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LABELLING OF KEY IDIOMS


POSSIBLE VARIATIONS

[CROSS-REFERENCE


EXPLANATION OR ORIGIN OF IDIOM






yrass

the grass is always greener on thev other side of the fence

the other man's grass is always-greener

If someone says 'the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence', they are pointing out that other people may appear to be in a better or more attractive situation than you, but in reality their situation may not be as good as it seems. You can also say 'the other man's grass is always greener'.



0 The old saying goes that, to many people, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and the majority of Britain's young people are no exception. H A lot of players who have left in the past have found that the grass isn't always greener elsewhere. 0 He had learned the other man's grass was indeed greener.

• This expression is often varied: for example, you can use another word instead of 'fence'. 0 Diana should beware. The grass may not be greener on the other side of the Atlantic.



0 the grass roots

The grass roots of an organization or movement!

are the ordinary people who form the main part of I it, rather than its leaders.


D No decision had been taken because the matter/ had been referred back to the party's grass roots/ inside South Africa, ft The revolution is actually/ coming from the grass roots and I think eventually the authorities will follow. /

Crass-roots can be used before a noun. 0 It was a grass-roots campaign and that's how the country's newest president won the election. D The leadership has become detached from what's going on at grassroots level.


kick something into the long grass

If someone kicks an idea, suggestion or plan into the long grass, they refuse to deal with it immediately, often because it will create problems for them. You can use other verbs such as 'push' or ~^ 'put' instead of 'kick'. Compare kick something into touch; see touch. [BRITISH, JOURNALISM] -0 There were suggestions this week that the Government intends to kick the proposals into the long grass.



put someone out to grass

If someone is put out to grass, they are made to retire from their job, or they are moved to an unimportant job, usually because people think that they are too old to be useful. Put someone out. to pasture means the same. O Members of the House of Lords are either political time-servers who have been put out to grass or the heirs of aristocrats rewarded for some long-forgotten favour. D The Prime Minister refused to be put out to grass. Asked if he would quit, he replied 'The answer is no.'



I NOTE] When horses have reached the end of their working lives, they are sometimes released into fields to ?rayp


IDIOM AND I VARIATION


FOLLOW-ON [ PARAGRAPHS


REGIONAL AND | STYLE LABELS


SYNONYM |




Guide to the Dictionary Entries

Idiom headwords, forms, and variations

At the beginning of each idiom entry in the dictionary, we give a headword form for the KJiom. Idioms are arranged in alphabetical order of these forms. We use 'someone' something', and 'somewhere' in idiom headwords to indicate that the idiom has to be completed with a word referring to respectively a person/ a thing, or a place. Similarly we use words such as 'you', 'your', 'yourself, and 'their' to indicate that an appropriate pronoun or possessive adjective should be supplied.

Where an idiom has variations, we give the commonest form as the idiom headword. If a variation is very common, or substantially different from the idiom headword, or reflects a British/American usage distinction, we give the variation as a second idiom headword. We also mention these variations in the explanations:

When children fly the nest or leave the nest, they leave their parents' home to live on their own.

If you say that it is possible to do something at a pinch or in a pinch, you mean that it can just be done if it is absolutely necessary. 'At a pinch' is used in British English, and 'in a pinch' is used in American English.

Where the variations are minor, we mention them in a sentence at the end of the explanation:

If you pick holes in something such as an argument or theory, you find weak points in it which disprove it or show that it is wrong. Verbs such as 'poke' and 'shoot' can be used instead of 'pick'.


Occasionally, variations are dealt with in a follow-on paragraph, if they need special comment. For example, the entry for the idiom a wolf in sheep's clothing has the follow-on paragraph:

• People sometimes describe someone as a sheep in wolfs clothing to mean that the person seems dangerous or powerful, but is really harmless or ordinary.



and the entry for have feet of clay has:

• You can also say that someone has clay feet. [mainly american]



More information about variations can be found in the examples, which are chosen to reflect the range of forms occurring in the Bank of English.

