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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 February 18, 2019

      13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with It and Enjoy the Ride

      13 Tips to Face Your Fears, Grow with It and Enjoy the Ride

      Fear. I spend my life talking about fear — fighting fears, fixing fears and understanding fears. And yet I doubt I get 10 calls a year from people saying “Mandie can you help me fix my fear?”

      Why is this so critically important to you?

      The realization for me is that fear is not the fundamental driving force in your life it’s what regardless of whether I’m talking to a doctor, a teacher, a CEO’s, a senior citizens or teenager – every single one of those conversations has a direct correlation with your world.

      Fear can range from the overwhelming desire to look away or stop in your tracks to literally fleeing your country and the life you knew. In this article, I will share you with 13 tips to face your fears and enjoy the ride.

      1. Know That Fear Is Real, but Can Be Overcome

      Right now around the world people are facing fear — real fear. Fear that I pray my children and I will never experience. Does that lessen my fears or your fears in your relativity safe 21st century life?

      When I look at the world we all live in, I find that fear like so many other emotions can mean so many different things to so many different people:

      • The child who has to be physically dragged to their first day of school.
      • The man facing the judge.
      • The woman with her hand poised over the buttons over her phone because she has to walk down a dark corridor late at night alone.
      • The man as the surgeon says “count backwards from 10 Mr Smith.”
      • The woman that’s told “We are sorry, we can’t help you.”
      • The man that faces the empty circle of a gun and prays for his very existence.

      These and a million more (Portrayed in every kind of movie, book or song you could imagine) are what make us human. We face fear and somehow move forward or are stopped in our tracks.

      Like the rabbit in the headlights of the car that veers off through the field away from the tyres of the car or stays still praying for salvation. Like someone will save them. Sound familiar?

      Fear is huge. Fear is everywhere and yet fear can be overcome, controlled and can even be a power for good.

      2. Accept Your Fear

      Firstly if you aren’t facing the barrel of the gun, atrocities that make the news or impeding death, that’s a good start. However it doesn’t mean your fear is any less real.

      We are quick to say “I can’t moan, my life is not as bad as X.” While in theory, that’s honorable your appreciation of Mr. or Mrs. X’s horrific life won’t change anything directly. So accept your fear is relative to you.

      And here’s what can be done.

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      3. Get Some Perspective

      I found myself asking anyone that would answer “what is your worst fear”. The answer that intrigued me the most came from my daughter (15 years old and she usually has a copy of Fight the Fear – my book – in her school bag so she can help someone else be as positive and confident as her. No matter what life throws up.)

      And her fear, surprised me — heights. I pointed out that we live in a sprawling bungalow (one storey) and the highest she goes is two storeys’ at school! She laughed but added, fear isn’t like that Mum. I know it’s not a real fear, but it’s like when you stand on a chair and feel unsafe.

      That girl will go far. Because she truly gets fear.

      We know something is scary and yet we still do it. Why? Because we have a perspective to the fear. When you lose perspective, it can feel too big, and too scary.

      So look around you to get some perspective on your fear:

      • Are you really at risk?
      • Will this kill you?
      • Which leads us on to..
      • If the worse was to happen what would it be?

      4. Hold a Hand

      As a coach, it is my job to holds someone’s metaphorical hand and help them face a fear.

      Like the child petrified of the thunder storm or the teen that can’t get back in a car again after failing their test, your job as a parent is to reassure, encourage, enable and motivate someone to face something that ideally they never would choose to again.

      We know many of our fears aren’t real. However, it is only when someone guides us with love, respect, lack of judgement and safety are we able to get through fear. And trust me, you can get through your fears. I’ve seen it so many times.

      Ask yourself:

      • If the worse were to happen, what would that be?
      • Could that really happen?
      • If the worse did happen, how would you recover?
      • If the worse were to happen, what would you need to do next?

      By seeing fear as not the end destination but part of being human, you can see through it’s wily evil ways and move forward.

      5. Know Whose Hand You Hold Either Physically or Emotionally

      This helps with fears for the rest of your life.

      Think of someone you can always rely on (and ideally you won’t just answer yourself because that adds a lot of pressure to your existence!) And you will find that you’ve already found a way to get through fear.

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      The beauty of this is that it means that fear becomes part of life not something to be feared and shied away from.

      It means you know you can turn to your friend, partner, colleague, parent, sibling and say “Right I need to deal with this, and I’m going to need you to help me.”

      For one moment, think about it from the other person’s view point. When we get to help other people we feel valued, loved, respected and lots of other positive emotions and we get a good dose of positive chemicals setting off in our bodies too.

      Your fear, and your determination to fight it, helped someone else too. Now that’s cool right?

      6. Understand That There Are Some Things Fear Will Never Touch

      I like to find role models in life — people who have faced heroism, history changing moments, war, atrocities, miracles, life saving inventions.

      Not everyone was looking for greatness, however they all found it. And one of my favourite books to date is written about Alistair Urquhart, the forgotten highlander. If this doesn’t get turned into a film in the future, then no man’s story is likely to.

