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Most Common American Idioms

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karenjill added this on Feb 02, 2008

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American slang is different from British slang because of the evolution of American English.

When the pioneers living in the new world had children, they taught their children to pronounce words the way they were written, in order to keep things simple. This was the first break from British English.

As the nation grew, so did its own casual variety of the English language, which was influenced by cowboys, sports, the building of the railroad, the card game of poker, African-American culture, immigrants, natives, etc.

Here are some of the most commonly used slangs in America:


HE WHO LAUGHS LAST LAUGHS LONGEST!
= the person who plays the last joke (trick) has the longest laugh!

Bob made fun of Lou's pronunciation but the next day, Lou put a toy snake on Bob's chair. Bob thought it was real and screamed when he sat on it. Lou thought it was really funny. He who laughs last laughs longest!!!


TO LEND A HAND
= to help

The Smiths' neighbors lent a hand when they were building their new fence (The neighbors helped them build the new fence).


IN HOT WATER
= in trouble

Bob didn't do his homework, so he's going to be/get in hot water! (from the teacher)


PUT YOUR MONEY WHERE YOUR MOUTH IS!
= If you believe that what you are saying is
true/right, let's bet on it!


THAT TAKES THE CAKE!
= That's unbelievable/incredible/ridiculous!


NOT PLAYING WITH A FULL DECK
= crazy

That guy always talks and shouts to himself.
He's not playing with a full deck!


PUT A LID ON IT!
= Be quiet!!!


TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE!
= Two people who work together will have more ideas than just one person!


TO LOSE YOUR SHIRT
= to lose all of or most of your money

I lost my shirt at the casino!
Joe lost his shirt betting on the horses.


TO LOSE TOUCH
= to fail to keep in contact/communication with someone

After I graduated from university, I lost
touch with most of my classmates.


PAINT THE TOWN (RED)
= Let's go out and enjoy the exciting
entertainment of the city!

After the exam, let's go out and paint the town!



A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS!
= A picture explains things better than words can explain things


LET'S GET THE BALL ROLLING!
= Let's start now!
(usually said about an important project)


I HEAR YOU!
= I agree with what you are saying!


YOU BET!
= Yes, sure, of course!


ONCE IN A BLUE MOON
= Once in a while, occasionally

I go swimming outside once in a blue moon.


IT'S A DEAL!
= Okay, I agree, it will be done!


TO BET ON THE WRONG HORSE
= To make an incorrect guess about the future

If you think the Queen plans to retire, you're betting on the wrong horse!


TO BE FULL OF HOT AIR!
= When someone talks a lot about something he/she can or will do but in reality, there is no truth in any of what he/she is saying - just hot air!

He went on the job interview because the company said they would be able to offer him a good position, but during the interview, he realized it was too small, with no opportunities. The manager was just full of hot air!


WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH, THE
TOUGH GET GOING!
= When there are problems, strong people take action to solve the problems!

When the going gets tough = When life becomes difficult
the tough get going = strong people take action and do something


MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO!

=When one person does something, everyone follows and does the same thing!


TO BLOW ONE'S OWN HORN
= when a person boasts about how great he/she is ...!

Don always blows his own horn. In staff meetings, he tells everyone how great HIS ideas are!


BIRDS OF A FEATHER FLOCK TOGETHER!
= People who have something in common feel comfortable together.


HIT THE BOOKS
= to study, prepare for class

Tonight I'm going to hit the books!


I CAN HAVE MY CAKE AND EAT IT TOO!
= I can have EVERYTHING I want in life!


A POKER FACE
= a face with no expression

This idiom originates from the card game of poker because no gambling poker player should have an expression that is easy to read! (that way, the other players in the game won't be able to guess how good/bad his/her cards are)

George has a poker face so you never know what he's thinking!


TO LOOK LIKE A MILLION DOLLARS
= to look great, to be very well dressed!

Julia Roberts looked like a million dollars at the Oscars!


A DIME A DOZEN
= very common, easy to find
(countable nouns in plural form)

In North America, shopping malls are a dime a dozen!


YOU HAVE A ONE TRACK MIND!
= You always think about the same (one) thing! (we can also say he/she/we/they "has/have a one track mind")


TO HAVE THE INSIDE TRACK
= To have an advantage because you know certain people or you have special information

Bob knows what the president is going to announce in his televised speech this evening because he has the inside track!

I would write an article about Julia Roberts' life if I could get the inside track!


ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE TRACKS
= in a bad/poor/undesirable neighborhood

Sam grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.


CURIOSITY KILLED THE CAT!
= It's not good to be too curious!


THE CAT'S OUT OF THE BAG!
= The secret is not a secret anymore!


IT'S RAINING CATS AND DOGS!
= It's raining hard (a lot)!


THERE'S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT!
= It is best to do it now!


TIME HEALS ALL WOUNDS
= With time, sadness will pass


TIME OUT!
= Stop, calm down! (usually said in the middle of a discussion or argument)
= Let's take a break now!


A PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS!
= A friendly way to say "What are you thinking about?"


WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND!
= If you treat people badly, something bad will happen to you and if you treat people well, something good will happen to you. This common idiom proves that Americans are superstitious!


ALL THAT GLITTERS ISN'T GOLD!
= Not everything is as wonderful as it seems (this can refer to material things and also situations)


YOU SCRATCH MY BACK AND I'LL SCRATCH YOURS!
= If you do a favor for me, I will do a favor for you!


ROME WASN'T BUILT IN A DAY!
= It might take a long time to achieve something great.


MONEY TALKS
= Money has power/influence!

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