Tag Archives: problems

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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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 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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To come off

Last Saturday I watched Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, which wasn’t really on my top-10 list of films to watch, but it seemed like a good choice for a relaxing Saturday night. I thought it was a bit syrupy, but the actors were good, so on balance I think it’s watchable. More importantly, I learnt a few new words and phrases (my husband constantly makes fun of how I rush to write something down as soon as I hear it, but I just can’t help it!).

One of them was ‘to come off‘ – as you might have guessed even if you haven’t watched the film,it was about introducing salmon to a man-made river in Yemen and initially most people were skeptical about the success of this venture (and rightly so!), but eventually the main character, an expert on salmon if ever there was one, said that ‘it might just come off‘, meaning, in this context, ‘it might succeed’ or ‘we might just pull it off’.

More examples:

– The warm reception that he received refuted those who wondered whether the summit would come off, or if it could accomplish anything (Oxford Dictionary).

– Actively seeking risk makes sense for venture capitalists. Many of their gambles do not come off, but some of those that make it deliver huge rewards (The Economist).

Another meaning of ‘to come off‘ – I’ve found about 5 in total – is ‘to achieve a particular result in an activity, especially a competition or fight’ (Macmillan Dictionary):

– When banks go wrong, the biggest come off worst (The Economist).

– Even above the Brits, many touring Americans come off as culturally insensitive and arrogant among other things (The Economist).

P.S. In the US ‘to come off‘ is also used as a synonym of ‘to come across as‘, which is more popular in the UK.

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Keep a wolf from the door

keep the wolf from the door idiom meaning

Photo credit: skazles.ru

Another gem from Shaun Keaveney’s breakfast show! He didn’t come up with the idiom, of course, but he reminded me of it. To cut a long story short, he was taking the mickey out of his co-presenter, Matt Everitt, saying that he might have a part-time job at ‘to keep the wolf from the door‘.

The idiom means ‘to have enough money to avert hunger or starvation’ and is used hyperbolically (Oxford Dictionary).

A couple of examples:

– Having made enough money to keep the wolf from the door I am concerned with making the world a better place, like many other people (Oxford Dictionary).

– Today, dog lovers Steve and Adele try to make their fortune from their furry friends by preening the pooches of southern Spain – but will they make enough to keep the wolf from the door? (BBC)

P.S. There’s a brilliant song by Radiohead, ‘The Wolf at the Door’.

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To go to pot

go to pot meaning

Photo credit: travelground.com

I’m sure that today’s phrase will be relevant for many people! How many times have you had a day which had gone sooooo terribly wrong from the moment you got out of bed?

I learnt this phrase from a newsletter of a coffee chain which I normally don’t bother reading, but here you go – sometimes they can be useful! They were advertising their new campaign:

#MyMorningHasBroken
When your mornings go to pot, we’ve been fixing the with yummy offers and freebies – here’s one of our favourites.

Indeed, it’s not only mornings that can “go to pot“, but many other things too:

– My late night writing session went to pot, as it were (Oxford Dictionary)

– The house has been going to pot for years (Macmillan Dictionary).

– All that said, the single market is an unambiguously good idea, and the idea that one could let half of Europe go to pot is ludicrous (The Economist).

– These people are following this charlatan as if they would follow a Messiah. They do it because of pie in the sky. With him Italy will go to pot (The Economist).

If you’re wondering how this phrase came about, here’s a little explanation of its etymology. “That meaning alludes to the fact that the journey of an animal or ingredient to the pot was a one-way trip, with a very short future ahead”.

 

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I am swamped!

swamped meaning usage

Photo credit: jonnycooper.net

Actually, it’s not me that is swamped right now – if anything, I’ve had a rather leisurely week, reading an exciting novel, baking biscuits and brownies for my family in Russia and doing some last-minute Christmas shopping. This was what one of my students said, apologizing for not being able to make it to our Russian class.

I’ve come across this expression before, but I must admit I hardly ever use it myself. However, it’s a nice alternative to ‘snowed under‘ (the latter, however, is probably more appropriate for this time of year).

Being ‘swamped‘ implies being overwhelmed with a large amount of something, but not only work, as you will see from examples below:

– Like hospitals, many of the province’s mental health facilities are swamped with requests for help, and the people who need their services can’t wait (Oxford Dictionary).

– Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, has claimed British towns are being “swamped” by immigrants and their residents are “under siege”, in an escalation of the emotive language being used by Tory ministers calling for a renegotiation of the UK’s relationship with Europe (The Guardian) – yay, always blame the immigrants!

– Claims by Scottish government ministers that Scotland‘s universities will be “swamped” by English students seeking free tuition after independence have been challenged by an expert study (The Guardian).

– People have long groused that they were swamped by information (The Economist).

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