Teaching EFL – Idioms Part 10

Idioms: Blood

The disgraced American financier Bernard Madoff, who was recently sentenced to 150 years in prison for fraud, was accused of having blood on his hands when a former soldier killed himself after losing his life savings in one of Madoff’s schemes. The person making the statement was suggesting that Madoff was directly responsible for the soldier’s death.

A lot of people who lost money through Madoff’s activities are after his blood or out for blood (seeking revenge). However, getting any of their money back will probably be like getting blood out of a stone(extremely difficult). People like that can really make your blood boil (make you feel very angry), especially if you have personally lost all the money you earned through blood, sweat and tears (a lot of effort and hard work). Investors in Madoff’s schemes probably felt their blood run cold (suddenly felt very worried or frightened) when they heard the news of his arrest for fraud.

Unusually, Madoff was reported to the authorities by his own sons. This seems to go against the traditional saying that blood is thicker than water, meaning that family relationships are usually stronger and more important than other types of relationships. Madoff’s sons were also involved in the investment banking sector at various times, so clearly banking was in their blood (a natural thing for them to do because other family members had done it in the past). Since their father’s arrest and conviction, however, there has probably been bad blood between them (a strong feeling of dislike because of something that happened in the past).


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Idioms: Clothes

If you take your hat off to someone, you show your admiration or respect for them, because of something impressive they have done, as in ‘As an Arsenal fan, I have to take my hat off to Chelsea for the way they played in the second half’. Keeping something under your hat, on the other hand, means to keep it secret, as in ‘Keep it under your hat but Debbie and John are thinking of getting married’. If you throw your hat into the ring, you announce publicly that you will take part in something such as a competition or an election.


If someone is beginning to get angry and you want them to calm down and not get annoyed you can say ‘Keep your shirt on‘, while if you put your shirt on an investment or a bet, you risk a lot of money on it.


People who work very hard often work their socks off, whereas someone who is not working hard enough and could do better can be told to pull their socks up. If you want someone who is talking too much to shut up, you can ask them to put a sock in it, especially if they are boring the pants off you (making you feel very, very bored).


If you catch someone with their pants down, you see them doing something they feel embarrassed about. If you then criticize or attack someone like that who is already in a bad position, you are putting the boot in, as in ‘That’s typical of him to put the boot in when I’m down’.

Idioms: Day

Apparently, the big day (the wedding day) was a glorious success. Some people decided to make a day of it (spend the whole day and not just part of it doing something enjoyable) and hold a street party. Others were content to watch the event on television, saying that it’s not every day that you get the chance to watch a royal wedding (it’s unusual and special) and it was good to see the bride, in particular, enjoying herday in the sun (the time when someone is young, successful or famous). For many people it made their dayto be able to witness such a display of pageantry (made them very happy).

There were those, of course, who had been against the whole thing from day one (from the very beginning) and who were less charitable in their assessment of the event. Some complained that they were sick and tired of reading about the royal couple day in, day out and day after day (every day for a long time), while others argued that there was no place for royalty in this day and age (in the modern age) and that the monarchy had had its day (was no longer relevant) or even that its days are numbered (it is only a matter of time before it ceases to exist).

All in all though, the day passed off well (was a success), although some of us were grateful that we were on days (working during the day) on that particular day and not on nights.



Idioms: Edge

It is hard to imagine that cooking is a particularly exciting or risky profession but, according to a recent news article, ‘Chefs tend to be very dramatic personalities, who like living dangerously and living on the edge‘. If you are on edge, on the other hand, you are nervous and unable to relax because you are worried about something, and if you are on the edge or close to the edge, you are so unhappy or confused that you are close to doing something stupid or losing your mind.


If you have an edge over someone, you have an advantage over them and if something gives you the edge, it gives you that advantage, as in ‘The use of various stimulants has given some professional cyclists the edge over their rivals’.

If you find yourself on the edge of something, you are nearly in a particular state or condition, as in ‘He seemed to be poised on the edge of Hollywood success’, while if you are on the edge of your seat, you are very excited and interested in something because you want to know what happens next, as in ‘It was a really exciting film and I was on the edge of my seat most of the time’.

If something takes the edge off a particular feeling, taste or sensation, it makes it less strong or intense, as in ‘Aspirin will usually take the edge off the pain’ or ‘I’ll have a splash of lemonade in that whisky to take the edge off‘.

The word edge itself can be used to describe a strange quality that something such as a piece of music or a book has that makes it interesting or exciting, as in ‘there’s an edge to his new album that wasn’t there in the last one’.


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