In our English Courses in Boston, we love teaching our students how to speak like native speakers. We teach different types of colloquial language, slang, phrasal verbs, and — our favorite — idioms! Michael, Stephen, and Olivia at the front desk have put together this post with each of their favorites. So, check out these examples, and maybe you can start to use them!
Michael: Pot, Kettle, Black.
This is actually a contraction of the full phrase, ‘The pot calling the kettle black.’ While it’s thought that this one actually started in Spain a long time ago, by the 17th century, we were saying it in English, too! In the past, people would cook and heat water on open fires. So, the fire that made the kettle black also made the pot black! All that to say, you can use ‘pot, kettle, black’ when someone accuses you of being guilty of something that they are guilty of, too.
Example: Imagine your really messy room mate tells you that you don’t tidy enough. What?? Pot, kettle, black!
Stephen: Jump on the Bandwagon.
This one isn’t as old as the previous one. Believe it or not, it started right here in the US! In the nineteenth century, a bandwagon would carry the band at the front of a parade so that everyone else would follow the parade. So, when you accuse somebody of ‘jumping on the bandwagon’, you’re saying they’re following people just because that’s the popular thing to do, not because you really want to.
Example: Imagine all of your friends suddenly decide they don’t like your favorite restaurant anymore. Would jump on the bandwagon and say you don’t like it either?
Olivia: Apples and Oranges.
This is an English idiom, but similar versions exist in many different languages. Actually, it’s a contraction of ‘comparing apples and oranges’, and we use it when somebody is trying to compare two things, but it just doesn’t make sense to compare them!
Example: Imagine your friend is telling you that you shouldn’t see the new Toy Story movie because you didn’t like Spiderman. Talk about apples and oranges, man!