Explanations and meanings

The explanations or definitions in this dictionary, as in other COBUILD dictionaries, are written in full sentences. This enables us to define idioms in a natural way, by explaining them in context with their most typical structures and collocations. The language of the explanations is kept as simple as possible, and just over 2000 different words are used.

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ir> add-rt.\or> to descntowg the meamngs of idioms, explanations often give information about the contexts in which they are used. For example, the explanation tor neck and neck-

In a race or contest/ if two competitors are neck and neck, they are exactly level with each other, so that it is impossible to say who will win.

This explanation shows that the idiom is typically used in the context of races and contests - and is also used to describe competitors in the race or competition.

Idioms sometimes have two or more different meanings. We indicate this by qivinq a number in brackets after the idiom headword. There are often different variations associated with the different meanings. Similarly, they often have different usages or frequencies, and we give this information in the individual numbered entries.


Sometimes follow-on paragraphs are used to deal with slight changes in meaning or usage. For example, the main explanation of change hands is:

If something changes hands, one person or organization gets it from another, usually by buying it.



and the follow-on paragraph is:

• When something is sold for a particular amount of money, you say that amount of money changes hands.



Inflections and grammar

We do not give explicit information about the inflection and syntactic behaviour of idioms. Instead, we give the information implicitly, by showing in the explanations and examples which words inflect and which structure or structures are typically associated with an idiom. By using these as guidelines, learners will be able to produce their own sentences with idioms.

For example, the following explanation shows that there are two verbs in the idiom which both inflect:

If someone dots the i's and crosses the t's, they add the final minor details to a piece of work, plan, or arrangement.



Explanations give other information about structures. The explanation for the first meaning of marching orders begins:

If you are given your marching orders, you are made to leave something such as a job or relationship.

It shows that the idiom is typically used after the verb 'give', typically in the passive, and also after a possessive adjective. This is supported by the structures shown in the examples.

Changes in syntax are sometimes shown in follow-on paragraphs. For example, at neck and neck, the main explanation shows that the idiom is used after a verb:

In a race or contest, if two competitors are neck and neck, they are exactly level with each other, so that it is impossible to say who will win.

The follow-on paragraph shows a syntax change:

You can use neck and neck before a noun.


XI

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An ice-breaker is something that you say or do to break the ice.

Collocations

Explanations give information about collocations as well as about syntax. For example/ the explanation for the idiom pick holes in something is:

If you pick holes in something such as an argument or theory, you find weak points in it which disprove it or show that it is wrong.

This explanation shows that the idiom is typically used with a human subject and that the 'something' in the idiom headword is typically expressed by a word which means 'argument' or 'theory'.

Examples also give information about collocations. The examples for neck and neck show that this idiom is often used in political or sports contexts:

The latest opinion polls show both parties running neck and neck. Leeds are currently neck-and-neck with Manchester United for the Championship.

They also show that the idiom is typically used after a verb such as 'run' or 'be', as well as showing that the competitors can be mentioned together as the subject of the verb, or one can be mentioned as the subject of the verb and the other after the preposition 'with'.



Pragmatics

The dictionary explanations for idioms show where they have some special pragmatic function. For example, here is the explanation of hit the nail on the head:

If someone makes a comment and you say that they have hit the nail on the head, you mean that they have described a situation or problem exactly.

The formula 'If you say that ...you mean that...' shows that this idiom is used to convey an opinion or evaluation, and that it is something speakers or writers use about someone else, rather than about themselves. More precisely in this case, the idiom is used to convey an opinion about the accuracy of another person's comment.

The wording of the following explanation shows that the idiom is used to convey attitude as well as criticism or disapproval:

If you accuse someone of feathering their nest, you are accusing them of taking advantage of their position in order to get a lot of money, so that they can lead a comfortable life.


