Monday Morning Musings

Every so often I’ll get a call from a former student who is originally from Bejing.  It has been years since she was in my Intermediate Writing class, mostly filled with international students, but she still considers me her teacher–a fact which pleases me a great deal. Sometimes she wants to know what an American expression or idiom means.  Recently I made a list of commonly used idioms and am going to share them this rainy morning:

“Let the cat out of the bag” or “spill the beans” means to tell a secret unintentionally.  Ex. I thought your daughter knew you were thinking about moving.  I didn’t mean to let the cat out of the bag.

“Bite the dust” means to die.  In the Wild West, a cowboy who was shot “bit the dust.”

“When pigs fly” means it (whatever you’re talking about) isn’t ever going to happen.  Ex. I will let my son go to see that trashy movie when pigs fly.

“Heard it through the grapevine” means one heard something from gossip exchanged person to person.  Ex. Mrs, Jones is getting a divorce.  I heard it through the grapevine.

“Go cold turkey” means to quit something suddenly and completely. Ex. I gave up cigarettes cold turkey.

A “wet blanket” is someone who ruins all the fun.  Ex. Don’t invite Mary to the party; she’s a wet blanket.

When one is “talking up a blue streak,” he/she is talking very fast.  Ex. The two ladies seated at the corner table were talking up a blue streak.

“Sit tight” means do not do anything until you are told what to do next. Ex. Until you hear from me about applying for the loan, sit tight.

These are just a few of the hundreds, maybe thousands of idioms used in daily American speech.

Which ones do you hear all the time?  Scroll way down and leave a reply.  The box will open up for you. List an idiom you have heard, or if there is an expression/idiom that is not clear, use “reply” to ask what it means.

“Be seeing you” means goodbye for now.


Author: Rae Longest

This year (2019) finds me with 50 plus years of teaching "under my belt." I have taught all levels from pre-K "(library lady" or "book lady"--volunteer) to juniors, seniors, and graduate students enrolled in my Advanced Writing class at the university where I have just completed 30 years. My first paying teaching job was junior high, and I spent 13 years with ages 12-13, the "difficult years." I had some of the "funnest" experiences with this age group. When I was no longer the "young, fun teacher," I taught in an elementary school setting before sixth graders went on to junior high, teaching language arts blocs, an assignment that was a "dream-fit" for me. After completing graduate school in my 40s, I went on to community college, then university teaching. Just as teaching is "in my blood," so is a passion for reading, writing, libraries, and everything bookish. This blog will be open to anyone who loves books, promotes literacy and wants to "come out and play."

7 thoughts on “Monday Morning Musings”

  1. It’s a lovely part of the language – I love the fact that a number of them come from our nautical past. ‘Three sheets to the wind’, ‘the bitter end’, ‘shake a leg’, ‘cut and run’, ‘in the offing’… the list goes on. So as well as being quirky and effective, they are also an insight to our history and what has shaped us…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My mom and grandma had lots of expressions they used when I was little. I wasn’t quite sure what they meant but the expressions tended to ward off argument since the response had an air of authority that comes with a pat phrase.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh my. Had to share. Just ran across this from Writer’s Almanac this morning:
        ‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
        Was there a man dismay’d?
        Not tho’ the soldier knew
        Some one had blunder’d:
        Theirs not to make reply,
        Theirs not to reason why,
        Theirs but to do & die:
        Into the valley of Death
        Rode the six hundred.

        Apparently my mom “borrowed” a couple of lines from this poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and adapted them for her own purposes. When my sister and I would ask why we had to do something, she would always say, “Yours is not to reason why….Yours is just to do or die.” Not an idiom but a quote I heard over and over growing up….I wonder if it was something she memorized in school….

        Liked by 1 person

  3. In the old days, everyone our mothers’ age had to memorize and execute “The Charge of the Light Brigade”. Many of the “do or die” decisions you and I were required to make were supposed to be made without reasons for it or without reasoning, period. It was just our generation who began to question, “Why should I…” or “Why must I…” and our parents’ answers were “Just because…” or the infamous, “Because I said so!” LOL


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