Idioms


Rocket science

Meaning

  • something very difficult to understand

  • something that’s not simple to do

  • something overly complex

  • the scientific study of building rocket and spacecraft (literal meaning)

The expression is generally used in its negative connotation “it’s not rocket science” that means – something easy to understand or do.


Black mood also, dark mood

Meaning

  • to be angry, irritable or in a temper

  • be down, gloomy or depressed

  • feel sad, miserable, melancholic or fed up

Example Sentences

  1. Geoff was in one of his black moods today, and no amount of cajoling could snap him out of it.

  2. My father suffered from black moods as he got older. Sometimes they lasted for days on end.

  3. I could feel a black mood creeping over me, so I put some rock music on the car radio and sang along to clear my head.

  4. When the share price dropped yesterday, all of the staff were in such a black mood.

  5. The exam results were shockingly low this year, and the headmaster was in a really black mood after they were made public.

  6. Phil was in a black mood for weeks after his car was stolen and his girlfriend dumped him for his best friend.

  7. The captain is in a dark mood for not winning the match.

  8. The good news helped dispel the dark mood dominating villagers earlier in the day.

  9. Sorry. I’m in a dark mood these days.

  10. When we repeatedly talk about negative situations, we can feed a dark mood.

Origin

Given that black has historically been a colour associated with darkness, doom and death, this informal phrase has long been used to describe a multitude of negative feelings, from anger to sadness and depression. No evidence of a timeline can be found.

(caught) Red-handed

Meaning

  • doing or about to do something illegal or wrong

  • in the act of something dubious or bad

  • doing something with clear evidence of wrongdoing or guilt

  • committing or about to commit a crime

Example Sentences

  1. They caught him red-handed with his fingerprints all over the murder weapon.

  2. She was caught red-handed by a security guard putting items in her pockets.

  3. My boyfriend caught me red-handed eating biscuits when I was on a diet.

  4. Jack was caught red-handed driving under the influence of drugs.

  5. Man caught red-handed peeping into women’s locker room of a gym.

  6. He wants to catch his friend red-handed while cheating on him.

  7. Thief caught red-handed carrying a jewellery box stolen from the victim’s house.

Origin

This phrase alludes to being caught with the victim’s blood on your hands either in the act of, or after a murder or poaching.

‘Red hand’ originated in Scotland in the 15th century. The first appearance in documentation is from the Scottish Acts of Parliament in 1432 in the time of King James I.

“That the offender be taken reid hand, may be persewed, and put to the knawledge of ane Assise, befoir the Barron or Landeslord of the land or ground, quhidder the offender be his tennent, unto quhom the wrang is done or not… And uthers not taken reid hand, to be alwaies persewed befoir the…”

It was used in various Scottish legal proceedings where the culprit was referred to as being caught with ‘red hand.’

It turned into the phrase we use today around the 19th century. An example by Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe:

“I did but tie one fellow, who was taken redhanded and in the fact, to the horns of a wild stag.”

Its use in Ivanhoe then helped spread it all over the English speaking world.

Eye candy

Meaning

  • attractive visually but uninteresting in other ways

  • aesthetically pleasing to look at or pleasing to the senses

  • something nice to look at but has little substance or use

  • slick animations/graphic effects to entice users to websites or apps

Example Sentences

  1. The company website was pure eye candy because it looks good, but nothing is interesting when you dig deeper.

  2. Although Pete was eye candy and dressed very smartly, he was, unfortunately, the most boring man she’d ever met.

  3. She had paid an excessive amount for these shoes, but they were eye candy only, seeing as she couldn’t walk in them.

  4. The film was excellent eye candy, but I couldn’t tell you who it was in or what it was about.

Origin

This informal phrase usually has negative connotations about someone pleasing to the eye. Appearing in the late 70s in the US, it was first used to describe a beautiful woman who was as sweet as candy to look at but not highly educated. Nowadays, you might also hear this said any gender and about things such as films or websites with superficially pleasant appearance but not a lot of substance.

rest assured

Meaning

  • emphasizing that there is no need to worry

  • stressing determination to do something

  • confidence that something will happen

Example Sentences

  1. You can rest assured that the transaction will be completed by the close of business today.

  2. The headmaster told the new pupil’s parents to rest assured that this was the best school in the area for sport and science.

  3. The baker told his customers to rest assured that his bread was freshly baked every morning.

  4. The policewoman made the old lady a cup of tea and told her to rest assured that they would find her stolen property.

  5. Rest assured that we are doing everything in our power to prevent this from happening again.

  6. Cynthia felt she could rest assured that the house she was about to buy was worth the money.

  7. The doctor told Marion that she could rest assured that the operation had been a complete success. If she continued to do her physio, she would be able to go home in a few days.

Origin

In use from the 1500s, this formal expression gives a sense of certainty, trust or confidence in a particular situation.


Set the bar (high or low)

Meaning

  • fix the standards acceptable for the task

  • establish the desired level of quality or competence required

  • the minimum or maximum expected to meet what is needed

  • set the bar high means something is hard to achieve

  • set the bar low, and it will be easy to do

Example Sentences

  1. Don’t set the bar so high that it’s impossible to achieve anything.

  2. The army regiment sets the bar high, and the recruits have to rise to meet it.

  3. Collin is a top-class chef, and he sets the bar high for his trainees.

  4. The trouble with Stacie and the men is that she sets the bar so low and is always disappointed when they don’t turn out how she expected.

