A few weeks ago we took a look at some expressions in English that sound pretty strange when you’re learning a new language. Today, we’re going to challenge ourselves to learn a few more wonderfully strange ways we phrase things in English!
1 | Up in the air
What’s up in the air? If something is ‘up in the air’, it means that there is no definite plan in place and that you’re unsure about what’s happening.
“What are you doing this weekend?”
“I’m not sure, I might go to that party on Saturday, but it’s all up in the air for now.”
2 | To stab someone in the back
Okay, calm down – nobody’s actually getting stabbed here. This expression dates back to the early 1900s and refers to the fact that it is ‘cowardly’ to physically attack someone when their back is turned. ‘To stab [someone] in the back’ means ‘to betray’ someone in a particularly dishonourable way. The word ‘backstabber’ is a noun used to talk about a person who cannot be trusted and usually betrays people.
“We used to be friends, but he stabbed me in the back and I don’t feel that I can trust him now.”
3 | Sit tight
That doesn’t sound very comfortable, does it?! Don’t worry – if someone says you should ‘sit tight’, it means that you should just stay where you are and wait there for the time being.
“Just sit tight until I call you back – we’ll see what they can do about your stolen phone.”
4 | Hold your horses
Horses are beautiful animals, but I’m afraid we won’t be dealing with any ‘real’ horses here! When you want someone to slow down and think about their opinions or decisions, you can tell them to hold their horses – it’s an informal way of say ‘calm down and think about it’.
“I’m going to call my ex-girlfriend right now and tell her how I feel!”
“Hold your horses, Dan! Maybe you should wait until tomorrow. You’ve had too much wine today.”
5 | Head in the clouds
How can my head be in the clouds? Will I be flying? Am I a bird? Hold your horses and let’s take a look at the meaning of this weird but wonderful expression. If someone has their ‘head in the clouds’, that means they’re a bit of a dreamer, and often don’t pay attention to what’s happening right in front of them because they’re living in a fantasy world.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me today! I was trying, but I’ve got my head in the clouds. I just can’t focus.”
6 | Ring a bell
If something sounds familiar, like you’ve heard it before, then you can say that it ‘rings a bell’.
“Do you know Cagla? She’s from Istanbul and started studying here last week.”
“Hmm…the name rings a bell! I think we met at the Welcome Party.”
7 | A piece of cake
YUM! Cake! If someone says that something was ‘a piece of cake’, then it means that it was very easy to do.
“How was your exam?”
“It was a piece of cake! Let’s go out and celebrate.”
8 |Storm in a teacup
But you can’t have a storm in a teacup, can you? It sounds a little dangerous. If something is described as a ‘storm in a teacup’, it means that there was a lot of unnecessary worry or anger about something that isn’t very important.
“Is everything okay between you and Antonio? You guys had a little argument yesterday, didn’t you?”
“Yes, don’t worry about us. We had a little misunderstanding – it was a storm in a teacup, really.”
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