Previous article about strange and curious idioms in English has collected many readings and comments, in which they poured even more interesting phraseological units. Therefore, we decided to write the second part.
Here we have sorted out even stranger idioms than in the first part, which if you don’t know, then you definitely won’t understand correctly. Let’s not delay – let’s go.
Bob’s your uncle
We’ll start with the weird “Bob is your uncle”. Because not every Briton or Irishman has an uncle with that name.
With this phrase, native speakers emphasize that something can be done without effort at all. And within the meaning of the idiom almost completely duplicates “as easy as pie” from first part… Thanks to the readers for remembering it in the comments.
We enter it here, taking our one shot, and Bob’s your uncle…
We go in there, use our only try, and in the bag…
The story with her is funny. In 1886, then British Prime Minister Robert Cecil took the ill-advised step of appointing his nephew as Chief Secretary of Ireland, who did nothing to deserve the post. Nepotism in its most transparent manifestation.
The appointment caused a wave of criticism from both politicians and ordinary Britons. The newly minted secretary did not hesitate to blame his relationship with the prime minister.
By the way, many students ask why Bob and not Robert. It’s simple – it’s just an abbreviated version of the name. No worse than Dick, which sounds like Richard in full form. The British are also surprised at how Alexander turns into Shurik.
The phrase became popular later, in 1924, when it was used in print criticism of the Dundee Theater. In the cultural environment, she was entrenched instantly. In 1948, the comedy musical of the same name was released, which became very popular in Britain – and the phrase turned into an idiom.
And in the 90s, a popular TV show was spinning in Britain, which also contributed to the popularity of the phrase.
To have egg on your face
This idiom makes a little more sense than meets the eye. It means “to be embarrassed, embarrassed, to be in a stupid situation, to sit in a puddle.”
I’m inclined to agree, which leaves the agency with some egg on its face.
I’m inclined to agree, which means the agency is in a mess.
The expression is not too old – it appeared no later than the end of the 19th century, but even so, linguists could not accurately trace its roots. So to speak, the specialists got an egg in the face.
There are only two opinions about the origin of the idiom:
Opinion number 1. The phrase comes from the old phrase “egg-sucking dog”. This was the name of a guard dog with a habit of stealing eggs.
Many phraseological units with the word “egg” describe stupid and wacky situations. Here are a few of them:
To put all eggs in one basket – put eggs in one basket, take a lot of risk
To egg someone on – incite someone to an ugly act
Can’t boil an egg – about a person who absolutely does not know how to cook
The phrase may well have been transformed from a situation where a dog was caught with an egg in its teeth.
Opinion number 2. If an artist performed well, they threw flowers and money at him, and if bad – rotten tomatoes and rotten eggs. Therefore, many believe that initially the phrase “To have egg on your face” meant just a bad performance, but only over time it became a symbol of a stupid and embarrassing situation in general.
Although linguistically there are no prerequisites to consider this way, logically this version looks slimmer than a dog stealing eggs.
By the way, the phrase is popular in our time. They love to use it in media, media and even computer games. For example, here’s the Egg in your face in-game trophy in Resident Evil 5.
To pull someone’s leg
No, you don’t have to literally pull someone’s leg. The phrase just means “to joke, to make fun of someone.” We took it from the comments to the first part and did not directly expect that we would dig it out of it.
Here is this phrase from the cartoon “Despicable Me”. And it translates as “You must be kidding.”
Its origins are also rather vague, but all the ideas are rather dark. Straight linguistic rubbish.
But these versions are not from linguists, but more from culturologists and historians. Language experts generally have no adequate ideas on how “pulling a leg” could become synonymous with a joke.
The first version is about robberies. The simplest and most commonplace, when one or more people sneak up from behind and boom over the head with something heavy and hard. And then, so as not to be noticed by random passers-by, he dragged him by the leg into a darker place so that he could be robbed to the skin.
The phrase may have appeared as part of criminals slang. And then, being misunderstood by ordinary people, it was transformed among the people into a simple joke.
The second version is even darker. Some historians believe that the phrase is associated with the English village of Tyburn, which for almost six centuries was the official place of execution of criminals in London. And most often – by hanging.
In some cases, executions were allowed to be carried out more “gently”, if at all. When the criminal was already hanging in the noose, special people could hang on his legs to hasten his death. And usually this caused a real sensation among the crowd, because they came to the execution as an interesting performance.
It is quite possible that the phrase is rather dark. But linguists don’t know for sure.
It’s all Greek to me
This is almost a complete analogue of the Russian phrase “Chinese grammar”. And it means something written or spoken, but absolutely incomprehensible.
But the story of the origin of this idiom is much more interesting. And unlike the previous two, it is well known.
It was first used by William Shakespeare in his play Julius Caesar. It was with his submission that she went to the people and began to denote something incomprehensible. Act 1 Scene 2, if suddenly someone decided to check:
Did Cicero say any thing?
Ay, he spoke Greek.
To what effect?
Nay, an I tell you that, Ill ne’er look you i ‘the face again: but those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but, for mine own part, it was Greek to me.
(lane by I. Mandelstam)
Did Cicero say anything?
Yes, he spoke in Greek.
Well, if I answer that to you, then let me not have the chance to see your faces anymore. But who understood him, they smiled at each other and shook their heads. As for me, for me it was a Greek letter.
But here we dug a little deeper and found out that in this case Shakespeare is not its author. This is a classic medieval Latin proverb “Graecum est; non potest legi “-” This is in Greek, unreadable. “
Most interestingly, more than 55 modern languages have a similar phrase. And each culture refers to its own version of an incomprehensible language. On non-existent ones as well.
German: Das kommt mir spanisch vor. – Spanish
Chinese (Mandarin): Tīngqǐlái xiàng niǎoyǔ. – Bird’s tongue.
Turkish: Konuya Fransız kaldım. – French.
French: C’est du russe. – Russian.
And so you can go on for a long time. By the way, in English there is another similar phrase that means something incomprehensible – It’s Double Dutch.
Double Dutch is not a “double Dutch”, but a curious linguistic fun, a kind of encrypted spoken language. Usually children use it so that parents do not understand what they are talking about. Not to be confused with jumping rope – they are also called Double Dutch.
Thick as thieves
“Thick as thieves.” This is probably the hardest part. Because we have absolutely no idea how you can guess the meaning of this idiom if you haven’t heard it before. And she means “very good friends.”
In fact, everything is much simpler than it might seem. In the idiom, the word “thick” is used in one of its rare meanings – “in close relationship.” And the phrase “thick as thieves” is almost the only one where it retains this meaning in ordinary colloquial speech.
That is, “thick as thieves” literally translates not “fat as thieves”, but “close as thieves.” And this is closer to the meaning.
And the phrase itself sends us back to the 17th century, to England, where thieves united in guilds. They had their own encrypted language variations, code phrases and designations. The conversation between the two thieves seemed to an outsider sheer gibberish. But the criminals understood each other perfectly. Therefore, it seemed that they were somehow especially close.
The very same comparison “thick as thieves” began to be actively used in the middle of the 19th century. Its resounding popularity began from newspapers, and then passed into the usual spoken language.
Thieves’ guilds have ceased to exist for a long time, criminals do not use any special code languages, and the phrase still lives on.
In 2009, for example, a film called Thick as thieves was released, in which Morgan Freeman and Antonio Banderas played. And it was translated into Russian as “The Thief’s Code”, which does not directly convey the ambiguity of the idiom.
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