In a recent series of incidents in the UK, a 75 year-old woman described how teenage vandals had made her life a living hell (a nightmare). She said that she had been to hell and back (suffered a lot) as a result of their actions and that her street had become hell on earth (extremely unpleasant and dangerous). She described one family as the neighbours from hell (extremely unpleasant people) and said that some of the vandals broke windows and damaged cars just for the hell of it (for fun and no other reason).
Another resident added that some families in the street had already got the hell out of there (left as quickly as possible), while another remarked cynically that there wasn’t a cat in hell’s chance (there was absolutely no chance at all) that the police would deal adequately with the perpetrators and that hell would freeze over before any serious action was taken.
He said the vandals raised hell (caused trouble) on a daily basis and described a recent incident where all hell broke loose (everyone started fighting and arguing). He added that some residents were so fed up that they had decided to fight back and give the vandals hell (punish them severely). There would be hell to pay(they would be in a lot of trouble) if they showed their faces in the street again and if there was any repetition of the vandalism. He said they were determined to rid the street of the problem come hell or high water (despite all the problems or difficulties that might arise).
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‘After a relatively poor performance at the Olympics by the swimming team, the knives are out for the head coach’, meaning that he is being subjected to hostile criticism, the aim of which is to remove him from his position.
In several of the Olympic cycling race finals, the result was on a knife edge until the very last moment, meaning that the chances of success or failure were more or less equal for both riders and the final result was extremely uncertain.
If you put the knife in, you criticize someone very strongly, as in ‘He has made a number of serious errors of judgement over the past few weeks and several of his colleagues are planning to put the knife in in the coming days’.
If you then twist the knife, you make a bad situation even worse, as in ‘First they removed him from his position of responsibility and then they twisted the knife by offering him a cut in salary’.
When a particular situation is very tense or embarrassing for the people involved, you can cut the atmosphere with a knife, as in ‘Relations between the two ex-business partners had been deteriorating for months and when she walked into the room you could cut the atmosphere with a knife‘.
Like a knife through butter means to move or spread very quickly or easily, as in ‘The virus is particularly dangerous and at certain times of the year can spread like a knife through butter‘.
Finally, if you are unfortunate enough to require a surgical operation, you will have to go under the knife, as in ‘Bartlett is going under the knife tomorrow in an attempt to rid him of a persistent knee problem’.
At the beginning of 2012, there seems no end to the financial problems besetting many of the world’s major economies but some economists are now saying they can see light at the end of the tunnel or light on the horizon, meaning there will be an improvement but it is still some way off. Perhaps if economists saw things in a different light (in a different way), in a more positive or favourable light and not always in a negative light, things might take a turn for the better.
The expression in the light of means ‘as a result of a particular fact’, as in ‘In the light of new forensic evidence, police have decided to re-open the case’, and if facts are brought to light or come to light, people find out about them, as in ‘New evidence in this case has recently come to light‘.
If you see the light, you either suddenly realize, understand or appreciate something, as in ‘I used to hate camping but now I’ve seen the light‘ or you suddenly start to have strong religious beliefs, as in ‘Peter has seen the light‘.
If something such as an idea or a plan sees the light of day, it comes into existence, as in ‘The project first saw the light of day back in 1998′.
If, when referring to someone, you say that the lights are on but there’s no-one at home, you either mean that they are stupid or that they are not listening.
Finally, if you see something in the cold light of day, you think about it calmly and clearly without the emotion that was present when it happened.
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‘Years of conflict have left their mark on Mogadishu’. If you leave your mark on something, you have a very strong and noticeable effect, usually a bad effect that lasts a long time. If you make your mark, you change it or do something significant so that people notice and remember you, as in ‘He’s only been with the company for two weeks but he’s already made his mark‘.
You can either be quick off the mark or slow off the mark, meaning either that you react quickly and gain an advantage or that you react slowly and lose an advantage, as in ‘Companies need to be quick off the mark to gain a foothold in this market’.
If your performance is not up to the mark, it is not good enough, as in ‘Health authorities have complained that many newly-trained nurses are simply not up to the mark‘.
A guess, estimate or theory that is wide of the mark is incorrect, as in ‘The organizers’ claim that there were 25,000 people at the rally turned out to be wide of the mark‘. Estimates that are close to the mark or near to the mark are almost correct.
If you overstep the mark, you do or say something that breaks a rule and makes people angry, as in ‘The interviewer overstepped the mark when he started asking questions about her private life’.
If you step up to the mark, you do what is rightly expected of you, as in ‘It’s high time retailers stepped up to the mark and paid farmers a realistic price for their milk’.
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