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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 September 18, 2020

                      13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

                      13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

                      For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

                      “We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

                      “It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

                      Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

                      You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

                      Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

                      1. Take a step back and evaluate

                      When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

                      1. What is the problem?
                      2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
                      3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
                      4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
                      5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

                      Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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                      2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

                      If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

                      At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

                      Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

                      3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

                      Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

                      4. Process your thoughts/emotions

                      Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

                      1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
                      2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
                      3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
                      4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

                      5. Acknowledge your thoughts

                      Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

                      By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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                      Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

                      6. Give yourself a break

                      If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

                      7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

                      A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

                      Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

                      After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

                      8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

                      As Helen Keller once said,

                      “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

                      Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

                      9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

                      In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

                      1. What’s the situation?
                      2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
                      3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
                      4. Take action on your next steps!

                      After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

                      10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

                      A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

                      Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

                      For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

                      11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

                      No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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                      12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

                      No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

                      13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

                      There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

                      After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

                      Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

                      Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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