Sunday, July 24, 2016

Think Positive

In these troubled times it could be easy to get depressed and expect the worst.

When you take an exam, do you expect to fail? When the phone rings, do assume it's trouble?

Or maybe you think there's no point going for that dream job because you'd never get it anyway.

You know what you need to do? Think positive! There's an increasing body of evidence to suggest that attitudes and expectations influence outcomes.

Here's a TED video from one of the experts in the field - Shawn Achor and The Happiness Advantage.

Watch it with an open mind and you're sure to get something positive from it.

Friday, June 24, 2016


When I woke up today and my wife told me the Britain had voted to leave the EU, I was gobsmacked.

In other words, I was speechless, lost for words.

Gob is an informal word for mouth.

Someone who is opinionated can be described as gobby.

A crude way of telling someone to shut up is "Shut your gob!"

There was plenty of gobbiness during the BREXIT Remain/Leave campaigns.

I expected the result to be close but I never thought Britain would actually leave. I'm still gobsmacked. Probably, Prime Minister David Cameron is too - it's cost him his job.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Fly by the seat of your pants

It sounds like a crazy and dangerous thing to do and in some ways it is. It means to depend on your nerve and instinct in a situation and to improvise rather than have a detailed plan.

"When we set up the company, for the first year, we were flying by the seat of our pants."

As this is an aviation idiom, it seems a good idea to watch a dramatic plane video of some real life seat of the pants flying. That's not to say that the pilots featured aren't prepared - quite the opposite, they sure need to know what they're doing.

I've landed and taken off from Madeira, one of the airports featured, and I can tell you, it's pretty weird. You feel that your going to land in the sea. Taking off isn't much better as you head straight towards the mountain  and veer off sharply left at the last minute!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Let the cat out of the bag

To let the cat out of the bag is to accidentally reveal a secret.

"Are you going to Sarah's party?"

"What party?"

"Woops. Looks like I let the cat out of the bag."

On a more serious note, somebody's let the cat out of the bag that politicians, major banks and companies have been hiding their money in the tax haven of Panama.

Watch this report on #PanamaLeaks

And watch this video of a naughty cat in a bag!

Video - Roger Braunstein - Wikicommons

Rearrange the deckchairs on the Titanic

I'm sure you know that the famous ship, the Titanic, sank.

What would you have done if you were on it after it struck an iceberg and was sinking? You could put on your lifejacket, find the nearest lifeboat, set off an emergency flare or rearrange the deckchairs. 

Which of these activities would be the most pointless and ineffective?


"Stopping giving free pens on reception when the company is going bankrupt, is just rearranging the the deckchairs on the Titanic."

Here's a great, short video about the one and only voyage of the ill-fated ship.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Raining cats and dogs

This is arguably the best known of all English idioms.

Raining cats and dogs. If you look carefully, you'll see them on the cover of the English Idioms Explained ebook series.

Britain is famous for its wet weather and can you believe that when it rains really heavily, cats and dogs actually fall out of the sky? That's how the idiom came about.

Only joking - it is after all, just an idiom!

If like me, you find the sound of rain relaxing, then you'll enjoy this peaceful video. Of course, it's best to be inside in the warm and dry when it's raining cats and dogs outside.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Burn the midnight oil

I've been burning the midnight oil to get all my work done.

Midnight gives us the clue and you might guess that this idiom means to stay up late.

But why midnight oil? It comes from the days before electricity. In fact, oil lamps have been around for thousands of years.

Click the link to see how Roman oil lamps were designed. A typical fuel of the time was olive oil.

                                             A Selection of Roman Oil Lamps

                                                    Source: WikiCommons

While we're on the subject of Midnight Oil - here's a great song by the Australian band of the same name - this version features the lyrics (words), so you can read as you listen.

Just don't stay up burning the midnight oil or you'll regret it in the morning!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Take the plunge

She's been thinking about moving to France for years and now she's finally decided to take the plunge.

To take the plunge is to commit to a course of action.

To plunge is to dive or jump in a vigorous manner - it's even an Olympic sport!

Friday, January 29, 2016

Pull your socks up

Your work has been very poor standard recently. You need to pull your socks up.

Why are they falling down?

Not excactly - this idiom means you need to work harder, get a grip and improve your performance.

