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10 Funky Illustrations to Help You Understand English Idioms

10 Funky Illustrations to Help You Understand English Idioms

Travel opens the mind, so they say. This certainly seems to be the case for Roisin Hahessy, a freelance illustrator from Ireland. After moving to Brazil, learning to speak Portuguese and teaching English at the same time, she began to think more about her own language.

Hahessy writes, “When I stopped to think about some English idioms and their literal meaning, I found some of them very funny and thought it would be a nice idea to pick a few of the most common idioms and illustrate them.”

So, she created a series of illustrations depicting ten common English idioms — that is, phrases whose meanings are not to be taken literally. Her bright, funny illustrations show a quirkier side of our language, and show how the phrases we use might not always make sense to non native English speakers.

1. Blue in the face

blue-in-the-face

    This idiom describes a feeling of great exasperation and frustration. No doubt related to the way your skin goes the blue in the absence of oxygen.

    Example usage:

    “You can argue until you’re blue in the face, but that doesn’t make you right.”

    2. Bob’s your uncle

    bobs-your-uncle

      Nobody is really sure who Bob is, but this is a delightful way of expressing how easy something is. It’s also a colloquial way of saying, “it’s done”, “there you go”. Or as the French would say, “ et voila”.

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      (Pro tip: After saying “Bob’s your uncle” you can add “And Fanny’s your aunt”.)

      Example usage:

      “The app is really easy to use. Just press the green button and Bob’s your uncle.”

      3. Kick the bucket

      kick-the-bucket

        Should only be used in an informal situation. In the wrong context, this idiom can make you sound callous and insensitive.

        Example usage:

        “My goldfish has been ill for weeks. I think he’s about to kick the bucket.”

        4. Hold your horses

        hold-your-horses

          This one has a more literal meaning. Hold up! Stop! Wait! Useful in all situations requiring some urgency.

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          Example usage:

          “Hold your horses. I think we’ve taken a wrong turn. Let me check the map.”

          5. A piece of cake

          a-piece-of-cake

            This is similar to the American expression, “a cakewalk”. The origins of this idiom aren’t fully known, but they’re easily understood. I mean, how difficult is it to eat a delicious slice of cake?

            Example usage:

            “Don’t worry about the entrance exam. You’ll be fine, it’s a piece of cake.”

            6. Head in the clouds

            head-in-the-clouds

              Clouds are synonymous with drifting, daydreaming, loftiness. Having your head in the clouds implies being somehow removed from everyday reality. The opposite of this idiom would be someone who has their “feet on the ground”.

              Example usage:

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              “Sometimes I wonder if John is being realistic about his goals. He always seems to have his head in the clouds.”

              7. Heart in your mouth

              heart-in-your-mouth

                Used to describe visceral fear or stress. The kind that you feel in your whole body. Imagine the aeroplane hatch opening on your first parachute jump. Or someone jumping out in front of you in a dark, dangerous alley at night. You get the picture.

                Example usage:

                “Have you been on the new rollercoaster? It’s a real heart in your mouth experience.”

                8. Dead as a doornail

                dead-as-a-doornail

                  This expression works just as well for objects, as people or animals. Great for describing broken machinery or technology that refuses to respond.

                  Example usage:

                  “I was watching TV, and suddenly there was a bang and a puff of smoke. Now it’s dead as a doornail.”

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                  9. As cool as a cucumber

                  cool-as-a-cucumber

                    Not to be confused with cool as in hip, trendy or fashionable. This is someone who stays calm when everyone else around is getting anxious and stressed out. A great example is Chesley Sullenberger, the airline pilot who made a miracle emergency landing in the Hudson river in 2009.

                    Example usage:

                    “That was a really tense business meeting, but you were as cool as a cucumber.”

                    10. Storm in a teacup

                    storm-in-a-teacup

                      We Brits love drinking tea. So when someone gets upset about a relatively trivial matter, we call it a storm in a teacup. Similar to the equally amusing idiom “mountain out of a molehill”.

                      Example usage:

                      “Don’t worry, he’s not angry, he’s just making a storm in a teacup.”

                      If you enjoyed this post, you’ll find loads more language and communication hacks at Lifehack.org

                      Featured photo credit: ARSENAL-GILLESPIE ROAD-09 240710 CPS/ Chris Sampson via flickr.com

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                      Last Updated on July 3, 2020

                      30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

                      30 Small Habits To Lead A More Peaceful Life

                      In today’s world, true peace must come from within us and our own actions. Here are 30 small things you can do on a regular basis to increase your overall sense of harmony, peace, and well-being:

                      1. Don’t go to every fight you’re invited to

                      Particularly when you’re around those who thrive on chaos, be willing to decline the invitation to join in on the drama.

