Colloquial English Idioms

By Herbert Chavez,2014-04-26 12:56
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Colloquial English Idioms




Бз ? 60 — 1970 ?5 4 И (Англ) (07)


    The aim of this book is to supply a number of colloquial English idioms classified, explained and illustrated by examples

    drawn mainly from modern English and American authors. It

    will be noticed that the term "idiom" is used here in its broader

    sense, embracing both idioms proper and so-called "non-

    idiomatic" word groups. Only colloquial phrases are included in

    the book; a few idioms marked "slangy" are more for

    recognition than actual use. W. Ball's classification of colloquial

    idioms (see below), though greatly changed, is partially used in

    this book.

    The definitions and explanations are taken mainly from the

    following sources:

    1. The Advanced Learner's Dictionary of Current

    English, by A. S. Hornby, E. V. Gatenby, H. Wakefield,

    2. A Concise Dictionary of English Slang, by W. Freeman.

    3 A Practical Guide to Colloquial Idiom, by W. J. Ball.

    4. English Idioms and How to Use Them, by

    W McMordie

    5. English Idioms for Foreign Students, by A. J.Worrall.


    A general phrase for "(to be) in difficulties or trouble" is: (to be) up against it (to be) confronted by formidable

    difficulties or trouble

    "Well, old girl, "she murmured, "you're up against

    it this time, and no mistake." (K. M.)

    You were a brick to me when I was up against

    it. (J. G.)

    We are properly up against it here, Chris. We've

    paid out every stiver we've got. (A. C.) (To be) in for it (trouble) is similarly used, meaning (to be) involved in trouble.

    He grabbed the knob and pulled vigorously. It had

    closed. Heavens! He was in for it now, sure enough.

    (Th. D.)

    Quickly I got in before Brown and said they might

    be in for another kind of trouble. (C. S.) If you

    break the school windows, you'll be in for trouble.

    (A. H.)

    Having (getting into) trouble (difficulties) is colloquially expressed by these phrases:

    (to be) in a jam (to be) in a difficulty or in an awkward situation

    Well, Dad, I'm in a bit of a jam again. (J. M.)

    Connie was all right. She'd been in plenty of jams

    herself. She wouldn't turn up her nose. (N. C.) He

    was in a bit of a jam, that was all. (N. C.) (to be) in a fix in a difficulty (or dilemma)

    Then she'ld be in just the same old fix, only worse.

    (H. W.)

    His cart has stuck in the river, so that he is in a bad

    fix. (W. M.)

    I should like to see the fix I'd be in in this house if I

    started laying down that law. (L. A.) to be in (get into) a scrape to be in (get into) trouble (difficulty)

    She perceived she was in a scrape, and tried in vain

    to think of a way of escape. (H. W.) If he'd get into a

    scrape, or break his leg. (J. G.) I'll do anything you

    like to help you out of the scrape if you're in one. (H.


    (to be) in a hole (to be) faced with what appears to be a

    disastrous difficulty, an insurmountable trouble

    You'd think to judge from the speeches of the

    "leaders", that the world had never been in a hole

    before. The world's always in a hole, only in the old

    days people didn't make a song about it. (J. G.) (to be) in the soup (cart) (to be) in disastrously serious


    What if she declared her real faith in Court,

    and left them all in the soup! (J. G.)

    "He's got himself properly in the soup, he has, "

    he said thickly. (N. C.)

    "No good crying before we're hurt, " he said,

    "the pound's still high. We're good stayers."

    "In the soup, I'm afraid." (J. G.)

    "Now we're really in the cart, " she said. (A. Chr.) (to be) in hot water or to get into hot water to have (get into) trouble, especially as the result of foolish behaviour

    You'll get into hot water if you type the wrong

    addresses on the envelopes again. (W. B.) It often

    happens that a young wife is in hot water as long as

    her mother-in-law lives in the same house. (W. M.)

    The schoolmaster got into hot water with the

    Inspector for taking part in political meetings. (W.


    (to be, get into) in deep water undergoing difficulty or misfortune

    He looked and looked, and the longer the situation

    lasted the more difficult it became. The little shop-

    girl was getting into deep water. (Th. D.) (to be) in a mess (to be) in trouble

    Uncle, you're so renowned for dropping your best

    pals when they're in a mess. (J. G.) ... if ever the

    story breaks you're in a worse mess than ever, aren't

    you? (C. S.)

    to catch it to get into trouble; to receive censure or blame

    The new boss is a terror. You'd better watch your

    step or you'll catch it. (W. B.) The sharing of difficult or adverse circumstances is com-

    mented upon by the following phrase:

    to be (all) in the same boat to have the same dangers

    (difficulties) to face

    The trouble is how to get on without reducing staff.

    Everyone is in the same boat. (J. G.) You're in the

    same boat. Don't you see this war is being lost? (S.


    Lewisham looked at mother for a moment. Then he

    glanced at Ethel. "We're all in the same boat, " said

    Lewisham. (H. W.)

    To leave a person in difficulties or trouble is to leave him (her)

    in the lurch.

    One thing we have to thank Foch for, he never left

    us in the lurch. (J. G.)

    Inviting trouble, that is acting or behaving in such a way as to bring trouble upon oneself may be colloquially put thus:

    to look (ask) for trouble

    Something in your eye says you're looking for

    trouble. That's the only kind of search that is bound

    to be a success you know. (M. W.) "Guess he is out

    looking for trouble, " Roy said. "He may be looking

    for it right here, " Jack said. (J. Ald.)

