05 Nov 2016
What’s an Idiot?
Sorry, what we meant to say was what’s an idiom – but at least we got your attention!
An idiom is yet another quaint feature of English that learners can struggle with, usually because at first glance, they seem to make no sense and, because they’re usually very informal and, can be quite localised.
In fact, there are so many of them – roughly about 7000 according to freedictionary.com
– across British, American and Australian English, so what exactly is an idiom?
Well, let’s start with an example, ‘over the moon’ – it’s one of themes common idioms used wherever English is spoken.
It simply means that the person using it is delighted, for example, ‘I’m over the moon to have got that job.’ But it makes no sense does it? It impossible to get ‘over the moon!’ But that’s why it works – you can’t be any higher, therefore, you’re the happiest you could ever be!
Here’s another one: ‘Back Seat Driver.’
Roughly translated, it means someone who usually gives instructions on a situation that doesn’t concern them and, more often than not, they will criticise too. After all, only one person can drive a car at any one time, and, assuming that they are competent, why would they need any advice?
That’s usually why people get annoyed with ‘back seat drivers’ – they comment on instruct on things that are nothing to do with them.
So the dictionary definition of an idiom is: a group of words that in a particular order have a meaning that’s different (or predictable) from each word on its own.
As you progress through your journey to learn English, whether it be through what you read and write, the conversations you have with other people, or indeed the lessons you use from Sounds English, you’ll come across idioms.
Some will be funny, some will be nonsensical (‘bite your tongue’ anyone?), some will be serious and some will baffle you right from the start and you won’t know what they are, but they all convey a meaning.
Once you start using them, you’ll not stop.
There are plenty of resources on the web, and, as we’ve previously mentioned, you can even buy Idiom Dictionaries from your favourite retailer.
What would your favourite idiom be? For this article, at least, ‘Elvis has left the building’ – until next time!
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