You’ll learn 5 English idioms during this conversation practice tutorial. Idioms are one of the most fun and interesting aspects of American English. And when you learn the idioms in this kind of a context—a natural conversation—you’re learning will be deeper and more permanent.
YouTube blocked? Click here to see the video.
Hey guys! Welcome to another episode of Idioms We Heard This Week. Today, we’re going to discuss some real idioms that we heard and used this week.
David, you thought of a great one. Now, this isn’t really an idiom, but it’s an interesting way to use a word. So, so many words in American English have different uses, different meanings, and one of them is ‘waffle’. What do you think of when you hear the word ‘waffle’?
I think of delicious breakfast.
Oh I thought of crappy frozen Eggo breakfast.
Okay, so it can be homemade and delicious it can be less good and frozen, but a lot of people probably think first of the food.
You think first in food.
But then you used it in a different way this week.
Right. So I used it to say equivocating, right? Going back and forth.
That’s a hard word, yeah, let’s use a simpler word.
Going back and forth about something.
Unsure about what decision to make.
So we were talking about potty training with Stoney who’s two years and four months and it’s time to do it.
Time to do it.
But I was waffling, I was feeling like, yes, it’s time to do it but, oh, it’s going to be so hard maybe we can put it off for a little bit. And do we do it for the nighttime potty training at the same time?
Right, which method do you use?
Right. So I know in my heart that it’s time but also I wish it wasn’t and so I was waffling a little bit. I was going back and forth.
He was waffling.
Now another thing that has been a phenomenon sort of recently is the idea of waffling something.
Can you waffle it? Do you know what I’m talking about?
It’s like putting all sorts of different foods in a waffle iron.
-To see what happens.
-I did not that’s a thing.
That’s a thing. Okay, I’m going to put a link to that, okay, in the description below. I’m very sure I can find a video of someone putting weird things in a waffle iron. A waffle iron is the kitchen appliance that you use to make waffles at home.
Another word like that where it’s a single word, single spelling, but it has lots of different ways it’s used is the word ‘smart’. And I was thinking about, so we’re watching the NBA playoffs, by the time this goes live, perhaps a champion will have been declared already, but it’s still playoff time now. And this player’s for the Celtics, right?
Boston Celtics, and his last name is smart. And we were watching the game a couple nights ago and something happened. He kind of got knocked to the ground. It looked like it hurt. And I said: oh that’s got to smart. Which is hilarious because his last name is smart.
But what that means is if something smarts, I think it can be both physical and emotional, don’t you?
So if it smarts, like, let’s say you scrape your knee on cement and it stings, that smarts.
But also something can smart like if you run into your ex-boyfriend with his new girlfriend that might smart, that might hurt emotionally.
It’s a little bit of an ouch. Or an ‘Ooh, that stings.’
Stings, that’s a good way, physically and emotionally, to describe it.
It has another meaning completely unrelated which I think of when I think of the way someone dresses.
– Like a smart dresser.
I would say, clean lines, simple, chic, sophisticated. Any other words you would use for that?
You got it.
Yeah, so smart can be used a couple different ways.
An idiom that I heard this week, I was talking with my friend who was talking about his wife and he was saying how she does most of the parenting in their family. And he used the phrase ‘she does the lion’s share’ of the parenting. And I thought good idiom. ‘The lion’s share’ is the majority of. So, let’s say you’re working on a project but the other people, they’re too busy, they’re not really focused on it, you end up doing the lion’s share of the work and you hope that your professor notices because you want to get credit for that.
The lion’s share. The majority.
David, can you think of any other idioms with lion?
So I thought of another one which is ‘into the lion’s den’ and so we use that to say that you’re going into a hostile environment in one way or another.
So maybe you know that you’re going to do a presentation at work with the knowledge that it’s kind of, you’re pushing things, or you’re not, you’re pretty sure it’s going to be not well-received, you would say…
Is it with the bosses who are a little bit standoffish and difficult to get around?
So you might say to a friend the night before: Yeah, I’m headed into a lion’s den with this one.
Or back to sports.
We talk about home court advantage in the in the NBA playoffs.
And so the Sixers were in Boston and it was like being in a lion’s den. They were taunting and being merciless and really jeering and just being, just really, really harsh.
So the Sixers were in the lion’s den.
A hostile environment.
