What is it all about?

I have a confession to make. Ever since moving to the UK I’ve kept my ears open for the new words, expressions, idioms and quirky phrases that I haven’t heard before. I must say, I went even further, scribbling down these linguistic revelations during meetings, lectures or bus rides.

Every word, expression or an idiom is set in context in which I heard it and boosted by more examples for your enjoyment. While most of the examples are taken from reputable websites, I humbly invent some myself in the hope that they are right, so don’t take everything you see here as gospel, take it with a pinch of salt instead!

To tide you over

tide you over phrase meaning

Photo credit: tidetimes.co.uk

(Gosh, I really struggled to find an appropriate image for this one!)

When I need some baby items that I want to buy second-hand (or, more often, when I have an episode of good old procrastination), I head over to the local Facebook page where mums sell their unwanted baby stuff. Recently there was a table and two benches for sale, which the poster bought ‘just to tide us over‘. I’ve come across this handy expression before and thought it’d be a perfect opportunity to update my blog, which has been somewhat neglected lately.

I also heard this expression recently in one of those annoying ads that pop up on YouTube every time I want to watch a yoga video. It was some yogurt drink that is supposed to ‘tide you over‘ until dinner.

Here are some more examples:

  • The problem with exercise is the whole short-term loss v long-term gain issue. GymPact does a good job of getting around that by introducing a short-term gain (cash!) to tide you over till the long-term gain (buns o’ steel) kicks in (The Guardian)
  • You should be able to claim against the airline for essential items to tide you over until your luggage arrives. The airline will usually give you cash or reimburse you if you provide receipts (The Guardian).
  • Have a high protein snack late in the afternoon to tide you over until dinner (discovergoodnutrition.com)
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To wrap someone in cotton wool

to wrap somebody in cotton wool

Photo credit: uk.lifestyle.yahoo.com

I know my posts are becoming more and more spaced out, but I’m not giving up on this blog! So here’s a quick post on a new phrase that I heard on the radio. I teach on Saturday mornings and on my way there and back I like to listen to BBC Radio 4, so last week I caught Desert Island Disks with Warwick Davis. He talked about his rare genetic disorder, but said that despite his ill health his parents never wrapped him in cotton wool. This means to be overprotective towards someone (usually a child, I would assume).

Here are some more examples:

  • Wrapping your children in cotton wool and living every day as if a multitude of dangers were each crowding out the other to get their fangs into them still seems to me an unhealthy message to broadcast. If your parents allow you to climb trees, sometimes you will fall off them. If you’re allowed to go wandering alone in a wood, sometimes you’re going to get lost (The Guardian).
  • Constantly wrapping children in cotton wool can leave them ill equipped to deal with stressful or challenging situations they might encounter later in life… Cotton-wool parenting is taxing for the parent; wearing for the child. And it’s unnecessary (Bikehub.co.uk)

I wonder if I am a cotton-wool parent? At times I think I am rather irresponsible, but not unreasonably so.

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I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it

I stopped teaching when I had Alisa, but 7 months on I have a new student learning Russian and I’m really enjoying our lessons. On Saturday he asked me about words in Russian that can be used at the beginning of a phrase, or as a filler, but I know that once students learn a filler word it’s impossible to unlearn it – it crops up everywhere! So I diplomatically evaded this and my student said ‘OK, I will cross that bridge when I come to it‘, which is a wonderful phrase, and brand new to me!

The meaning is fairly clear – it’s about dealing with a problem only when it arises.

Here are some examples:

  • You’ll need to repave it every few years, but I guess you’ll cross that bridge when you come to it (Oxford Dictionaries)
  • ‘What if the flight is delayed?’ ‘I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.‘ (The Free Dictionary)
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I spoke too soon

i spoke too soon phrase

Photo credit: masetv.com

One thing I realised pretty soon after having a baby was that the moment you think you have it all figured out and under control – be it feeding, napping, sleeping at night or understanding your baby’s cues – things suddenly change! I guess many mothers would agree.

A few weeks ago when we went to a Baby Club run by the local children’s centre. I try to go every week, as it’s one of the few opportunities I get to speak English (and just speak to somebody other than my husband and baby!), unless Alisa decides to have a nap right before we’re supposed to leave.

Last time we went there was a mum whose baby seemed tired and unsettled, so she fed and cuddled her, it seemed to work, so she said ‘You seem pretty chilled now’, and the baby started crying again. ‘I spoke too soon!‘ said the mum. It’s a great expression that I haven’t really come across before and it’s definitely handy for talking about your baby!