      Alistair went through the most horrific experiences in the 2nd world war. If you think of one of the awful things that happened back then in our world, Alistair went through at least 3 of them! Asked afterwards how did you cope? He talked about how whatever they did to his body, no matter how they starved, tortured, threatened or mocked him, they couldn’t have his mind. In his mind he was free.

      Of all the people’s voices I’ve heard in my head over the years, this is one of those statements that reminds me anything is possible if you have faith and hope.

      Look for the things in life that fear can’t touch. They will create confidence and faith for the future, whatever you face. And they will give you a sense of why being you is awesome.

      Of all the billions of people on this planet, no one will have an answer identical to yours!

      7. Process Your Fears to Carry on with Life

      Being brave is not about sticking your chest out and smiling regardless of what hell you endure. It is about finding a way to emotionally process your fears to be able to keep going.

      I have a tool kit of things I can rely on – tools, strategies, techniques. They include people to hug or talk to, music. hobbies, walks on the beach and even my favourite food. It sounds mad but at the times where I have questioned “how will I get through this?” I’ve found immense joy in doing the most unlikely of thing that makes me smile.

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      It may be a short lived moment of happiness. However, it reminded that nothing stays the same and I can find away.

      One client told me that it was crazy when it felt like their world was falling around their ears to run a bath to the brim (you don’t waste water) get the best bath oils, light too many candles, lock the door and drink a glass of bubbly (champagne is only for special occasions.)

      Did that moment fix the disaster that my clients life felt? No, however it gave them a moment of calm and the brain is far quicker to find solutions, resolve and motivation to keep going when you do that.

      It may feel like madness to do something you love, however it can be a powerful way to help you find solutions to the fears you face in life.

      8. Assume the Worse

      If you read the statement from the client above. Notice how they assumed it was wrong to fill the bath up to the top? How bubbly is only for special occasions?

      Think how naughty they felt to be doing something that was not allowed?

      • Think about what age it may have made them feel?
      • Think about how they feel about champagne?
      • What special moments it’s been a part of in their lives?

      And you can see how the assumptions they made about their “right” to have these things was not healthy.

      When I drag the assumptions out of people’s words for them to see, they are often struck by how negative the words make them feel.

      Don’t assume your words aren’t impacting on you. You can go through fear and actually enjoy the ride when you take the time to understand how you are letting words get to you.

      9. Take a Fear That Feels Insurmountable Right Now.

      If you were to repeat it to me out loud, what would you say?

      Would you have blame on yourself in there? Would you assume others can do it and it’s just you? Would you feel small, unsuccessful, useless, unworthy?

      Usually, when you do this exercise, you are able to spot the untruths that run wild in your head convincing you that you are doomed. And rarely when we are faced with our assumptions is there is a lot of evidence to them.

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      10. You Are Not Defined by Your Fear

      One fear does not define your life – be mindful of that. It is likely to lead you to thinking of all the times you’ve succeeded and bring a moment of calm, confidence and faith back to you.

      11. Go with Fear

      When you learn to go with fear, you could find yourself actually having fun, no seriously – having fun.

      I have a few amazing clients I’m working with right now who would describe themselves as life long worriers, or pessimists. In the past that has served them well, enabling them to keep safe, steer clear of risks and even develop strategies in the event of disasters. However, now they find it’s becoming hard to break the cycle and they really want to because it’s holding them back.

      Notice how they’ve found their hidden fears and want to face them?

      One client said “I knew this was going to be tough, and I knew I couldn’t fight it alone and I knew you would be the one to help me.” Before I sat an incredibly successful, confident, capable business owner with a family and a social life to die for.

      However, I’ve learned that the most successful looking lives can hide things that impact on life, success, love, happiness and business.

      We didn’t start with the fear that they felt was holding them back, we broke the fear down, and found lots of little obstacles that had been deemed as “life” and “unchangeable” and “that’s just the way it is” by developing awareness to the little steps on the road to their obstacles to happiness and success they were able to tackle them in a different way.

      12. Discover Great Skills in Your Scary Moments

      And in that clients words “I came here to work with you to grow my company, and my own personal skills. I didn’t expect to get the children to be cleaning up after themselves and my partner being more attentive! It all feels a little magic.”

      The moral is that out of the scariest of moments, we can find great skills we didn’t know we had. Find better, healthier, happier ways to live and find ways to enjoy life more. (And have a bit of magic!)

      What a great place to be in ready for the next fear that thinks it’s going to get in the way of you, right?

      13. Own Your Fear

      Think back over these tips and come up with at least one example for each one. Write them down. Put them on your phone. Turn them into a piece of art. Turn them into a poem. Frame them. Go for a fast walk across the fields, beach, down town and repeat these things in your head to the sound of your feet on the ground.

      We rarely take the time to appreciate how far we have come, how much we can achieve or what we are capable of – by really owning the tips in this article you will have given your brain a big fat dose of “Damn right I can do this!” and the motivation and accountability to say “Let’s find a way” through any fear.

      You can’t help but feel good when you see that can you? And fear doesn’t stand a chance, does it?

      More Resources About Fighting Fear

      Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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