1.5: Idioms 41-50

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Idioms 31-40
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Try one’s luck

The TV show “Who wants to be a millionaire?” is famous for the slogan “Is that your final answer?” Choosing whether to gamble by answering another question or staying with what you’ve got can makes the difference between winning and losing. Success in life also depends on knowing when to stick with what have or whether to take a risk. A good risk taker needs a good grasp of probability. On occasion, we just have to try our luck and take a calculated risk. To try one’s luck means doing something that involves risk or luck, hoping to succeed.


A worry wart

“You are happy-go-lucky,” Justin said to Donald. “You’re just carefree and untroubled by problems that may arise. For you the glass is always half-full.” Donald looked at Justin and replied: “Yes and you are a worry wart. For you the glass is not only half-empty, it’s 25% or 10% empty and so on.” A worry wart is a person who tends to worry habitually and often needlessly.


At someone’s beck and call

The role of women in society has dramatically changed. One good example is Germany. After finishing school, families would often send their daughters to “Hausfrauenschule” or housewife school until the 1950’s. There a woman would learn how to cook, clean and be at her husband’s beck and call. To be at someone’s beck and call means always having to be ready to obey someone’s wishes, instructions or orders immediately.


Bored to tears

For all of us there are things that really excite us or bore us to death. “For me watching a sports game isn’t more exciting than watching paint dry or grass grow,” Jane said to John. “I am simply bored to tears sitting next to you like a coach potato. Can’t we do something more exciting?” she asked. “We sure can,” John replied “but first the game has to finish. I want to see who will win. If you’re bored, feel free to do something more exciting. I never chained you to the coach or the TV screen,” he said.


Dog days

When someone from northern Europe travels to a tropical country for the first time the person will need time to acclimatize to the weather. In some schools, for example, it is customary to take a break from the heat and give pupils a day off if it gets too hot. For a Scandinavian going to a tropical country for the first time, every day may feel like a dog day. Dog days mean the hottest period of the year. It can also mean a period of inactivity or decline.


Like Rats Deserting A Sinking Ship

Applied to humans it describes how people act when they distance themselves from someone or something in trouble or abandon something before it gets too bad. Do you really believe rats have a supernatural ability to predict the sinking of a ship and would leave and swim away? As if they “knew” the fate of a ship! The expression comes most probably from the old days of wooden ships sailing around the seas with rats living on board. Ships tended to leak and when the water level rose rats may have ended up on deck where if chased away by people usually jumped overboard.


Red tape / cut through red tape

Filling out your annual tax return is not an easy task. A basic annual tax return requires an average of 13 hours per person in the USA according to the National Taxpayers Union. A more extensive tax return may take much longer. There’s a lot of red tape involved and the US tax code is getting more complex every year. When there is red tape, it means that there are a lot of official forms and procedures involved before something is accomplished. Red tape refers to excessive regulation or rigid conformity to formal rules that is considered redundant or bureaucratic. It can also apply to corporations and other organizations.


A Rhetorical Question

Surely, Hamlet was not expecting an answer when he started his famous monologue: “To be, or not to be? – that is the question!” When you ask a rhetorical question you do not expect an answer as it is asked only for effect and no reply is needed.


Rock the boat

Britain historically was an island nation at the center of an empire. When Europe came together first as a common market, the UK was one of the last to join. Now that the European Community has become the European Union, the UK became the first country to rock the boat and apply to leave the union. In part, this can be explained with the island mentality of the UK. To rock the boat means to say or do something to disturb an existing situation and upset people.


Room For Improvement

“Well, it seems that you did a good job during the first semester of this school year. Your marks are good!” Kate looked at her 13 year old daughter with pride while scanning her report card. “I definitely see room for improvement in Maths, though. Let’s talk to your teacher and see what we can do about it.” Room for improvement means you can do better.


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Idioms 31-40
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