XII

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A more complicated example:

You say 'be my guest' to someone when you are giving them permission to do something, or inviting them to do something. This expression is sometimes used in a sarcastic way. For example, you might use it to invite someone to do something difficult or unpleasant.


Style, register, and usage

The dictionary explanations give information about the likely contexts in which idioms are used, in particular where there are restrictions.

One kind of restriction relates to geographical variety: that is, an idiom is used only or mainly by one group of English speakers. Another kind of restriction relates to genre:

some idioms are used only or mainly in a particular kind of writing, such as journalism, novels, or other literary writing. A third kind of restriction relates to date and currency:

some idioms in the dictionary are described as old-fashioned, which means that they are generally used nowadays by older people rather than young people. The final kind of restriction relates to levels of formality. In most cases this is because an idiom is only used in informal situations, or may cause offence as it is considered rude - these idioms should be used very cautiously. In some cases, we describe an idiom as formal which means that it is mainly used in formal contexts, such as serious journalism and other kinds of formal writing. Unless an idiom is explicitly labelled as 'formal' or 'literary', learners should generally avoid using them in formal contexts and formal writing.

We show all of the above information in the dictionary by adding a label in small capital letters and square brackets to the end of the definition describing the restriction that applies. These labels are listed on page xiv.


Spellings

Individual words in idioms may have two or more spellings: for example, they may be spelled differently in British and American English. We give this information at the end of the idiom entry. All the alternative spellings are listed in the index. We also give information about cases where variant spellings or forms result from misunderstandings of one of the words: for example, 'tow' is sometimes used instead of 'toe' in toe the line.

Note that when idioms are used adjectivally in front of nouns, they are often spelled with hyphens.



Cross-references

Cross-references are occasionally given at the end of an explanation for idioms. Some cross-references draw attention to other idioms which are very similar in form or which may be confused. For example:

When children fly the nest or leave the nest, they leave their parents' home to live on their own. Compare fly the coop; see coop.

XIII

I

We v^av/e giv/en tV^s cross-reference because fly the coop seems sircar 'in 1'orm to fly the nest, although it has a different meaning, fly the coop can be found under the dictionary



aTdt09'? cross-^eferences whered10^ ^e restricted to British (or American) English and have close counterparts in American (or British) English.

If you say that someone has a green thumb/ you mean that they are very qood

at gardening. This expression is used in American English; the British expression is have green fingers.

Frequency bands

The dictionary also labels the most frequent idioms and meanings of idioms/ as they are found in the Bank of English. These key idioms are marked with the symbol 0 and represent around a third of the idioms in the dictionary. It is these idioms which should have priority for teachers and learners, as they are the idioms most likely to be encountered in English. Examples include the add test, hot air, up in arms, not take no for an answer, and up the ante.

The Collins COBUILD English Dictionary for Advanced Learners also gives frequency information for its headwords. In this case/ there are five frequency bands, indicated by black diamonds in the Extra Column. Note that these bands do not correspond to the labelling of key idioms in the Collins COBUILD Dictionary of Idioms. In fact, only a few high-frequency idioms in this dictionary are as common as the items in the Collins COBUILD English Dictionary for Advanced Learners which are marked with a single black diamond.


Origins and explanations

Many of the idioms in the Collins COBUILD Dictionary of Idioms contain additional information relating to their origin, or have a further note to explain the idiom, or part of it, in more detail. This information is preceded by the sign [note] . When it is shown immediately under the headword, the information it gives applies to all the idioms in the entry. When it comes at the bottom of an idiom entry, the information it gives applies only to the idiom in that entry, unless otherwise specified.



