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Last Updated on August 30, 2018

15 Funny Idioms You May Not Know (And What They Actually Mean)

15 Funny Idioms You May Not Know (And What They Actually Mean)

An idiom is an everyday figure of speech or metaphorical expression whose meaning cannot be taken literary. Idioms often go against the logical “rules of language and grammar” despite being commonly used by the language’s native speakers. If you look closely at the literal meaning of most idioms, you will realize they are often downright hilarious. Here is a list of some of the funniest English idioms you may not know, most of which are drawn from British English. Learn to speak like a regular Brit, mate!

1. Do a Devon Loch

Devon Loch was a racehorse that collapsed just short of the winning line of the 1956 Grand National race in the UK. If someone does a Devon Loch, they suddenly fail when everybody expects them to succeed or simply crumble at the very last minute when they were almost winning.

Example: It was shocking how Manchester United did a Devon Loch in the last minutes of the match against Arsenal.

2. Bob’s your uncle

This idiom is a catch phrase used when ‘everything is alright’ and means that something will be done, sorted or successful. It’s the British equivalent of “…and that’s that,” or “there you go!” How it is used is often quite funny.

Example: You want to go to the market? Go straight on until you reach the main road, take the first right, and Bob’s your uncle–you’re there!

3. Do a runner

When someone does a runner, he leaves a place in a hurry in order to avoid paying for something (like in a restaurant) or flees a difficult situation to escape punishment. Like many British idioms, this particular idiom originates from one of Shakespeare’s popular plays, Anthony and Cleopatra, a gripping story of romance and tragedy that was first performed in 1606.

Example: At this point, the con artist did a runner with all her money.  

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4. Enough to cobble dogs with

This incredulous phrase is used to refer to a surplus of anything. The humor in the image contained in the phrase becomes apparent when you consider that a cobbler repairs shoes. If a cobbler has enough leather to cobble an animal that has four feet, then that cobbler definitely has a surplus.

Example: We’ve got enough beer in this party to cobble dogs with.

5. Fall off the back of a lorry

This is the British humorous way of saying you acquired something that was probably stolen, or you are trying to sell something that’s stolen or illegitimate. The American equivalent of the phrase is: “off the back of a truck.”

Example: I don’t know where you get this stuff. I suspect off the back of a lorry.

6. Hairy at the heel

This disparaging phrase was originally used by the British upper-crust to refer to someone who is ill-bred, dangerous or untrustworthy. The image of a hairy heel is indeed striking and funny.

Example: I can’t say I like Bob. I’ve once or twice had a row with him. He’s a bit hairy at the heels.

7. Cat’s arse

The humble cat’s arse–originally known as “felinus bottomus” to the ancient Greeks–is sometimes used to describe the facial expression adopted by a scorned woman. This rather vulgar phrase is apparently used because the (*) shape created by the woman’s lips resemble a cat’s backside.

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Example: Bob won’t come to the pub with us–he’s afraid his wife will give him the ‘Cats Arse’ if he does.

 8. For donkey’s years

    This British expression jokingly alludes to the considerable length of years the animal works with nothing to show for it. If you have done something for donkey’s years, then you have done it for an awfully long time without any change or much to show for it.

    Example: I’ve been a plumber for donkey’s years. It’s time for a change.

    9. All talk and no trousers

    Someone who is all talk and no trouser talks and thumps his chest a lot about doing big, important things, but doesn’t actually take any action. The thought of someone running his mouth with no trousers is funny.

    Example: Be careful. Politicians are known to be all mouth and no trousers.

    10. If you’ll pardon my French

    “Pardon my French,” or “excuse my French” is an informal apology for the use of profane, swear or taboo words. The expression dates back to the 19th century when it was fashionable for Englishmen to use French words–a foreign language then–in conversation, knowing the listener may not understand.

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    Example: What she needs is a kick in the ass, if youll excuse my French.

    11. When pigs fly

    Pigs cannot fly. This often sarcastic idiom is commonly used among friends in the US to mean that whatever you are discussing will never happen. A similar saying was first used in Scotland in the late 1500s and a version of which even appeared in Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel Alice in Wonderland.

    Example: Yea, right! You will get Justin Bieber to ask you on a date when pigs fly!

    12. Cat got your tongue

      Imagine a cat eating or holding your tongue! Would you be able to speak? No, probably not. That is exactly what the phrase means. If a cat got your tongue, you are unable to speak. Your silence is oddly suspicious. Apparently, the phrase stems from the middle ages when witches were greatly feared. It was said that if you saw a witch, her cat would somehow “steal” your tongue so you couldn’t report the sighting. Not a nice thought but definitely a reason why you would be speechless.

      Example: Come on, Bob! Tell us what you think about our little party. What’s the matter? Cat got your tongue?

      13. Have a one track mind!

      Most railroads have two or more tracks so trains can go in different directions. However, on a one-track railroad line, train traffic can only move in one direction at a time. If you have a one track mind, your mind is limited to only one line of thought or action. You are always thinking about the same thing.

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      Example: Oh, shut up, Sean! All you think about is food—you have a onetrack mind.

      14. Chew the fat

      This idiom means to chat in a friendly and leisurely way or engage in casual gossip sessions. It is said to stem from the practice of sailors, who while working together, or during periods of rest, would converse leisurely while chewing on salt-hardened fat. A variation of this idiom is “chew the rag” in American slang.

      Example: “The women have gone to one of their friend’s house to chew the fat,” John smiled.

      15. More holes than a Swiss cheese

      While delicious, Swiss cheese is hard, pale yellow or white with many holes. If something has more holes than a Swiss cheese, it has a lot of problems; there are many things wrong with it. It is incomplete or lacks important components.

      Example: You can do better, Mary. This essay has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      More by this author

      David K. William

      David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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      Last Updated on March 13, 2019

      How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

      How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

      Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

      You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

      Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

      1. Work on the small tasks.

      When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

      Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

      2. Take a break from your work desk.

      Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

      Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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      3. Upgrade yourself

      Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

      The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

      4. Talk to a friend.

      Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

      Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

      5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

      If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

      Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

      Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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      6. Paint a vision to work towards.

      If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

      Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

      Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

      7. Read a book (or blog).

      The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

      Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

      Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

      8. Have a quick nap.

      If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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      9. Remember why you are doing this.

      Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

      What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

      10. Find some competition.

      Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

      Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

      11. Go exercise.

      Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

      Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

      As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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      Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

      12. Take a good break.

      Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

      Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

      Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

      Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

      More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

      Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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