear gaffe
- bbc.co.uk, 13 April 2012, BBC
Myer ridiculed over grammar gaffe in Australia-wide adverts
- heraldsun.com.au, 4 January 2012, Nathan Mawby

It’s good to know that you can make
grammar gaffes too, isn’t it? Could you see the grammar mistake that the Herald Sun was referring to in the last headline?
For a visual impression of what a
gaffe can be, have a look at the following video of former Italian Prime Minster Silvio Berlusconi as he arrives for a NATO Summit in Germany in 2009 and keeps German Chancellor Angela Merkel waiting for him:

Click here, if you are interested in learning more English idioms related to making mistakes.


Music to Your Ears

Music to my ears

Look at the following short dialogue and, then, select the correct definition of the English idiom to be music to someone’s ears:

Aisha: How did you feel when you heard the news?
Louis: Quite frankly, it was
music to my ears. I couldn’t believe my luck.

The expression
to be music to someone’s ear refers to...

a) something that makes you happy
b) something that makes you sad
c) something that you do not want to hear
d) something that is not truthful

Click here for the
correct definition.


Put Your Foot in Your Mouth

Put your foot in your mouth

Have you put your foot in your mouth recently? The English idiom to put your foot in your mouth means to say the wrong thing, i.e. something embarrassing, inappropriate or unintended. Here are two examples that demonstrate how this English idiom can be used:

I really
put my foot in my mouth when I told Estelle that I didn’t like the cake that she had baked.
Frank apologized when he realized that he had
put his foot in his mouth.

The following YouTube video shows part of an interview in which Jill Biden, wife of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden,
puts her foot in her mouth.

It is not uncommon to put your foot in your mouth - in fact, it is very human. Can you think of some instances in which you really said the wrong thing at the wrong moment?


Beat Around the Bush

Someone who beats around the bush, does not feel comfortable talking about a certain subject, talks about all kinds of other things and does not get to the point. Here are some sample sentences using this English idiom:

I am not interested in what you did on the weekend. Stop
beating around the bush and answer my question.
Get to the point, Phil. Don’t
beat around the bush!
I knew that she had something important to tell me, but, for three hours, she just
beat around the bush.

Which of the following English idioms mean the opposite of
to beat around the bush? There are three correct answers.

a) to talk turkey
b) to say it like it is
c) to be point-blank
d) to talk shop
e) to say cheese

Click here for the correct


How 'Easy' are These Idioms?

Easy Idioms

Some people think that learning English is as
easy as abc, but is it really? Just how easy are these English idioms? Test you knowledge by matching the idioms below (a - d) with their appropriate definitions (1 - 6) - but, be aware, there are two extra definitions:

a) Take it easy!
b) Easy does it!
c) go easy
d) easy on the eye

1) calm down
2) attractive
3) unclear
4) to not take or use too much of something
5) be careful
6) very easy

Click here for the


Accident Waiting to Happen

The English idiom an accident waiting to happen refers to a foreseeable accident or problem. In other words, a bad or dangerous situation that one can see happening before it actually occurs. There are many things in this world that people think are accidents waiting to happen. Look at these recent headlines to see a few examples:

Yotaro Hatamura: Was Fukushima an Accident Waiting to Happen?
- pbs.org, 28 February 2012, FRONTLINE
US deficit accident waiting to happen, says IIF head
-channelnewsasia.com, 26 February 2012, AFP/de
Cell Phone Texting: A Car Accident Waiting to Happen
Abandoned buildings are accidents waiting to happen, says Manchester Councillor following Levenshulme fire
-mancunianmatters.co.uk, 6 April 2012, Sean-Paul Doran and Darren heath

The articles above refer to the nuclear plant disaster in Fukushima, the US deficit and abandoned buildings as
accidents waiting to happen, i.e. foreseeable or predictable problems.
The following YouTube video - an advertisement that shows what can happen when you drive too fast - will give you a visual impression of what
an accident waiting to happen is:




Often related to a particular business, field of study or social group, buzzwords are trendy words which are in vogue for a certain period of time. Sometimes, these words only sound impressive but are, in fact, of little meaning. Here are some examples of buzzwords. Do you know what they mean?

cash cow

Find out the definitions of these
buzzwords here.


Chick Flick

Chick flicks are films for women that typically look at the subjects of friendship, love and romance through the eyes of a female protagonist. To take a closer look at what makes a chick flick a chick flick, watch the following video:

Why does Sarah Haskins, the host of Target Women, like chick flicks? What reasons does she provide?


Penny Pincher

What is a penny pincher? Look at the following sample sentence and select the correct definition of this English idiom:

It must be difficult to be married to Frieda - she is a real
penny pincher!

penny pincher is...

a) someone who is extremely careful with money
b) someone who spends a lot of money
c) someone who complains a lot
d) someone who talks a lot

For the correct definition of the English idiom
penny pincher, click here.


All Ears

All ears

The definition of the English idiom to be all ears is to be waiting attentively to hear something. It is typically used in a dialogue like the following one:

Muriel: I can’t wait to tell you about my job interview.
Sabeen: I am
all ears!

In the dialogue above, Sabeen lets Muriel know that she is
listening and waiting to hear about her job interview by saying that she is all ears.
Below, you will find a youtube video of a commercial that uses the expression
We’re all ears as its advertising slogan. What kind of company do you think would use this phrase as an advertising slogan? Watch the video and find out:

What other companies/businesses do you think could use the English idiom to be all ears as part of their advertising campaigns?


Slam Someone/ Something

Today’s idiom is to slam someone or something, which means to strongly criticize someone or something. Look at the recent headlines below to see how this common English expression can be used:

Microsoft Slams Google Privacy Changes With Putting People First Ad Campaign
- marketingland.com, 1 February 2012, Danny Sullivan
Volvo slams EU carbon targets as unrealistic
- edie.net, 22 March 2012, edie newsroom
Samsung Galaxy Campaign Brilliantly Slams iPhone Fanboy Culture
- adage.com, 23 November 2011, Michael Leamonth

In all of these headlines, companies are
slamming or harshly criticizing things - Googles Privacy policy, the European Unions carbon emission targets and the iPhone culture.
In 2011, U.S. President Barack Obama publicly
slammed Donald Trump, who had incorrectly suggested that Obama was not American-born and even questioned the validity of his birth certificate. Watch the following video to see how Obama slams Donald Trump:


Hit the Spot

Hit the spot

Look at the following sentence and, then, select the correct definition of the English idiom to hit the spot:

Grandma’s dinner really
hit the spot.

To hit the spot means...

a) to taste good and satisfy you
b) to not taste good
c) to be well done
d) to be a failure

Click here for the correct definition of
to hit the spot.


Tickled Pink

Tickled Pink

Have you ever heard someone say that he or she was tickled pink? Meaning delighted, very pleasedor even thrilled, this English idiom is typically found in sentences like the following:

When she won the award for best supporting actress, Octavia was
tickled pink.
The young child was
tickled pink when he saw the new toy.
I am
tickled pink to be here today.

There are many things that can
tickle you pink, i.e. make you feel very happy or delight you. Look at the following headlines to see some examples:

Tickled pink! Uma Thurman expecting baby girl
- articles. nydailynews.com, 7 March 2012, Cristina Everett
Serena Williams tickled pink to be back
- smh.com.au, 13 April 2011, AFP
Lottery Win: Euromillions couple are tickled pink
- bbc.co.uk, 15 July 2012, BBC

In these headlines, Uma Thurman, Serena Williams and a Scottish couple are
tickled pink for various reasons - a new baby, a return to competitive tennis and a lottery win. What would make you feel tickled pink?