Regional and Style Labels


AMERICAN

AUSTRALIAN

BRITISH

FORMAL INFORMAL



JOURNALISM


used mainly in the USA used mainly in Australia used mainly in Britain

used mainly in official situations used mainly in informal situations, conversations, and personal letters

used mainly in newspapers, television, and radio


LITERARY used mainly in novels, poetry,

and other literature OFFENSIVE likely to offend people OLD-FASHIONED no longer in general common use RUDE used mainly to describe words

which some people consider taboo SPOKEN used mainly in speech VERY RUDE used mainly to describe words

which some people consider taboo WRITTEN used mainly in writing






XIV

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Aa

ace

[NOTE] In many card games, the ace is the card

with the highest score.

the ace in your hand

If you have the ace in your hand, you have something which you can use to gain an advantage when you need it. [BRITISH] 0 You have to convince your opponent that you have the ace in your hand. Especially in politics. Everyone bluffs in politics. 0 The Guardian newspaper concludes that the President's adoption of special powers to tackle the economic crisis and maintain public order is a last throw. The paper says he now needs five aces in one hand to succeed.


come within an ace of something be within an ace of something

If you say that someone comes within an ace of

something, you mean that they very nearly succeed in doing it. You can also say that they are within an ace of something. [BRITISH] D The defendant was intent on murder and he came within an ace of succeeding. 0 She had just watched her hero come within an ace of a place in the quarter finals, only to lose his grip on the game. H Above all, however, your solar chart now signifies that you are within an ace of solving a joint financial or business problem

[NOTE! In this expression, 'ace' refers to a score of one on a dice, rather than a playing card.

have an ace in the hole

If you have an ace in the hole, you have

something which you can use to gain an advantage when you need it. 0 He doesn 't usually risk that much unless he thinks he has an ace in the hole. 0 Luckily, we had one beautiful ace in the hole. What made our computer different and will continue to make it different from any of our competitors is that we own our own systems software technology. Nobody else does. INOTE1 In 'stud' poker, you have an ace in the hole when you have an ace as your 'hole' card: see 'hole card' at hole.

play your ace

If someone plays their ace, they do something clever and unexpected which gives them an advantage over other people. 0 She went on to say that he was also a very important criminal lawyer who had defended men on heavy charges. And then she played her ace. He also had a number of clients who were involved in the gold business. 0 With all this meddle, muddle and money wasted, who could be surprised if the union plays the aces?


aces

hold all the aces

If you say that someone holds all the aces, you



mean that they are in a very strong position

because they have more advantages and more power than anyone else.

0 When I was an adolescent, I thought girls held all the aces. When you call for a date, you are sitting there wide open. She can slam the door in your face. 0 They hold all the aces and are not going to make changes voluntarily because it wouldn't be in their own interests.

INOTE1 In many card games, the ace is the card with the highest score.



acid

0 the acid test

If you refer to something as the acid test, you

mean that it will show or prove how effective or useful something is. You can also say that something is an acid test. 0 The acid test for the vaccine will be its performance in African countries where malaria is raging more fiercely than in Colombia. 0 So far, I don't feel too bad but I'm waiting for my first really stressful day when things go wrong. That will be the real acid test. 0 The case, as a whole, is an add test of the justice system.

I NOTE] Nitric acid can be used to test whether a metal is pure gold because it corrodes most metals but does not affect gold.

acquaintance

a passing acquaintance (1) a nodding acquaintance

If you have a passing acquaintance or a nodding acquaintance with someone, you know them slightly.


0 And of course, he can now claim - after his first summit as head of government-more than a nodding acquaintance with his fellow leaders. • You can also say that someone is a passing acquaintance or a nodding acquaintance. 0 After a while a man came in who was evidently a passing acquaintance of the family and stopped at their table to chat.


a passing acquaintance (2) a nodding acquaintance

If you have a passing acquaintance or a



nodding acquaintance with something, you

know a little about it but not very much.



0 We chatted for a little about poetry, with which

he showed considerably more than a nodding

acquaintance.

act

I NOTE I The metaphors in these expressions relate to performers entertaining audiences.

0 a balancing act

If you say that someone is performing a balancing act, you mean that they are trying to please two or more people or groups or to follow two or more sets of ideals that are in opposition to each other.



