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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 December 2, 2018

      How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

      How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

      Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

      The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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      The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

      Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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      Review Your Past Flow

      Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

      Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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      Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

      Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

      Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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      Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

      Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

      We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

      Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

        Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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