                      2. Focus on your breath

                      Throughout the day, stop to take a few deep breaths. Keep stress at bay with techniques such as “square breathing.” Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, then out for four counts, and hold again for four counts. Repeat this cycle four times.

                      3. Get organized and purge old items

                      A cluttered space often creates a cluttered spirit. Take the time to get rid of anything you haven’t used in a year and invest in organizational systems that help you sustain a level of neatness.

                      4. Stop yourself from being judgmental

                      Whenever you are tempted to have an opinion about someone else’s life, check your intentions. Judging others creates and promotes negative energy.

                      5. Say ‘thank you’ early and often

                      Start and end each day with an attitude of gratitude. Look for opportunities in your daily routine and interactions to express appreciation.

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                      6. Smile more

                      Even if you have to “fake it until you make it,” there are many scientific benefits of smiling and laughing. Also, pay attention to your facial expression when you are doing neutral activities such as driving and walking. Turn that frown upside down!

                      7. Don’t worry about the future

                      As difficult as this sounds, there is a direct connection between staying in the present and living a more peaceful life. You cannot control the future. As the old proverb goes, “Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.” Practice gently bringing your thoughts back to the present.

                      8. Eat real food

                      The closer the food is to the state from which it came from the earth, the better you will feel in eating it. Choose foods that grew from a plant over food that was made in a plant.

                      9. Choose being happy over being right

                      Too often, we sacrifice inner peace in order to make a point. It’s rarely worth it.

                      10. Keep technology out of the bedroom

                      Many studies, such as one conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, have connected blue light of electronic devices before bed to adverse sleep and overall health. To make matters worse, many people report that they cannot resist checking email and social media when their cell phone is in reach of their bed, regardless of the time.

                      11. Make use of filtering features on social media

                      You may not want to “unfriend” someone completely, however you can choose whether you want to follow their posts and/or the sources of information that they share.

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                      12. Get comfortable with silence

                      When you picture someone who is the ultimate state of peace, typically they aren’t talking.

                      13. Listen to understand, not to respond

                      So often in conversations, we use our ears to give us cues about when it is our turn to say what we want to say. Practice active listening, ask questions, process, then speak.

                      14. Put your troubles in a bubble

                      Whenever you start to feel anxious, visualize the situation being wrapped in a bubble and then picture that sphere floating away.

                      15. Speak more slowly

                      Often a lack of peace manifests itself in fast or clipped speech. Take a breath, slow down, and let your thoughtful consideration drive your words.

                      16. Don’t procrastinate

                      Nothing adds stress to our lives like waiting until the last minute.

                      17. Buy a coloring book

                      Mandala coloring books for adults are becoming more popular because of their connection to creating inner peace.

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                      18. Prioritize yourself

                      You are the only person who you are guaranteed to live with 24 hours a day for the rest of your life.

                      19. Forgive others

                      Holding a grudge is hurting you exponentially more than anyone else. Let it go.

                      20. Check your expectations

                      Presumption often leads to drama. Remember the old saying, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.”

                      21. Engage in active play

                      Let your inner child come out and have some fun. Jump, dance, play, and pretend!

                      22. Stop criticizing yourself

                      The world is a hard enough place with more than enough critics. Your life is not served well by being one of them.

                      23. Focus your energy and attention on what you want

                      Thoughts, words, and actions all create energy. Energy attracts like energy. Put out what you want to get back.

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                      24. Assign yourself “complaint free” days.

                      Make a conscious decision not to complain about anything for a whole day. It might be harder than you think and the awareness will stick with you.

                      25. Surround yourself with people you truly enjoy being in the company of

                      Personalities tend to be contagious, and not everyone’s is worth catching. Be judicious in your choices.

                      26. Manage your money

                      Financial concerns rank top on the list of what causes people stress. Take the time each month to do a budget, calculate what you actually spend and sanity check that against the money you have coming in.

                      27. Stop trying to control everything

                      Not only is your inner control freak sabotaging your sense of peace, it is also likely getting in the way of external relationships as well.

                      28. Practice affirmations

                      Repeat positive phrases that depict the life and qualities you want to attract. It may not come naturally to you, but it works.

                      29. Get up before sunrise

                      Personally witnessing the dawn brings a unique sense of awe and appreciation for life.

                      30. Be yourself

                      Nothing creates more inner discord than trying to be something other than who we really are. Authenticity breeds happiness.

                      Featured photo credit: man watching sunrise via stokpic.com

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