The svmbol 0 <hnw/< kau iriir>.v>c

action

0 Mr Alia is performing a delicate balancing act. He talks of reform, but clings to old certainties. 0 It's been a difficult balancing act for the Japanese government, underpressure both at home and abroad. 0 Vice-Mayor Simitian called it a classic balancing act between individual rights and community rights.

0 catch someone in the act

If you are caught in the act, someone sees you doing something secret or wrong. O The men were caught in the act of digging up buried explosives. 0 The local authority has set aside £500 to spend on security cameras, hoping the residents will be able to catch vandals in the act on film.


rNOTEl In this expression, 'act' refers to the act of doing something.

0 a class act

If you say that someone, for example a sports player or a performer, is a class act, you mean that they are very good at what they do. D


Koeman is a class act. He's got great control and can bit passes from one side of the pitch to the other with amazing accuracy.

كومان لاعب محترف حيث يتمتع بالسيطرة العالية جداً وبإمكانه تصويب التمريرات من جانب واحد من الملعب إلى جانب آخر بدقة مذهلة.
0 I have been tracking Neil for a year, he is a class act and I've got a lot of respect for his ability. D Hiatt's songs have been recorded by class acts like Bob Dylan, Rosanne Cash, The Everly Brothers and Willie Nelson.

0 clean up your act

If a person or organization cleans up their act, they stop behaving badly or irresponsibly, and begin to act in a more socially acceptable way. O The Minister warned the press two years ago that privacy laws would be implemented unless newspapers cleaned up their act. O There is enormous corruption in the game, but the game does not want to clean up its act. O In the last couple of years I've cleaned up my act a bit. I just drink wine and beer mostly, hardly any spirits.



0 get in on the act be in on the act

If you get in on the act, you start doing something which was first done by someone else, usually so that you can have the same success as them, or get some advantage for yourself. You can also say that you are in on the act, or use other verbs instead of 'get'.


D Its reputation has reached the United States and American investors have been trying to get in on the act. 0 It is rather like the Greens in Britain in the eighties: everyone wants to get in on the act. 0 It's not enough to read the books, I want to be in on the act. 0 Even the lifeguards have been brought in on the act, policing the beach for reckless sunbathers.


0 get your act together

If you say that someone needs to get their act together, you mean that they need to take control of themselves and to organize their affairs more effectively so that they can deal successfully with things and can avoid failure. 0 Basically they're a bunch of bums and they ought to get their act together. O We're going to be 22 points down by Monday, and we've got to get our act together. 0 The State Opposition is beginning to get its act together after a long period of muddling through.



Q a hard act to follow

If you say that someone is a hard act to follow,

you mean that they are so impressive or so effective that it will be difficult for anyone else to be as good or as successful. Adjectives such as 'tough' and 'difficult' can be used instead of 'hard'.

0 Prince Charles has known his destiny since childhood. He knows too that his mother will be a hard act to follow.

يعلم الأمير تشارلز قدره منذ الطفولة، ويعرف أيضاً أنه من الصعب الإتيان ببديل عن أمه الرائعة.
0 He had a hard act to follow. His predecessor was a brilliant intellectual who also drew, as Chancellor, on long practical experience as an observer of the economic scene. O There's no doubt Ford's vision and hard work has played a major role in the museum's success. He 'II be a tough act to follow.

action

0 a piece of the action a slice of the action

If someone wants a piece of the action or a slice


of the action, they want to get involved in an activity which seems exciting and likely to be very successful or profitable. 'A slice of the action' is used mainly in British English. O Essentially, the information industry wants a piece of the action, the right to distribute parts of the Library's collection itself. O Within five years, every car manufacturer was at it. The hatchback explosion had begun and everyone wanted a piece of the action. f3 As the British rap scene grows in strength, the Americans are becoming keener to grab a slice of the action.


actions

actions speak louder than words

If you say that actions speak louder than words,

you mean that people show what they really think and feel by what they do, rather than by what they say. People sometimes use this expression when they want to criticize someone who says one thing but does something else.