  5. The publisher has set the bar so high that I can’t get any of my manuscripts accepted for print.

Origin

This phrase appears to originate in the 1950s in the athletics field of pole vaulting. Around this time, new poles were being introduced made from composites instead of the more traditional bamboo or aluminium. Therefore, the pole-vaulters were able to set the bar higher and break new records with how high they could jump.


CROSS THE LINE

CROSS THE LINE OR, CROSS A LINE MEANING

  • BEHAVE IN A WAY THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE

  • OVERSTEP A BOUNDARY, STANDARD, LIMIT, OR RULE

  • GO OVER THE THRESHOLD OF WHAT IS APPROPRIATE

  • BE OFFENSIVE OR ANTI-SOCIAL

EXAMPLE SENTENCES

  1. THIS NEWSPAPER HAS CROSSED THE LINE. THIS ARTICLE IS SO OFFENSIVE TO SO MANY PEOPLE.

  2. CONNIE’S BOYFRIEND HAS UPSET HER BADLY. HE REALLY CROSSED THE LINE THIS TIME.

  3. THERE’S NO NEED TO TALK ABOUT MY MOTHER LIKE THAT. YOU’RE CROSSING A LINE NOW.

  4. THE FILM WAS SO RUDE, AND WE LEFT ABOUT HALFWAY THROUGH. IT CROSSED THE LINE SEVERAL TIMES OVER.

  5. THOSE GUYS KNOW HOW TO CROSS THE LINE. I NEVER WANT TO GO TO ONE OF THEIR CONCERTS AGAIN.

  6. THE COMEDIAN REALLY CROSSED THE LINE. HIS IDEA OF HUMOUR IS APPALLING.

  7. THE PROTESTERS WHO ARE CROSSING THE LINE MUST BE STOPPED.

  8. THE POLITICIAN’S LANGUAGE AND RHETORIC CROSSED THE LINE, AND IT WAS RECKLESS.

ORIGIN CROSSING THE LINE IS AN ANCIENT MARITIME RITUAL. HISTORICALLY WHEN A CREW MEMBER OR PASSENGER CROSSED THE EQUATOR FOR THE FIRST TIME, THEY HELD A CEREMONY TO COMMEMORATE THE OCCASION. NOWADAYS MODERN SEA TRAVELLERS STILL DO THIS BY HAVING A PARTY AND UNDOUBTEDLY SUFFERING MUCH THE NEXT DAY. THE PRINTED EVIDENCE OF THE PHRASE DATES BACK TO THE 1604 (ENGLISH TRANSLATED EDITION OF EDWARD GRIMESTON) IN THE NATURAL & MORAL HISTORY OF THE INDIES BY JOSÉ DE ACOSTA, INITIALLY PUBLISHED IN 1589. IT READS: “FOR HE STEEPED IN ALL THE LORE OF THE ANCIENT PHILOSOPHERS CONCERNING THE UNBEARABLE HEAT OF THE BURNING ZONE. HE CROSSED THE LINE IN MARCH, AND, TO HIS SURPRISE HE WAS SO COLD THAT HE WAS OBLIGED TO GO INTO THE SUN TO GET WARM, WHERE HE LAUGHED AT ARISTOTLE AND HIS PHILOSOPHY.”



a bitter pill, or a hard pill, or bitter medicine

Meaning

  • something unpleasant to be endured

  • a distressing experience

  • something difficult to accept

  • a vexation or annoyance that has to be accepted

  • something hard to come to terms with

  • something hard or tough to digest/take

Example Sentences

  1. Finding out that she was adopted was a hard pill for Hailey to take.

  2. Getting demoted was such a bitter pill to swallow.

  3. Losing her partner for Jade was a hard pill to swallow.

  4. The news that the disease had returned was a bitter pill for Margot to swallow.

  5. The engineering company didn’t take on Karl after the training program, and it was a hard pill for him to take.

  6. It must have been a bitter pill to swallow when the bank foreclosed on the mortgage.

  7. For the second year running, Peter was passed over for promotion. It’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when the new guy got the job.

  8. The strict measures introduced to curb the spread of Covid-19 have been a bitter pill to swallow for our mental health.

  9. The news came that there will be no European Championship this year. That was a hard pill to take.

  10. It is a hard and bitter pill to swallow that my father is selling our ancestral home.

Origin

“A bitter pill” phrase is derived originally from the “a pill to swallow” term. Then later, “bitters” and “hard” adjective words have been added to it.

The earliest written record can be found in 1668 when an English poet called John Dryden used the phrase in his work called Essay of Dramatic Poesy:

“We cannot read a verse of Cleveland’s without making a face at it, as if every word were a Pill to swallow: he gives us many times a hard Nut to break our Teeth, without a Kernal for our pains.”

Later, In the 1700s, Rapin Thoyras, who wrote about the history of France and Italy, added the word bitter to the expression:

“This event, which happened the 7th of September, N.S. was immediately follow’d by the relieving of time after, with the total expulsion of the French out of all Italy; a bitter pill to swallow.”

The Morning Journal newspaper first time used the phrase “hard pill” in 1829.

“That they will prove a hard pill for Turkey to swallow is to be expected, unless, indeed, some decided friend has recently sprung up, who will not allow Turkey to be so crippled as to make her fall an easy prey next time she is attacked.”

“A bitter/hard pill” is a metaphor that relates to something unpleasant but has to be endured (for the better). It can also be assumed that it stems from the nasty taste of some medicines that were often forced upon patients in order to get results.



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