Modern Idioms (and where they come from)



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Around the world in 80 idioms

Posted on February 9, 2022 at 11:20 AM

Idioms can be some of the most enjoyable but also the most infuriating things to learn in another language. Often they make no sense at all at face value (kick the bucket, anyone?), and might include vocabulary that is unlikely to crop up in normal, everyday conversation (how often do you use the word “hatchet” except in the context of burying one?) So in honour of the joy of idioms, here’s the first in an occasional collection of phrases from different languages that, for o...

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It's the way I tell 'em! Catchphrases that have found their way into the language.

Posted on July 16, 2021 at 6:50 PM

Some of the most memorable TV characters are defined by their catchphrases, and these are the soundbites that very often live on long after a show has stopped gracing our screens. Here we present a short list of some of the most recognisable catchphrases from UK TV sitcoms:

1. “I don’t believe it!” – Victor Meldrew (One Foot in the Grave, 1990-2000). Named as the UK’s favourite catchphrase in a 2019 poll (

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Swings and roundabouts: or, how to make your peace with luck!

Posted on June 22, 2021 at 5:25 AM

Swings and roundabouts” is a particularly English expression, used to denote the idea that good and bad things even out over time. The phrase is one that seems to date from the start of the 20th Century, and is sometimes ascribed to a poem published in 1912 entitled Roundabouts and Swings by Patrick Reginald Chalmers, about the fluctuating fortunes of a travelling salesman. Website Interestin...

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Modern idioms? They do exactly what they say on the tin...

Posted on May 27, 2021 at 5:35 AM

TV has been a rich source of linguistic innovation over the years, but it’s not always the main events that have an impact. Several well-known advertising campaigns have contributed idioms or catchphrases to the language, as we explore below.

1. “Does exactly what it says on the tin” – Ronseal, 1994. The grandaddy of all advertising idioms, Ronseal first used it to...

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Release the Kraken: the emergence of a beast of an idiom?

Posted on April 30, 2021 at 5:10 AM

Release the Kraken” emerged in late 2020, following the refusal of Donald Trump supporters to graciously accept defeat in the US Presidential Election. A BBC article published in late November 2020 described it as “an internet meme representing a sprawling, unsubstantiated set of claims that purport to outline the case for widespread fraud”.(1) Lawyer Sidney Powell said that she w...

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Groundhog Day

Posted on November 7, 2020 at 8:20 AM

Meaning: A situation or experience that seems to repeat endlessly.

Origin: The film of the same name (Groundhog Day, 1993), in which Bill Murray plays a weatherman who finds himself reliving the same day over and over again. The day itself (February 2nd - by tradition the day in many parts of North America when a local groundhog predicts whether spring is ready to arrive or whether winter will continue for six more weeks) pre-dates this by some distance, but the more metaph...

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