Idioms are a great way to increase enthusiasm and interest in learning a language.
Instead of getting bogged down in memorizing vocabulary, they paint bold, clear pictures in students’ minds, which are much more easily remembered than a boring list of words.
Teachers can use 1-3 of these as warm-up exercises, or as a list in an entire lesson on idioms and sayings.
It’s fun to try to match these English idioms to ones with the same meaning in the students’ native language.
Some of these idioms are well known, but many of them even I didn’t know!
Idioms from around the English-speaking world
- From the frying pan into the fire = To escape one problem or bad situation, only to have a bigger problem or enter a worse situation.
- He spat nails yesterday = He was extremely angry and aggressive yesterday.
- She is just a champagne socialist = She says she agrees with equality (monetary), yet is really rich.
- Their parties are always done up brown = Their parties are always wonderful.
- She always wears a belt and suspenders = She has a backup for every eventuality.
- That’s just wee buns! = That’s so easy!
- He’s on a shoogly peg = He is likely to lose his job soon.
- He did a Lord Lucan = He disappeared without a trace (usually after doing something wrong).
- He bought it on the never-never = He bought it on credit, and will pay it back over a long time.
- The computer they tried to sell me had fallen off the back of a lorry = The computer they tried to sell me was stolen.
- I am flat out like a lizard drinking! = I’m so busy! (Often shortened to: I’m flat out!)
- She’ll be apples, mate! = Everything will be ok.
- She’s like a shag on a rock = She’s completely alone.
- They live across the ditch = They live on the other side of the Tasman sea (either in New Zealand or Australia, depending on the speakers location).
- (My personal favourite) He’s a box of fluffy ducks at the moment = He is happy and everything is going well for him at the moment.