-They’re in a lion’s den.
So, I’m in a Facebook group and someone was… posted something saying someone just told me I had a chip on my shoulder and to be funny she took a picture of herself with a Pringle chip on her shoulder and she was like: how’s this for a chip on your shoulder?
So when someone has a chip on their shoulder it means that…oh, it’s hard to explain. Uhm someone might think they have a bad attitude about something. What would you say?
– Well that’s…
– Has history with something?
If you have a chip on your shoulder, you have an agenda, you have a really strong, maybe over the top focus on what you’re doing?
See, that is not how I would describe that.
If have a chip on your shoulder?
Yeah, I think of it as being someone who because of something that happened in the past, they have a negative…they’re coming into a situation with a negative experience, with a little bit of like an aggressive edge and someone could say she has a chip on her shoulder, what’s her problem?
Yeah. Mm-hmm. So coming into it, really focused on: I’m going to do better this time or I’m going to…I’m going to make a different impression this time. A little, like you come off too strong.
Okay. Definitely not easygoing.
And definitely like you’re coming into a situation carrying baggage from a past situation.
And also maybe it’s a way to say it is you’re coming into a situation making a lot of assumptions about how it’s going to go.
You know, you’re coming into the…into a meeting with a chip on your shoulder. You’re coming in, sort of: I know how this is going to go so I’m on edge, and the first moment that I see: yeah, I knew it was going to go that way. I’m jumping on that theme and going with it.
So let’s try to come up with like a concrete example of this. Let’s say that your coworker was left off of a project that she wanted to be on but she didn’t get put on the team. And a couple months later it’s a new meeting and we’re deciding who’s going to work on what projects she comes in being really aggressive about what she wants to work on. And it might seem like she has a chip on her shoulder from the last time she got left off the team.
Yeah. Chip on her shoulder.
Okay, here’s one that I used recently. I was getting my taxes done and I have a great accountant, Sarah, we love her. But she asked me to review the tax return that she had prepared and I mean, the reason why I had her do it was because I don’t understand it at all. So she said: will you review this before I turn it in? And I said: Sarah I will read it over and I will review it, but it’s all Greek to me.
What does that mean?
It might as well be in a completely different language that you don’t understand it all.
If something’s all Greek to you, that means you don’t get it at all. Not even a little bit. It might as well be Greek. As someone who doesn’t speak Greek, my taxes might as well be in Greek.
Now if you were from Greece and you were in America, and you said that idiom, it’d be pretty funny because it would no longer have the meaning.
Okay the last idiom that I can think of that we heard this week is ‘pushing buttons’.
This is a good one.
Do you remember when that came up?
Yeah. Stoney and the dishwasher. And he’s been in a terrible two kind of a phase.
We use that phrase in American English: Terrible Twos, because it’s this difficult phase of constantly pushing boundaries and constantly just…
-Looking and prodding and…
Yeah he’s constantly saying ‘no’ right now and so he’s been getting under our skin a lot.
Another good one.
Another good one.
Love the kid but he gets under your skin when he’s constantly screaming ‘no’, throwing a fit having a meltdown.
Yes. So go ahead with pushing buttons.
So he likes to push the buttons on our dishwasher and sometimes it turns on and it’s a mess and it’s not full or whatever he screws it up. And so he was pushing the buttons and David asked him not to. So of course he kept doing it and David said: Oh, you really know how to push buttons. And it was a double meaning because Stoney was literally pushing the buttons but what it really meant was: you know how to do something that bothers me.
To provoke me, to get under my skin.
To kind of be annoying on purpose.
Just to test the boundaries.
Push your buttons.
Yeah, that’s right.
So guys, that’s it for Idioms We Heard This Week. Is there an idiom that you heard that you need help defining? Put it in the comments below. Also, I think this series with David doesn’t just have to be about idioms.
We can open it up to other questions. Do you have a question about American culture or something like that? Feel free to ask! The other thing I wanted to say was this format of this more conversational video with David has grown out of the podcast that we did in 2017. We have about 25 episodes and those are all available on iTunes. You can get them on my website. They’re a great place to go to study idioms and we talked about lots of things there, our travels, we talked about pronunciation, of course. So please feel free to check out rachelsenglish.com/podcast and that’s it for now. We look forward to seeing your questions. That’s it and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English!