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airs airs and graces put on airs and graces

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airs and graces put on airs and graces

If you say that someone has airs and graces, you

disapprove of them for behaving in a way which shows that they think they are more important than other people. You can also say that someone puts on airs and graces. [BRITISH] 0 / have never liked him and his daughter is so full of airs and graces. 0 lan is such a nice bloke. He has no airs and graces. 0 In Liverpool I can still be myself, I don't have to put on any airs and graces here.

put on airs

If you say that someone puts on airs, you

disapprove of them for behaving in a way which shows that they think they are more important than other people.

0 The occasional Englishman tries to put on airs but we let it pass. It's just comic when they try to pretend they're still the master race. H He put on no airs, but his charisma was enormous.


roll in the aisles

If you say that people in an audience or group are rolling in the aisles, you mean that they are laughing so much at something that they find it hard to stop. Verbs such as 'rock7, 'reel', and 'laugh' are sometimes used instead of 'roll'. 0 It's all good knockabout stuff that has them rolling in the aisles. 0 On the evidence so far, i^s unlikely that the story-lines will have us reeling in the aisles.

I NOTE I The aisles in a theatre or cinema are the gaps between the blocks of seats.


The form 'aleck' is the usual spelling in American English. People sometimes spell 'alee' and 'aleck' with capital intials, as names.

a smart alee a smart aleck

If you describe someone as a smart alee or a

smart aleck, you dislike the fact that they think

they are very clever and they always have an

answer for everything.

D They've got some smart alee of a lawyer from

London to oppose bail, and by God they're not

going to get away with it. 0 You'll end up no more

than a smart alee and you're well down that road


• You can use smart alee and smart aleck before

a noun.

H I hate smart-aleck kids who talk like dictionaries.

I NOTE I Alee or Aleck is a shortened form of the name Alexander.

alive 0 alive and kicking

If you say that someone or something is alive and kicking, you are emphasizing that they are still active or still exist, even though a lot of people might have expected them to have stopped or disappeared a long time ago. 0 // was passing by some teenagers the other day. I heard one of them say "I thought he was dead." I imagine a lot of people think that. But believe me I'm alive and kicking and still going strong.' H Romance is still alive and kicking for a couple who will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this week.

eat someone alive (1)

If you say that someone or something will eat you alive, you mean that they seem to be a great threat to you, and may destroy you. 0 If a president does not combine the short-run and long-run objectives, he's going to be eaten alive by Wall Street. 0 He was certain Sid would be eaten alive by the hardened criminals at the jail.

eat someone alive (2)

If something such as an illness or a problem is

eating you alive, it is causing you great pain or


0 The pain ate him alive; the world was nothing but

fire and pain. D I know and she knows that the

nursing home is the only solution. But it is eating me


eat someone alive (3)

If you are eaten alive by insects, you are repeatedly bitten by them. H We've been sleeping on the floor; we have no water. It's been easily 100, 125 degrees. We've been eaten alive by bugs. 0 'Can we go out?' 'Outside? The mosquitoes will eat us alive.'

The symbol 0 shows key idioms


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skin someone alive (1)

If you say that someone is able to skin you alive,

you mean that they are much stronger or more

powerful than you and may exploit you or ruin


0 They are fiercely competitive. If they can skin us

alive in business, they will. 0 Anyone who reads

your finance pages will see that shareholders in

some major banks have been skinned alive.

skin someone alive (2)

If someone threatens to skin you alive, they are threatening to punish you severely. 0 Who let the bloody dog out? You catch that animal, Ernie, or you'll get skinned alive.


that's pjall she wrote

You can say 'that's all she wrote' when there is

no more to say or when something is finished.


0 That was all she wrote. He got hurt, and he didn 't

play much anymore. O If I read about any of this,

it's all she wrote for you here. I don't have to tell you



0 a blind alley

If you refer to a way of working or thinking as a

blind alley, you mean that it is useless or will not

lead to anything worthwhile.

0 Sooner or later they will have to realize that this

is a blind alley and that they need to rethink their

own strategies. D Did she regard teaching as a

blind alley?

I-NOTE I A blind alley is a street which is closed at

one end.

right up your alley

If you say that something is right up your alley,

you mean that it is the kind of thing you like or

know about. Right up your street means the


0 This should be right up my alley but, despite the

film's undoubted virtues, it has an air of 'Look at me,

aren't I good' that grated. 0 / thought this little

problem would be right up your alley.

• You can also say that something is right down

your alley.

H I'll need whatever information you can turn up

within the week. I have other people looking into

this from other angles. But this case seems right

down your alley.


all-singing, all-dancing

If you describe something new as all-singing, all-dancing, you mean that it is very modern and advanced, with a lot of additional facilities. [mainly BRITISH]

H His rival, the Savoy, has beaten him to the development of an all-singing, all-dancing computer system which is the latest in hotel marketing. H As long as you don't expect the latest all-singing, all-dancing Japanese marvel, the

camera represents an excellent buy-and one that! can recommend.

t^SfQTE I This phrase originally appeared on a poster advertising the first ever Hollywood musical film Broadway Melody (1929), described as 'all talking, all singing, all dancing'.

altar sacrificed on the altar of something

You say that someone or something is being sacrificed on the altar of a particular ideology or activity when they suffer unfairly and are harmed because of it.

