Idioms are an integral part of any language. They displayed all — the country’s history, the history of language, various cultural events and the attitude of the speaker to it. English is no exception. There are dictionaries, which contains idioms, and they, by the way, there are more than 15,000 in the English; Professor exploring these wonderful figures of speech, and English language learners pore over them, trying to remember their shape and meaning.
I often hear the question: how necessary knowledge and use in the study of English idioms? I have another question: how often idioms in their native language you use? Some would say that well do without them, but the truth is that most of these expressions is so ingrained in the language that in many cases we do not realize that they are idiomatic. No idea; sleep without the hind legs; hang up his nose; intimate conversation — and many other expressions make our speech more vivid, emotional and exciting for the interlocutor. Similarly, in the English language.
But today I would like to elaborate on other issues. Each time, meeting new and new idioms, you at least for a moment could become curious where they came from? After all, every word has to be the story, therefore, each idiom must have its origin. Some of them have been put into the language of writers, others find their origin in the Bible, and others came from other languages such as French and Latin, for example. But whatever the history of their origin, I hope, after reading some of them, you look at the eyes of other idioms, and they do not seem you more complex or confusing.
Let’s get started.
- To face the music — to pay for their actions, to disentangle the mess.
The history of the idiom is very simple and finds its origin in the British Army. The fact that every military court accompanied by a military band playing, so the accused had to face not only with the charges, but with the sounds of drums. Hence the expression «to meet the music» or to face the music.
When the jewellery disappeared he decided to run away rather than face the music. — After the jewels have disappeared, he decided to flee rather than to disentangle porridge.
- It’s raining cats and dogs — cats and dogs.
There are many assumptions about the origin of this idiom. In some of them hard to believe, others perhaps were invented by amateurs of colorful stories, I offer you a third option. In the distant 1500s, when up to modern architecture was still very far away, roofs covered with a thick layer of straw, which makes them particularly attractive place for cats, dogs and other small animals (probably due to the fact that this material is more likely to retain heat ). During heavy rains, the animals sometimes slips and fell down, and the British began to associate with heavy rain falling cats and dogs, hence the expression it’s raining cats and dogs.
I will stay at home! The weather is terrible! Just look, it’s raining cats and dogs. — I’m staying home! Weather disgusting! Look, it’s pouring.
- To be in the black — to be in the black, have no debts.
- To be in the red — suffer losses.
The origin of these two idioms is directly related to the use of red and black ink in the balance sheet. Counting debt and income of their clients, accountants are highlighted in red the first, leaving the black in the second. Thus, the red color and in particular the expression to be in the red has become associated with a difficult financial situation or the presence of debt, while to be in the black meant the opposite.
Being in the red I had to put off the purchase of a car. — I had to postpone buying cars due to problems with finances.
From the very beginning our company was in the black. — From the very beginning our company has been profitable.
- To be worth one’s salt — knowingly receiving a salary; not for nothing that eats bread.
Although today the salt is one of the cheapest products on the supermarket shelves in the history of mankind there have been periods when the salt was equal to gold. Even before the appearance of various preservatives that preserve products for a longer time, salt was the only method available, which makes it indispensable. Thus «to be worthy of salt» or to be worth one’s salt was a recognition of the importance of human rights.
A shop assistant is not worth his salt if you can not consult him about the product chosen. — Shop assistant knowingly receives his salary, if he can not advise you with respect to the chosen product you.
- (Give / get) the cold shoulder — cold / indifferent treat.
In order to understand the origin of this idiom, we have little understanding of the intricacies of cooking. In English, the word shoulder in addition to our usual values - «leverage» is just another translation — «the blade of the carcass.» Now imagine that in England welcome the guests were usually served hot, freshly cooked meal. How then welcomed uninvited guests? British, apparently, could not afford to leave them very hungry, so they served a cold mutton shoulder blade — cold mutton shoulder.
I really needed his advice, but he has given me the cold shoulder. — I needed his advice, but he has shown complete indifference to me.
- To live from hand to mouth — could hardly make ends meet; live from hand to mouth.
During the Great Depression, and in the other years of economic instability, people often do not know when the next time they fall into the hands of a complete meal. That is why, literally, anything edible that came to hand, immediately send in your mouth — from hand to mouth. As you can see, the negative expression of the painting is preserved to this day.
They lived from hand to mouth, never knowing when the next meal was coming. — They lived from hand to mouth, not knowing when the next time will be able to eat.
- (To give / to receive) a clean bill of health — to be healthy.
To understand how this is the case with this idiom, let’s first understand the one what is the Bill of Health or «quarantine / health certificate.» This document, which in the 19th century was to get each ship, before heading out to sea. Thus, the «clean bill of health» or a clean bill of health, to issue, if the team is healthy, and not on the ship or in the port there is no trace of infectious diseases. Today, the expression clean bill of health has lost its original meaning and are no longer associated with any official document or infectious diseases, means only one thing — that we are absolutely healthy.
I’ve been on a sick leave for the last two weeks, and the doctor has finally given me a clean bill of health. — I have two weeks at the hospital, and finally the doctor said that I was completely healthy.
- Let your hair down — relax at ease.
I think that this idiom is especially close to our readers, and here’s why. Back in the 17th century, women wore a variety of hairstyles, collecting and zakalyvaya hair. In the evening, in a calm and relaxed atmosphere, the usual procedure was blooming and combing hair. Now, however, the expression of let your hair down has been used in a slightly different meaning.
I had extremelly hard day at work and need to let my hair down now. — I was terribly hard day at work and now I need to relax.
- Wear one’s heart on one’s sleeve — not be able to contain their emotions; soul wide open.
It is likely that this expression is reflected in the medieval tradition of knightly tournaments. It is believed that the knights show their devotion to the lady of the heart, tying belt, presented to it, on the sleeve. Thus, they are literally «worn heart on my sleeve.» Today we use the idiom, talking about a man who openly shows his emotions.
She never hides her emotions, one look at her and you know how she feels. She really wears her heart on her sleeve. — She never hides his emotions, one look — and you will understand how she feels. Her soul wide open.
Talking about the origin of idioms can be infinite, finding more and more interesting and funny stories. My main goal is to show you that the terms in which at first glance there is no logic, it miraculously acquire, if you look at them more closely. This, perhaps, is one of the secrets of successful learning any foreign language — ask yourself «why?» And try to find the answer. I hope that the stories that I have offered you help to remember and learn some idioms, and most importantly inspire you to your own poiski.strong