Pull your socks up isn't just a fun idiom but a very worthy cause - like this:

Monday, January 25, 2016

Rome wasn't built in a day

'How's the website coming on? I've been waiting two weeks already.'

'Give me a break - Rome wasn't built in a day.'

Meaning, to do something properly takes time.

Of course, Rome really wasn't built in a day and luckily, much of its historic architecture and art remains - why not take a 10 minute tour and see for yourself, why Rome wasn't built in a day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Peas in a pod

They're just like peas in a pod.

Does that mean that they are lke small, green vegetables?

No, it means thay have very similar qualities. Very often, we say 'two peas in a pod' but three is possible too - like this!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The ball is in your court

Which ball is that and what is the court?

This idiom comes from tennis, which is played on a court.

When the ball is in your court, or rather half of the court, you have to deal with it.

'What do you think I should do?'

'It's up to you to decide - the ball's in your court.'

Now, I'm not a big tennis fan, but watching this, I could be - some truly amazing shots.

For more idioms check out my ebooks on Amazon. Thanks for visiting the blog.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Burn the candle at both ends

Do you burn the candle at both ends?

If so, you're likely to get overtired. That's because it means to get up early and stay up late.

You might be doing that during the busy pre-Christmas period. What have you bought? Candles maybe.

Here's an instructive film with lots of waxy vocabulary.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Takes the Biscuit

I've just been told that FIFA President Sepp Blatter plans to unresign - that really takes the biscuit!

Takes the biscuit is used to describe something incredibly bad or unbelievable.

Quite why it takes the biscuit, I can't say. I know idioms are often illogical but this one really takes the biscuit!

Here are some more examples:

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Crack Up

We can use the term crack up in these ways  - you crack me up or she/he totally cracked up.

It can refer to losing your nerve or composure but also losing control and being unable to stop laughing.

It happened to me a couple of times when I used to run training courses - somebody would say something and I'd just crack up and couldn't stop giggling. Once I even left the room - then, when I came back in, I started all over again.

You could laugh until it hurts or you cry but you just can't stop, Like this! It'll crack you up.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

It does exactly what it says on the tin

Here's a pretty strange idiom from the world of British advertising.

It does (exactly) what it says on the tin is a phrase used to say that something does exactly what it says it does, without fail, in a very straightforward way.

It doesn't have to be limited to something sold in a tin and can even be applied to political campaign promises, as done by UK Prime Minister, David Cameron in his 'Ronseal deal' speech in 2004.

The marketing department of wood protection product company, Ronseal, can be very proud that their advertising slogan has become part of everyday language.

I told you I would bring you idioms - and I have. This site does exactly what it says on the tin.

Here's the ad:

Friday, March 13, 2015

Put your best foot forward

But which one is that?

In fact, it's not literally about feet but presenting yourself. When you go for the job interview, make sure you put your best foot forward.

Technically, it should be better foot as you only have two, but the idiom says best foot.

When it comes to dancing, you need to put both of your feet in the right place - so here's a lesson in what is possibly, the sexiest, ultimate dance. It has to be the tango.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Before you can say Jack Robinson

This explanation features in 101 Idioms - Volume 5, due out at the end of March 2015.

Before you can say Jack Robinson or sometimes, faster than you can say Jack Robinson, is one of the stranger British idioms. It means very quickly - I'll have your car valeted before you can say Jack Robinson.

Why Jack Robinson? Nobody knows for sure but there are some theories. It is first mentioned in Francis Grose's Dictionary  of Vulgar Tongues in 1811, in which he suggests an impatient man, called Jack Robinson, would visit his neighbours and leave before his name could be announced.

Another theory is that it is based on a man called John Robinson who was Constable of the Tower of London 1660 - 1665 and would execute  prisoners very quickly, or, before you could say Jack Robinson. They both seem rather unlikley but it's a fun idiom nonetheless.

While we're here, let's take a tour of the Tower of London.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

You've made your bed now lie on it

More of a proverb than an idiom but let's go with it anyway.

It's rather harsh advice saying that you created a situation, now you have to accept it and deal with it.

But bed making isn't so easy so let's see a professional in action in a four minute bed making routine. Remember to tuck in those corners neatly!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Go belly up

Is that what you do when you fill your belly with beer?

No, it means to fail, particularly in business.

Here, the employees of Sunshine Cabs, in the cult TV series, Taxi, find out that their company is about to go belly up.