    Well, to hell with it, he thought angrily, his life too

    complicated without looking for that kind of trouble

    all over again. (M. W.) "If you want to go out, I

    can't stop you, " she said. "But it'll probably be your

    last. You and your chest on a day like

    this ..." ..."You and your chest, " she said again. "It's

    just asking for trouble." (N. C.)

    ... I must say that you are asking for trouble ... (J.


    to ask for (it) to take an action leading almost inevitably

    to an undesired result or trouble

    You've been dismissed but you did ask for it!

    CD. E. S.)

    It's asking for it to put a wholly unexperienced

    player in the team. (W. B.)

    to stick one's neck out to adopt an attitude that invites

    trouble or unfavourable comment; to invite trouble


    You won't stick your neck out if you don't

    need to? That's all I'm asking you, will you?

    (C. S.)

    However, if Willoughby wanted to stick his neck

    out it was his neck. (S. H.)

    And I'd like to be sure that I'm not the only

    one to stick out his neck. (S. H.)

    Don't stick your neck out too far... (D. A. S.)

    Seine colloquial phrases for trouble making are: to stir up a hornets' nest (the nest of hornets) to stir up host of enemies; cause a great outburst of angry feeling To bring a hornets' nest about one's ears means the same thing.

    ... You don't seem to realize, Senator, that this has

    stirred up a hornets' nest. (D. R.) That suggestion of

    mine, it has indeed stirred up the nest of hornets. (A.


    to stir up trouble to make trouble

    Sounds innocent enough; but I can see through you.

    Get hold of the coloured folk round here and make

    them dissatisfied put ideas in their heads stir

    up trouble! (D. R.)

    to raise (make, kick up) a dust (shindy) to make a disturbance

    You'd obviously got to raise the dust about

    Nightingale and give them an escape-route at

    one and the same damned time. (C. S.)

    I don't want his lawyer to kick up a shindy

    about this. (A. Chr.)

    They'll make a regular dust if they learn about

    it. (C. D.)

    Warning of trouble to come may be expressed by these

    phrases in common use:

    the fat is in the fire what has been done will cause great

    trouble, excitement, anger, etc.

    Well, the fat's in the fire. If you persist in your

    wilfulness, you'll have yourself to blame. (J. G.)

    "Yes, " murmured Sir Lawrence watching her, "the

    fat is in the fire, as old Forsyte would have said." (J.


    trouble is brewing trouble is about to come

    Martin knew immediately the meaning of it.

    Trouble was brewing. The gang was his bodyguard.

    (J. L.)


    you're for it due for, or about to receive, punishment, etc.

    Jones is late again, and this time he's for it. (D. E.


    A voice came right into the tower with us, it seemed

    to speak from the shadows by the trap a hollow

    megaphone voice saying something in Vietnamese.

    'We're for it, " I said. (Gr. Gr.)

    A difficult task is colloquially speaking:

    a large (tall) order a task almost impossible to perform; a big thing to be asked to perform

    "What you and I are going, " he said expansively,

    "is to revolutionize this whole damn industry. That's

    a large order, and it may take us a long time but

    we'll pull it off." (M. W.) He says: "Well, Mr.

    Cauton, it looks a pretty tall order to me." (P. Ch.) a hard nut to crack a very difficult problem

    The police cannot find any traces; the burglars have

    indeed given them a hard nut to crack. (K. H.) A difficult or critical situation is also colloquially described

    by the adjectives tricky and sticky.

    "Never mind, " he consoled himself. "Nothing's so

    tricky when you've done it once." (N. C.) It was a

    tricky job, but Minerva pulled it off. (L. A.)

    "It gets tricky here, " Moose said as they entered the

    woods. (J. Ald.) I expect it'll be rather a sticky do. (R.


    A troublesome difficulty may be aptly expressed by a phrase

    from Hamlet: Aye, there's the rub.

    But dreams! Ay, there was the rub. (E. L.)

    Lammlein! Lammlein was involved, too. Here was

    the real rub. (S. H.)


An unexpected difficulty (hindrance) is colloquially speaking

    a snag or a hitch.

    "If there's any snag, " said George, "I should expect

    you to look on me as your banker." (C. S.) I take it

    there won't be any hitch about that, Brown? (C. S.) Some colloquial phrases to describe financial difficulties are:

    to be hard up to be short of money

    "She always talks about being hard up, " said Mrs.

    Allerton with a tinge of spite. (A. Chr.) Oh, but we

    may go to the theatre, you see, Mother, and I think I

    ought to stand the tickets; he's always hard up, you

    know. (J. G.)

    (to be) in Queer street (to be) extremely short of money;

    in trouble; in debt

    But if you ask me the firm's not far off Queer

    street. (A. Chr.)

    A man must be in Queer street indeed to take a risk

    like that. (J. G.)

    (to be) on one's beam ends to be without money, helpless

    or in danger

    "What has he to say for himself?"

    "Nothing. One of his boots is split across the

    toe." Soames stared at her.

    "Ah!" he said, "of course! On his beam ends."

    (J. G.)

    to be (stony) broke to be penniless

    But we're less broke than we were. I could borrow a

    dress from May Turner. (M. W.) He sobered up.

    "Stony broke, " he said. (G.)

    They can hardly (can't) make both ends meet also expresses an acute financial embarrassment.

    With the high rent for their flat they can hardly

    make both ends meet on his small salary. (K. H.) 12

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