Reactionary Tales

Those Phrases

Ever hear those phrases that sound like one thing but mean something else?

For example, everyone has heard the phrase ‘take a raincheck‘ right? I can have some really slow moments sometimes and it literally clicked in my mind a few months ago what that really meant.

The proper word for these phrase are called idioms.

Recently I’ve noticed my boss says “the bee’s knees” a lot. Obviously she’s not talking about what I’m thinking which is a literal bee’s knees especially since I don’t think they have the same kind of joints as humans so I had to look that up. According to oxforddictionaries, it means ‘an outstanding person or thing’. Other phrases that mean the same thing are: ‘the flea’s eyebrows’Β and ‘the cat’s whiskers’. (How does one know a flea’s has eyebrows? Also, are canaries some type of hybrid bird narwhal rhino?)

American slang is a marvel. I don’t know if these are supposed to make things sound slightly better than their true meaning or what. For example, have you heard the phrase ‘you and your sunny disposition’? Usually it’s used in a nice light because it means someone who is cheerful and full of zest! But I can attest to using the phrase on grumps in a sarcastic manner to try and get them to crack a smile and feel less grumps.

Here’s a list of ones I’ve heard of before and their meanings:

  • Break a leg – means good luck somehow even though breaking a leg is not lucky
  • Better late then never – means at least you did something vs. not at all. Not a good phrase to use though if you’re always late to work, just saying!
  • Call it a day – means you’re done. Whatever you were doing, it’s over. Leaving it for another day is the best option
  • Benefit of the doubt – as contradicting as this sounds, it means you’re going to take a leap (similar phrase) and trust what someone is telling you instead of suspecting a lie
  • On a roll – very encouraging statement that means you’re doing a good job
  • It’s not rocket science/surgery – means it’s not complicated
  • Under the weather – means you’re feeling really sick that day
  • Picture is worth a thousand words – I always thought it meant that pictures are more powerful than words at any given moment but I guess it means better to show than tell. Same thing? Maybe.
  • Raining cats and dogs – means monsoon rain is occurring at that moment; the kind of rain you shouldn’t be driving in. I guess you can substitute cats and dogs with cooler animals like whales and elephants but either way it all sounds like pretty painful rain no?
  • Devil’s advocate – means arguing for the sake of arguing but I sometimes use this phrase in an enlightening fashion to get other people to be more open minded
  • In the doghouse – means you said something to your significant other you probably should not have said and you’re sleeping on the couch for a while
  • The elephant in the room – means everyone is thinking it so Nel is going to say it πŸ™‚ but it also means there’s an issue you’re probably avoiding and not ready to talk about. Also elephants are cute. If an elephant could somehow fit itself in my room, I would cuddle it.
  • Plenty of fish in the sea/ocean – means there are 9+ billion people on this planet so there’s someone for everyone when it comes to dating. Also means that even though you may have missed this opportunity, there will always be other ones. (You’re awesome remember?)

Do you use idioms in your daily life? Do you use them in a differently than the common interpretation? Do you question where these silly sayings come from like I do? Let me know in the comments below! I would love to add more phrases into my blogging loaf. (Trail of breadcrumbs are pointing down in case you didn’t see them :P)


Happily married, bookaholic, Netflix-a-holic sharing random experiences and interpretations of my world which is brutally honest most of the time.

Latest posts by Nel (see all)

Share today's tale:

50 thoughts on “Those Phrases

    1. Nel Post author

      That’s true. I haven’t heard that one in a long while. Is there a substitute that’s more up to date? Or do we all just say what we really mean in that case, hahaha

  1. updownflight

    Hi Nel. I know and use all of those idioms. Using idioms is very common in the speech of the people from my area (NJ/NY/PA). I remember when I taught English as a Second Language and/or had conversations with non-native speakers I had to be very careful to avoid using them. That, or I took the opportunity to teach them the idioms.

    I have always had a special affection for “Bee’s Knees”. I happen to use it to describe my psychiatrist. I think it originated from the fact that bees will have pollen and maybe nectar on their legs and these are used for food, and some is eventually used to make honey. Thus, sweetness and excellence on their knees.

    I have called my psychiatrist “Bee’s knees” in reviews that he’s read. He definitely knew I wrote it. since he knows I adore him. Once I even sent him a card with a bee pictured with forsythia. It read simply “You’re the best”. I wonder if he made the connection.

    1. Nel Post author

      I had a feeling it had something to do with honey on the legs I just never connected those dots. Sweetness and excellence. I believe he probably did make the connection! I would have if I was him.
      That’s a good point to avoid using idioms around non native speakers so you don’t confuse them more considering the English language is already complicated enough!