0 The European Community remained adamant that the interests of its twelve million farmers couldn't be sacrificed on the altar of free trade. H Let us hope and strive to ensure that Palo Alto's quality education will not be sacrificed on the altar of ill-conceived social experimentation. 0 Two leading public servants had been sacrificed on the altar of ministerial incompetence. • You can also say that someone or something is a sacrifice on the altar of a particular thing. 0 The men were, in a word, expendable sacrifices on the altar of the Cold War. INOTEI An altar was a large stone on which animals were killed during the worship of a god or goddess in former times. The killing of an animal in this way was called a sacrifice.


American as apple pie

If you say that something or someone is as American as apple pie, you mean that they are typical of American culture or the American way of life.

0 They are buying a piece of American history. leans are as American as apple pie and old jeans show a touch of class. H British Petroleum always abbreviates its name to BP and passes itself off as no less American than Mobil, Exxon and apple pie. INQTEI Apple pie is a traditional dessert that is thought of as typically American.


a fallen angel

If you refer to someone as a fallen angel, you

mean that although they were once virtuous or successful, they are now wicked or unsuccessful. 0 Without an away League win all season, Leeds United quickly became the fallen angels of the Premier League.


on the side of the angels

If you say that someone is on the side of the

angels, you mean that they are doing what you think is morally right.

0 In addition to being for gun control, the President's on the side of the angels when it comes to racial tolerance, the environment and Indian rights. 'H The idea perpetrated by Western leaders that we are on the side of the angels seems to me a dangerous fantasy.

The symbol 0 shows key idioms



0 not take no for an answer

If someone won't take no for an answer, they go on trying to make you agree to something, even though you have already refused. 0 Five reporters who wouldn't take no for an answer entered U.S. quarters without authorization. H Gerry, whose persistence has been known to wear down the resistance of many executives, refused to take no for an answer. D She told me that she had, of course, refused, but that he wouldn't seem to take no for an answer. He kept pressing her.


[NOTE! In card games such as poker, the ante is the amount of money which each player must place on the table before the game begins.

0 up the ante (1) raise the ante

In a dispute or contest, if you up the ante or raise the ante, you increase the demands that you are making or the risks that you are taking, which means that your eventual losses or gains will be greater.

0 He relished NATO's political give and take, and fought over every word, sometimes upping the ante so as to get a better compromise. 0 These judges have raised the ante by challenging the authority of Chief justice Rehnquist, whose position makes him the top judicial spokesman on changes in federal court procedures. 0 Whenever they reached their goal, they upped the ante, setting increasingly complex challenges for themselves.

up the ante (2) raise the ante

If you are gambling or investing money in something and you up the ante or raise the

ante, you increase the value of the stake or investment you are offering. 0 Its network television division upped the ante by paying an estimated $2 million a year for an overall deal. H My defeat came when I was unable to persuade my backer to raise the ante.


go ape

go ape crazy

go apeshit

If someone goes ape or goes ape crazy, they start

to behave in an uncontrolled or irrational way, for

example because they are very excited or very

angry about something. [INFORMAL]

0 The crowd went ape. H Is he never tempted to

break away, to go ape for a period? H You don't get

the chance to go ape crazy.

• You can also say that someone goes apeshit.


0 If we mentioned heroin she would literally go


I NOTE | People who behave in a violent or uncontrolled way are being compared with apes.


0 whet someone's appetite

If something whets your appetite for a particular thing, it increases your desire for that thing or other similar things. You can also say that something whets the appetite. Some people use the verb 'wet' instead of 'whet' in this expression, but it is generally considered incorrect.

0 Winning the World Championship should have whetted his appetite for more success. 0 Her appetite already whetted by the book, she took a trip to England. 0 The series is entertaining, and it certainly whets the appetite.

I NOTE I To whet a knife means to sharpen it.


the apple of your eye

If you say that someone is the apple of your eye, you mean that you are very fond of them.

0 / was the apple of my father's eye. H Penny's only son was the apple of her eye.

I NOTE I In the past, the pupil in the eye was sometimes called the apple.

0 a bad apple a rotten apple a bad apple spoils the barrel

If you refer to someone as a bad apple or as a rotten apple, you mean that they are very dishonest, immoral, or unpleasant, and that they have a bad influence on the people around them. 0 It's an opportunity for them to make clear that they are not going to tolerate a bad apple in the United States Senate. 0 In any profession, there's always the rotten apple, isn't there.