[") Tom, who's a shy chap at heart, firmly believes that actions speak louder than words and has, therefore, been demonstrating his love and passion for jean in the only way he knows how: through taking her dog to the vet, through lovingly washing her car each week, through decorating each room in her house. 0 Things are still likely to get worse before they get better. If governments would like to prevent that, they had better understand that actions speak louder than words.

Adam

not know someone from Adam

If you say that you don't know someone from Adam, you mean that you do not know them at all, and would not recognize them if you saw them.



D We'll have one contact, who is simply a voice on the phone to us. I don't know him from Adam. 0 I knew nobody. I took with me two names and telephone numbers. One was an Anglo-Argentine couple: friends of a friend, who didn 't know me from Adam.

The symbol 0 shows key idioms

::::€. .-'aSa^'^i^^^^^^iEaasE^

[NOTEl According to the Bible, Adam was the first human being.

ado

much ado about nothing

If you say that people are making much ado about nothing, you mean that they are making a lot of fuss about something which is not as important or significant as they think it is [JOURNALISM]

0 French newspapers described the international row as 'Much Ado About Nothing'. 0 After one year, I dropped out of the course because it was much ado about nothing really. It was all about style, not about content.

• This expression is often varied. !") Lately there's been much ado about the ducks belonging to my poultry-farming neighbour. rNOTEl 'Much Ado About Nothing' is the title of a play by Shakespeare.


agenda

0 a hidden agenda

If you say that someone has a hidden agenda,

you suspect that they are secretly trying to achieve a particular thing while they appear to be doing something else.

H The unions fear these tactics are part of a hidden agenda to reduce pay and conditions throughout the company. 3 The hidden agenda of the Government's prison privatisation policy seems to have been exposed. 0 It was typical of his forthright determination that, while others debated wide issues and hidden agendas, he saw a wrong and sought to right it.

I NOTE I An agenda is a list of things that need to be dealt with, for example at a meeting.

air

0 be left hanging in the air hang in the air

If you say that a question or remark is left hanging in the air, you mean that people avoid discussing it because they do not want to deal with it or the issues involved.

0 Asked how many arrest orders she had received so far from her colleague in Spain she walked away and left the question hanging in the air. 0 The presenter made intelligent points but never challenged anybody, so we were left with a lot of questions hanging in the air. D He looked at neither of them but left his remark hanging in the air.

• You can also say that a question or remark hangs in the air. [LITERARY] O 'We are losing our sense of the eternal. I think it's a loss that has done a great deal of damage to modern art.' His words hung enigmatically in the air. Q clear the air

If you do something to clear the air, you deal openly with misunderstandings, problems, or jealousy, and try to get rid of them. 0 / get angry and frustrated with Hannah's spirited temperament, but I'm a great believer in expressing my feelings to clear the air. D Some groups in our

community seem to suffer from discrimination, An


independent inquiry could clear the air and sort out the problem.

• You can also say that the air clears, or talk about air-clearing.

0 After that the air cleared and we were fine, I really enjoyed working with him. 0 An extended air-clearing between George and Martha reveals the sham and drudgery of their lives.

•Journalists sometimes talk about clear-the-air meetings or clear-the-air talks. 0 He is determined to have a clear-the-air meeting with Murray this weekend and snapped yesterday:



'I have to get to the bottom of this mess.'

0 hot air

If you describe what someone says or writes as hot air, you are criticizing it for being full of false claims and promises.

0 In a sense, all the rhetoric about heightened co­operation can be seen as just so much hot air. There are still endless disputes. 0 Parliament is often full of hot air, mock insults and fake hostility, d Now that the value of art, along with everything else, has tumbled, we are better placed to ignore the hot air and evaluate works for what they are.

