Commonly Used Idioms Part – 6

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Let me tell you a well-known trick for remembering idioms with their meanings and usage. If you learn about the origin of the idiom, it will be very easy for you to remember them and use them as and when your writing skills demand ! In the last edition, I shared the origin of ‘Achilles’ heel’ idiom which was interesting and deserving enough to pique your curiosity. This time, I come with a hilarious origin tale – ‘Murphy’s law’. Don’t get deceived– this is not a scientific law ! 😉

This is a humorous adage which means that anything that can go wrong will go wrong !

OriginEdward A. Murphy, Jr. was one of the engineers on the rocket-sled experiments that were done by the U.S. Air Force in 1949 to test human acceleration tolerances (USAF project MX981). One experiment involved a set of 16 accelerometers mounted to different parts of the subject’s body. There were two ways each sensor could be glued to its mount, and somebody methodically installed all 16 the wrong way around. Murphy then made the original form of his pronouncement.

Murphy’s Original Law – If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it.

 Murphy’s Law – If anything can go wrong — it will.index

 Murphy’s First Corollary – Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.

 Murphy’s Second Corollary – It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.

For more info, read here

( It was a blast from the past – reminded me of the tough old days when I had to learn the physics laws !  🙂 )

Today, when we want to remind people that even if someone’s plan is well thought of and properly planned, yet there is scope of an error – we say ‘ Do not forget the Murphy law’ ! 😀

You can find hilarious interpretations of Murphy’s making rounds on the internet ! Do check them out !

Happy learning !

Idiom Meaning Sentence
Shy of Having less of something that is needed or expected She was two days shy of her 19th birthday.
Go south To go down, to fall The economy was growing but the things went south after the recession.
One’s goose is cooked One is finished; one has been found out and is in trouble. If I get caught, my goose is cooked.
To be in the eye of the storm To be very much involved in an argument or problem that affects a lot of people International aid agencies were in the eye of the storm when war broke out in the country.
Fit the bill To be suitable for a particular purpose The city needs a strong leader, and the new mayor just doesn’t fill the bill.
Nothing to write home about Mediocre; not as good as you expected. I went to that new restaurant last night. It’s nothing to write home about.
Blue collar Relating to manual work or workers, particularly in industry Blue collar workers in the factories and shipyards were demanding wage increases.
White Collar Relating to the work done or the people who work in an office or other professional environment. The ratio of white-collar workers to production workers in the manufacturing industry was declining.
Scratch the surface To examine only the superficial aspects of something. We don’t know how bad the problem is. We’ve only scratched the surface.
Bring something/someone to knees To destroy or defeat someone or something. To reduce to a position of subservience or submission. The strikes brought the economy to its knees.
Of age Old enough to be considered an adult. He’s of age now; he can buy his own car.
Acid test A test which will really prove the value, quality, or truth of something The acid test for the product will be whether people actually buy it.
Cut the ground from under someone’s feet To make someone or their ideas seem less good, especially by doing something before them or better than them ( to weaken someone’s position) The opposition claimed today’s speech was an attempt by the government to cut the ground from under their feet.
Chase one’s tail To be very busy doing a lot of things, but achieving very little He’s been chasing his tail all week collecting data but the report is still not ready
Think on one’s feet To think and react quickly, especially in a situation where things are happening very fast A good sales man must be able to think on his feet to close the deal.
To not let grass grow under feet Don’t delay in getting something done, always on the move As soon as he finished all the registration formalities, he put the house on sale. He doesn’t let the grass grow under his feet.
Be waiting in the wings Waiting for an opportunity to take action, mostly to replace someone else in their job. The senior manager is going to retire in next 2 months. Two of his juniors who are waiting in the wings will have a fierce competition.
Fever pitch A state of extreme excitement. The football crowd was at fever pitch.
Cut someone to the quick Hurting someone deeply or offending them. Joe had worked for 10 years with all his loyalty for his company. He was cut to the quick when his boss held him responsible for the theft.
Have one’s heart in the right place To have good intentions, even if there are bad results. Good old Tom! His gifts are always tacky, but his heart’s in the right place.
Murphy’s law Anything that can go wrong will go wrong If there are two or more ways to do something, and one of those ways can result in a catastrophe, then someone will do it. We may think we’ve covered all the details for the benefit, but remember Murphy’s law
Go up in smoke If a plan or some work goes up in smoke, it is spoiled or wasted Then his business went bankrupt and 20 years of hard work went up in smoke.
On an even keel Stable, balanced You should know the syllabus and plan well ahead so that your exam preparation goes on even keel
When the dust settles When things have calmed down When the dust settles, we can start patching up all the hurt feelings.
On the boil If a situation or feeling is on the boil, it is very strong or active The corruption scandal is being kept on the boil by a series of new revelations.
White elephant A possession that is useless or troublesome, especially one that is expensive to maintain or difficult to dispose of. The old building is a white elephant of the housing society.
Put to sword If someone/something is put to sword, he/she/it is killed or executed. The notion that the country’s economy is stable is being put to sword by the current market conditions.

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Commonly Used Idioms Part -3

Want to add more spice to your writing ? Here are some more idiomatic expressions that will make your piece piquant and exciting.

Idiom Meaning Sentence
Make a pig of oneself to eat too much, too fast or too noisily Please don’t embarrass me by making a pig of yourself in the party.
Leave someone high and dry To leave someone helpless. All the children ran away and left Billy high and dry to take the blame for the broken window.
Latch Onto To become closely connected to someone or something,

Get hold or grasp of something

More and more countries latched onto computer technology as an important tool for development.

Carol quickly latched on to how the sewing machine works

Rub the wrong way To irritate He rubbed many people in his office the wrong way by his cockiness.
Go hell for leather To go somewhere or do something very quickly. He was going hell for leather to go to his school as he was already late.
Have one’s moment in the sun A brief instance in which an otherwise obscure, unremarkable, or humble person draws attention. That band got their moment in the sun during the 70s
Bend over backwards to work very hard to accomplish something for someone

to try very hard to do something, especially to help or please someone else

He will bend over backwards to help you.

The government is bending over backwards to garner people’s support.

Drive up the wall To annoy or irritate someone All his talk about moving to California nearly drove me up the wall.
Bend someone’s ear To talk to someone perhaps annoyingly Jake has been bending Jill’s ears for over an hour.
Fend/shift for oneself To take care and provide for one’s own self ,instead of depending on others. Jim’s parents do not have to worry about Jim. He is very good at fending/shifting for oneself.
Duck and cover To dodge a difficult issue or a question. The candidate’s first reaction to the questions from the opposition was to duck and cover.
fight tooth and nail To fight with the ferocity and intensity of an animal, using all one’s resources. The NGO workers fought tooth and nail for the oppressed to get their land back from the crooked landlords.
tongue in cheek if you say something as tongue and cheek, you say it as a joke, although it might seem serious. “I am always the one who is responsible for anything bad that happens in Indian cricket”,Dhoni gave a tongue-in-cheek reply to a question at the post-match press conference after India suffered the ignominy of their first ever series defeat against Bangladesh.
hold one’s horse To wait for a moment Please hold your horses before disregarding my idea. Let me explain you the benefits.
make no bones about To make no bones about something means to say something in a way that leaves no doubt, or to have no objection to it, to say something frankly and directly. He made no bones about his constant failure at his job.
love you to the moon and back love you more than anything. I love you to the moon and back.
make ends meet Manage so that one’s financial means are enough for one’s needs On that salary Enid had trouble making ends meet.