People talk about a bad apple spoiling the barrel or a rotten apple spoiling the barrel

when they are talking particularly about the bad influence which the person has. This expression is very variable.

0 Let's be positive, not negative. One bad apple doesn't spoil the barrel. H He says there are some rotten apples in our security barrel.

[NOTE I If a rotten apple is stored with good apples, it causes the good ones to rot.


upset the applecart overturn the applecart

If someone or something upsets the applecart or overturns the applecart, they do something which causes trouble or which spoils a satisfactory situation.

0 / would not tolerate someone upsetting the applecart and, if necessary, they would have to be removed from the decision-making process. H Their acquisition of nuclear arms could upset the whole Asian applecart. H She still has the power to overturn the applecart by the sheer force of her personality and vocabulary.

The symbol 0 shows key idioms



in apple-pie order

If someone says that everything is in apple-pie

order, they mean that everything in a place is very neat, tidy, and well-organized. [OLD-FASHIONED]

0 Apart from the scaffolding and plastic sheeting that still remained, they found everything in apple-pie order. H On the upper deck everything was very much in apple pie order.

[NOTE I This expression is perhaps derived from the French for 'from head to foot', referring originally to a well-kept suit of armour or military uniform.


apples and oranges

If you say that two things are apples and oranges

or that comparing them is like comparing apples with oranges, you are pointing out that these things are completely different in every respect, and so it is pointless to try to compare them. [mainly AMERICAN]

0 / think you're talking apples and oranges, and I don't think you can really look at it as an equity issue. 0 To compare one with the other is to make the mistake we were all warned about in third grade, not to compare apples with oranges.


apron strings (1)

If you say that someone is tied to their mothers apron strings, you are criticizing them for remaining dependent at an age when they should be independent. If someone cuts the apron strings, they become independent from their mother.

0 When we think about times we have felt close to our mothers, hasn't some of that enhanced our growth rather than tying us tighter to their apron strings? D There is no doubting that he and his mother will remain as close as ever, even if the apron strings have lengthened. 0 At 21, I was still living the life I'd been living when I was 15. I just had to get away from that, to cut those apron strings.

apron strings (2)

If you say that one country or institution is tied to another's apron strings, you mean that the first country or institution is controlled by the second when you think it should be independent. If they cut the apron strings, they become independent from the other country or institution.

H Today few big pension funds remain tied by company apron strings. H The Prime Minister has the rough outline of a blueprint for Australia as an independent nation, free of British apron-strings.

I NOTE I These expressions were originally used to refer to a child, particularly a boy, who remained too much under the influence of his mother at an age when he should have become independent.


'Grey' is usually spelled 'gray' in Amercan English.

0 a grey area

If you refer to something as a grey area, you mean

that it is unclear, or that it does not fall into a specific category of things, so that nobody knows how to deal with it properly. 0 The court action to decide ownership of Moon Shadow has highlighted the many grey areas in the law affecting stolen animals. 0 Tabloid papers in England have reached a stage where sportsmen must either be painted as heroes or villains. There is no grey area in between. H There is always going to be a gray area. No commander who has ever fought a battle was completely sure of victory on the eve of that battle.


out of the ark go out with the ark

If you say that something is out of the ark, you

are complaining in a light-hearted way that it is very old-fashioned and outdated. [BRITISH] 0 Its steering was simply dreadful and its cramped-up short-arm driving position was straight out of the ark. H Your radio series must have come out of the ark, where did you find all those awful old jokes? You can say that something went out with the ark when you want to say that it is completely outdated.

0 You know tyres are made from oil, they're not made from rubber any more; that went out with the ark.

jNOTEl According to the Bible, the ark was the boat in which Noah and his family survived the flood.


0 at arm's length (1)

If you keep someone at arm's length, you avoid being friendly with them or getting emotionally involved with them.

H Brian felt more guilt than grief. He'd tried to get close, but his father had kept him at arm's length. H After years of keeping foreign companies at arm's length, France is pulling them into its embrace. H Thistimehewasnotentertainingusorholding us at arm's length, but unreservedly disclosing himself.

at arm's length (2)

You can say that one person or organization is at arm's length from another when they are not closely connected, for example because it would be improper for them to influence one another.

0 The prison service is moving towards becoming a self-regulating agency at arm's length from government. D Relations between the bank and the committee will be at arm's length until the report is delivered in July.

The symbol 0 shows key idioms

dioms Dictionary


'-'.'.Wyl1 WesteTh.UVRoa.A

Bishopbriggs Glasgow G642QT Great Britain

Second Edition 2002 Latest Reprint 200 7 © HarperCoUins Publishers 1995,2002

ISBN-13 978-0-0071-3401-4 ISBN-io 0-0071-3401-0

Collins®, COBUILD® and Bank of English® are registered trademarks of HarperCoUins Publishers Limited

A catalogue record for this book is available .^^ from the British Library

Typeset by Mark Taylor and Carol McCann Printed in the USA by Thomson West

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