A few more examples:

  • He won’t be home for hours yet … Oh, I spoke too soon – here he is now! (Cambridge Dictionaries Online)
  • A few days ago I said my job is pretty stress-free, but I spoke too soonthe stress level at work has gone way up this week (The Free Dicitonary).
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Bumble along

bumble along meaning

Hi dear readers,

Once again I have to apologize for the prolonged silence on this blog, but this time I have a really good excuse – her name is Alisa and she is six months old already! It wouldn’t be true if I said that I didn’t have a single moment to write a blog post since she was born, but I definitely have much less time and different priorities these days. That said, I’ve been keeping track of some of the cool phrases I learnt over the past few months and I intend to share them with you!

Today’s phrase – ‘to bumble along‘ – means ‘to go about bunglingly, awkwardly, mindlessly, etc., during some task or in general’ (The Free Dictionary), or, in other words, to not have a clue about what you’re doing, which describes perfectly the way (most) new parents feel. This was exactly how we felt after coming home with a newborn, and as we bombarded the midwife with hundreds of questions about our baby she said ‘Don’t worry, everyone just sort of bumbles along and then you’ll figure out what she wants’. This is true, 6 months down the line things have become fairly straightforward… Or have they? 

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It’s a doddle!

it's a doddle phrase meaning

Photo credit: justinjackson.ca

If I had to pick one of the new–ish words that I’ve been hearing a lot lately, it would be ‘doddle‘! Every now and then I hear ‘it’s a doddle‘ about things that are easy to do. Or, there can be things that seem to be a doddle, but in fact are anything but!

What else can be ‘a doddle’?

– The public performance part of my job – the workshops and training – is hence a doddle (Oxford Dictionaries).

– In under 10,000 words the European Commission’s “agenda on migration,” unveiled on May 13th, identifies war, poverty, globalisation, persecution and climate change as forces driving migration from outside the EU. And it touches on challenges like multilateral diplomacy, criminal networks, military intervention and the ageing of European societies. Next to lists like these, fixing Greece or Ukraine looks like a doddle (The Economist).

– Counting clicks on a blinking banner ad is a doddle—but knowing where each click came from, and how many people are clicking, is harder than it appears (The Economist).

 

In fact, there’s another ‘easy’ expression that I quite like (I remember I first came across it in one of Tom Holt’s novels):

easy peasy lemon squeezy

Photo credit: lespetitesgourmettes.com

 

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To have somebody down as…

have somebody down as phrase meaning

Photo credit: dailymail.co.uk

Hi there,

Apologies again for my rather long absence – there’s been a lot going on lately (and there’ll probably be even more on going on soon – details later), but I reckoned that even one new post is better than none, so here you go!

I’ve been watching BBC’s Doctor Foster drama lately, and there was a phrase in one of the previous episodes that caught my attention – ‘I’ve always had you down as (organised)’. I’ve come across it before and I think it’s a great phrase to embellish your vocabulary. Essentially it just means to ‘consider somebody to be of a certain type’, but it sounds so much nicer!

Here are some more examples:

– I never had Jake down as a ladies’ man (Oxford Dictionaries).

– The tabloid press has had him down as a privacy-obsessed neurotic weirdo pretty much ever since, and there is very little he can do about it (The Guardian).

– I had him down as a coffee-boy layabout, as I used to call him, and thought he was rather arrogant. But when I got to know him – it’s quite tragic really. I had an unhappy childhood, too, so there was a bit of an understanding there, although we never talked about it (The Guardian).

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To keep your hand in

keep your hand in idiom meaning

Photo credit: imgkid.com

Yesterday I went to our regular French-Russian meeting, where we chat – in Russian, French and English – with fellow translators who work in these language pairs. As we haven’t seen each other for quite a while there was a lot of catching up to do, so we pretty much spent the first hour just chatting. One of my colleagues started a full-time office job and we were wondering whether she was going to keep translating, and she said she would like ‘to keep her hand in‘ so as not to lose touch with translation agencies and so that it’s easier to go back to freelancing when she feels like it.

While I heard of ‘getting your foot in the door‘ – which is also quite relevant for us, translators, I don’t think I’ve come across this expression with the hand, but it’s incredibly useful for the situations when you want to keep practising a skill often enough so that you do not lose it.

Some examples:

– I do a bit of teaching now and then just to keep my hand in (Cambridge Dictionary).

– “I don’t do adverts as a rule but this was great fun and it’s nice to keep your hand in. No pun intended,” he added. Gervais has starred only once before in a UK advertising campaign, in a commercial for another charity (The Guardian).

– Fiona Severs says: “It’s much harder to find a rewarding role when you’ve had a long career break than it is if you’ve managed to keep your hand in with flexible years.” (The Guardian).

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