Q in the air

If something such as a change, idea, or feeling is in the air, people are aware of it or think it is going to happen even though it is not talked about directly.

O / might never have said 'Yes', if it hadn 't been for the sense that political change was in the air, and that the arts community should have its ideas prepared. 0 Great excitement was in the air that week in London. l~) As the band plays, and with romance in the air, Mr. Li recalls how he came to Panzhihua.

0 into thin air

If someone or something vanishes into thin air,

they disappear completely and nobody knows where they have gone. Compare out of thin air.

0 Her husband snatched their two children and disappeared into thin air for years. C~S Needless worry can vanish into thin air once you accept the things you cannot change.


0 out of thin air from thin air

If something appears out of thin air, it appears suddenly and unexpectedly. You can also say that it appears from thin air. Compare into thin air.

l") A crisis had materialised out of thin air. 0 Auster spins stories out of thin air. D Thirteen years ago, with her children almost grown up, she found herself having to conjure a career from thin air.

pull something out of the air pluck something from the air

If you say that a suggestion or an amount is pulled out of the air or is plucked from the air, you

mean that it has not been considered carefully or using correct information. Other verbs are sometimes used instead of 'pull' or 'pluck'. 0 She pulled a figure out of the air, an amount she thought would cover several months' rent on an office. 0 So few buildings are coming to market that accurate valuations are becoming almost impossible to make. Numbers are simply being


The symbol 0 shows key idioms




plucked out of the air. 0 I never felt tempted to pick figures out of the air.

• This expression is often varied. For example, you can talk about 'thin air' instead of 'air'.



O / don't like pulling decisions out of thin air and getting them wrong.

0 up in the air

If an important decision or plan is up in the air, it

has not been decided or settled yet.


0 At the moment, the fate of the Hungarian people

is still up in the air.

في هذه اللحظة بالذات، ما زال مصير الشعب الهنجاري غير معروف.


O This project is very much up

in the air. O In terms of a steady line-up and future

plans, things are pretty much up in the air for the

band.

walk on air

float on air

If you say that you are walking on air or are floating on air, you mean that you feel very happy or excited because of something nice that has happened to you.

0 As soon as I know I'm in the team it's like walking on air. O / can't believe that I've won. I'm floating on air.

airs

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. 0 He put on no airs, but his charisma was enormous.


aisles

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 'rock', '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, it's

unlikely that the story-lines will have us reeling in

the aisles.

[note] The aisles in a theatre or cinema are the

gaps between the blocks of seats.



alee

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.

l") They've got some smart alee of a lawyer from



London to oppose bail, and by Cod 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

already.

• You can use smart alee and smart aleck before

a noun.

i") / hate smart-aleck kids who talk like dictionaries.



[NOTE] 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.



O 7 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.'

0 Romance is still alive and kicking fora 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

distress.

l1 The pain ate him alive; the world was nothing but fire and pain. D / know and she knows that the nursing home is the only solution. But it is eating me

alive.

eat someone alive (3)

If you are eaten alive by insects, you are

repeatedly bitten by them. a 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.'


.i.^.^.aassas^^s^




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 you.

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. D Who let the bloody dog out? You catch that animal, Ernie, or you'll get skinned alive.



all

that's all she wrote

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

no more to say or when something is finished.

[AMERICAN]



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

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

it's all she wrote for you here. I don 'thave to tell you

that.

alley

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 [heir

own strategies. O Did she regard teaching as a

blind alley?


fnqtei 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

same.

D 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 I thought this little

problem would be right up your alley.

• You can also say that something is right down

your alley.

0 /'// 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-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]



0 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. 0 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.

[NOTE] 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. 0 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. I NOTE I 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

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. jeans are as American as apple pie and old jeans show a touch of class. O British Petroleum always abbreviates its name to BP and passes itself off as no less American than Mobil, Exxon and apple pie. [NOTE] Apple pie is a traditional dessert that is thought of as typically American.

angel

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.


angels

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.
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