  2. LizScanlon

    Oh, I loooove idioms! Just love ’em!
    My problem is though.. English isn’t my first language and sometimes I say Estonian sayings/idioms translated into English and people are like- wtf! πŸ˜€ hahaha… so I have to always explain but it’s good fun! That’s a cool post… I think I actually posted something in my blog a long time back about sayings I get funny looks for in Ireland… hmm…

    1. Nel Post author

      Ooooh! If you find that post, please share the link! I would love to read that! And possibly steal some of them to use in real life because that’s just the type of person that I am, hahaha

  3. cwhiteweb

    I’ve always been a sucker for idioms, especially the more sarcastic ones (cause I can be an arse by choice at times haha)
    – I’ve always been fond of “bee’s knees”
    – Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes
    – Aren’t you just a ray of sunshine
    – waking up all bright eyed and bushy tailed

    These are some of my favourite idioms :-D. What are yours?

    1. Nel Post author

      “by choice sometimes πŸ˜› HAHAHA (love you!) I like using “it’s not rocket surgery” and I say “calling it a day almost every day” but I also like:
      – best of both worlds
      – birds of a feather
      – costs an arm and two legs
      – ignorance is bliss
      -you live and you learn and then you die

        1. Nel Post author

          Well you can view it as a reminder but I live to live cause I never know when I’m going to die. Live the day like it’s your last! See? There’s another one

          1. cwhiteweb

            Hahaha but that can also be classified as the worst advice to give anyone! People who live like today is their last basically live like hobos. Squander all today, tomorrow will take care of itself. Next thing, tomorrow, he has no food to eat πŸ˜…

          2. Nel Post author

            See I’ve never heard that before. And what’s wrong with living like a hobo? I’ve met some cool hobos! In Maui anyway lmao

          3. Nel Post author

            That idiom should have made my list. Definitely depends on how you look at it. My glass is not allowed to be half empty. I won’t allow it 😁

          4. Nel Post author

            Girl, I have ALL kinds of determination and then some! (hahahah we can just pause and marvel at how our whole conversation is one long idiom?)

          5. Nel Post author

            Indeed we are. newepicauthor just beat us though with his horse idioms. You have to read that comment!

  4. newepicauthor

    I love idioms and I have noticed that a lot of them deal with horses. You shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, I got it straight from the horse’s mouth, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink, beating a dead horse, strong as a horse, work like a horse, eat like a horse, I am so hungry I could eat a horse, you put the cart before the horse, you bet on or are backing the wrong horse, you locked the barn door after the horse was gone, get off your high horse, hold your horses, back the horse up, an unleashed horse, wild horses couldn’t drag me away, don’t change horses in midstream, I feel like I’ve been kicked by a horse, quit horsing around, he was put out to pasture, he is chomping at the bit, he is hung like a stallion, he doesn’t have any horse sense, horse feathers and crew you and the horse you rode in on.

    1. Nel Post author

      Omg. There’s a reason epic is in your name because that was seriously epic. And you’re right! I never even noticed that! What would be your reasoning as to why you think?

    1. Nel Post author

      Thanks Linda. The breadcrumbs bit at the end was pointed at you πŸ˜‰ I was going to be blatant about it with a “coughlindacough” but then the idiom popped into my head, haha! I don’t think you can push me away even if you tried!

      1. mainepaperpusher

        Haha, then we are stuck with each other, cause you’re not getting away, either! You know, we could do a hell of a dual post. Of course, you may not want to after you read the snark post.

        1. Nel Post author

          LOVED IT! I laughed so hard I got the curious-george-wtf-sort-of-stink-eye-cause-he-doesn’t get-it-look from my husband!
          If we did a dual post I think we would have to place a disclaimer at the beginning and the end of it along the lines of “if you are eating or drinking anything you might want to stop in case you choke or liquid spews out from many orifices. Also, you should probably be sitting down, or better yet laying down. It’s a high probability you’ll breathe better by doing so”

          1. Nel Post author

            I have a story about that but I’m sure you already figured that out in your mind’s eye πŸ˜‰

          2. mainepaperpusher

            By the way, I love the the “curious-george-wtf-sort-of-stink-eye-cause-he-doesn’t get-it-look from my husband!” Obviously, my job is done. Dual post is definitely on the table.

  5. theorangutanlibrarian

    hehehe I love idioms- especially “the elephant in the room”! And “raining cats and dogs”! Gosh I use them all the time, but can never think of any off the top of my head when I’m asked- it’s like my brain’s taking a nap πŸ˜‰

    1. Nel Post author

      Hahaha! Check out the comment by newepicauthor. He came up with a paragraph of horse idioms! I can’t even keep up with that impressiveness!

  6. Cherylene

    Good read Nel. You took me back with some of them. A popular one here in Trinidad and Tobago is “crab in barrel mentality” which basically translates to always climbing over others to get ahead. Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

  7. Pingback: 7 emerging genres in fiction writing – redesign life

  8. Pingback: Mystery Blogger Award #2 – Reactionary Tales

Your comments are awesome in the box below!

%d bloggers like this: