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Saturday, February 9, 2019

Everyday American Idioms

Idioms are words and phrases in a language that have come into existence for a variety of reasons, some obvious enough, some inexplicable, but most of them appropriately and delightfully characteristic of the race that created them.

Hit the nail on the head: do exactly the right thing
e.g. Your remark hit the nail on the head; that was precisely the solution to the problem.

Flash in the pan: only temporary
e.g. His initial success was only a flash in the pan.

Keep a straight face: refrain from laughing
e.g. It’s difficult to keep a straight face when someone acts so funny.

Add insult to injury: make things worse
e.g. Enough is enough! Don’t add insult to injury.

Have it coming: deserve what one gets
e.g. Failure was unavoidable. What you did had it coming.

After hours: after normal working hours
e.g. We are so busy that many of us have to stay after hour.

Just as well: good that an unexpected problem has come up
e.g. It was just as well the customer didn’t show up; we didn’t have anything ready for him.

Pitch in: help and get busy
e.g. We need help for this project; would you like to pitch in?

Play both ends against the middle: gain an advantage by pitting people on opposite sides of an issue against each other
e.g. In American politics, it is not common for politicians to play both ends against the middle to win their elections.

Level with someone: speak honestly with someone
e.g. I’ll level with you: I think you made a serious mistake.

Lighten up: be less serious or sulky

e.g. Lighten up—that’s not the end of the world.

Make headway: make progress or advancement
e.g. Despite our effort, we have made little headway with our business.

Actions speak louder than words: do something about it, not just talking about it
e.g. Show me what you have done! Actions speak louder than words.

Have one’s fingers in the pie: become involved in something
e.g. As long as you have your fingers in the pie, things will not run smoothly.

Abide by: accept and follow
e.g. If you wish to become a citizen of the United States, you must abide by U.S. immigration laws.


Stephen Lau
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