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Some Common English Idioms, Part I

The English language, which is spoken as an official language in countries as widely ranging as the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia, has gathered many idioms over the centuries that are still in use today. An idiom is basically a phrase that is figurative and used to describe literal situations with words that may not be clear to a non-native speaker. Let's take a look today at a few common idioms that you may hear when you are speaking English with somebody.

 

A team of scribes with the wisdom of Solomon went the extra mile to make King James' translation all things to all men.

Captions 6-7, The History of English The King James Bible

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The idiom "to go the extra mile" means to make an extra effort at something. If you are not familiar with the Bible or the Quran, you may not know who Solomon (also written "Sulayman") was. To say someone is as "wise as Solomon" means they are very smart indeed, as King Solomon is considered by religious people to have been a very wise prophet. 

 

So it's going to be forever or it's going to go down in flames.

Captions 19-20, Taylor Swift Blank Space

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The idiom "to go down in flames" probably originates from the time of the First World War, when airplanes were first used in combat and would literally "go down in flames." Its figurative meaning is to fail suddenly and dramatically. A similar phrase, "to be shot down in flames," means to be suddenly rejected.

 

So, the expression "once in a blue moon" is a way of saying, "very, very rarely—almost never."

Captions 42-43, The Alphabet the Letter M

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The meaning of this idiom is nicely explained in the example sentence. A "blue moon" has several different meanings, but all of them mean a type of moon that is not actually blue to the eye, but only occurs every several months or years. The phrase first appeared in print in the early 1500s and has thus been in common usage for 500 years!

 

But he said he could cut us some slack.

Caption 30, Business English Difficulties with coworkers and contracts - Part 3

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The idiom "to cut somebody some slack" means to not judge someone too harshly. Some think that the phrase, which has been in use for some hundreds of years, comes from the way sailors tie a ship to a dock with ropes. To "give slack to" or "to slacken" means to loosen or allow more line or rope.

 

You can eat all my food, smash up my walls, but I draw the line...

Caption 20, A Mickey Mouse Cartoon Goofy's Grandma

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The idiom "to draw the line" means that a limit has been reached and something must stop. The ancient Romans would draw a line in the sand and order their troops not to proceed past that point. It has been used as an idiom in English for hundreds of years in a figurative sense.

 

Further Learning
Try using the above idioms in your own sentences and have another student or your teacher check your work to see if you properly understood the meanings. Thank you for using Yabla English!

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