Friday, September 24, 2010

Ode to Idioms

Idioms are a funny thing. They're usually the last thing you learn in a foreign language.... and although English is my native language, I didn't grow up in the States. I spent most of my school years in France, and I came back for college.

Once when I was nineteen, my mom turned to me (we were at a museum) and asked me if I wanted to "wet my whistle".

Come again, now? "What whistle?" I asked. And when my mom was finished laughing at me, she explained that it meant to get something to drink.

I have a friend (same deal: native English speaker but grew up abroad) who messed up on his LSATs when he didn't know what "put your money where your mouth is" meant. It was the correct answer choice after a reading comprehension passage. Sure he could tell you all about Turkish politics, but the LSATs didn't really care. Somehow he had missed learning that expression.

Below, an ode to some of my favorite idioms:

An arm and a leg:

Go for broke:

Hit the hay:

Lend me your ear:

Put a sock in it:

Do you have a favorite idiom? Or one you learned later in life?


  1. I'll bet he will never forget Put your money where your mouth is" ! LOL

  2. oh my i love everything about this post. i have some serious issues with idioms. i was born in Mexico, but have been in the u.s. since i was 3, so it is fair to say i don't have any accent at all (in either language). well, my parents learned English pretty late and growing up they never used English idioms around the house at all, so i am severely lacking when it comes to understanding many of them (mainly the obscure, rarely used ones). my boy thinks it is the funniest thing ever.

  3. LOL. Nice use of idioms! :)

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Following you too!

  4. I can totally relate to that.
    Now that we live in Australia we hear so many different phrases and idioms for the first time and it always amuses (and sometimes amazes) us...
    Some I've heard (and learned) lately:
    "Drink with the flies" - to drink alone,
    "Spit the dummy" - to get very angry or upset,
    "It's gone walkabout" - lost forever,
    and my favorite:
    "His blood's worth bottling" means - he's an excellent bloke...

    I really love the Aussie slang!! Isn't it great?

  5. Goodnight nurse! Or one I hear you use often, easy peasy!

  6. This is such a great post. Can I just say that my boyfriend teases me at least twice a week for some idiom I never learned. My parents are both super fobs. They taught me a lot of words the wrong way and to this day people wonder why I can't pronounce some words properly. And don't even get me started on the idioms that I only learned once I started being a nanny for an American family. I learned an idiom a week it felt like. And not to mention how to say some words properly!