American Idioms

Here are some of the idioms I learned from my colleagues and friends.

You snooze you loose

Clear as mud

more ... than you can shake a stick at

Meaning an abundance, plenty.
There are more datetime formats in use in the computing world than you can shake a stick at.

Playing hooky

(thanks John)
Used to mean skipping schools. But now it's used to mean any kind of skipping.

How's your new digs?

Asking how is your new place.

Can't draw blood from a stone/turnip

Meaning useless effort usually financially.

Strike the iron while it's hot

Jump the gun

Do something too soon without thinking too carefully about it. For example, I jumped the gun when I sent out that email without thinking.

A chip off the old block

Meaning a kid resembles his/her parents

Splitting hairs

Argue over trivial. In Chinese, they say "picking bones in tofu".

the long pole in the tent

It means the most difficult part of a process, or the thing that takes the most time. (Courtesy of Kristene)

Wouldn't poke it with a ten foot pole

When you really, really don't want something, you say you wouldn't poke it with a ten foot pole. In Chinese, you say one wouldn't poke a hornet's nest with a pole or tong ma feng wo. (Courtesy of Joe)

No money no dice

Related to casino environment. If you have no money, you can't roll dice. (Courtesy of Joe)

Kiss (Keep it simple stupid)

In Chinese, we say nong qiao cheng zhu(????) meaning one made fool of oneself tring to be a smarty pant. (Courtesy of Joe)

Does a bear shit in the woods?

Refer to something obvious. Dah! (Courtesy of Joe)

Is the pope catholic?

Dah! (Courtesy of Joe)

HHIC: hit honcho in charge

(Courtesy of Joe)

Proof is in the pudding

Secret in the source

A little bird told me

If you don't want to tell someone where you got the information, you tell him/her that a little bird told me. (Courtesy of Joe)

From soup to nuts

Full course dinner.

Going under bender

(Courtesy of Joe)

Right church wrong pew

Close but not quite right (Courtesy of Joe)

Make up a tree and leave

(Courtesy of Joe)

Off like a dirty shirt

(Courtesy of Joe)

Way off the left field

(Courtesy of Joe)

Don't rain on my parade

(Courtesy of Joe)

Take the bull by the horn

(Courtesy of Joe)

Mercy rule

(Courtesy of Bryan)

Beats the shit out of me

(Courtesy of Bryan)

Any dog has his day

(Courtesy of Bryan)

Wrap around the axle

Wrap around the finger

(Courtesy of Joe)

He is not the sharpest knife in the drawer

(Courtesy of Joe)

Great googly moogly

Arranging deck chairs on a sinking ship

(Courtesy of Joe)

Fiddle while rome burns (Nero did that)

(Courtesy of Joe)

Three sheets to the wind

When someone is really drunk(Courtesy of Bryan)

Nail jelly to the wall

(Courtesy of Kristene)

Pushing noodle up the hill

(Courtesy of Kristene)

Rearranging the death chair

(Courtesy of Kristene)

Keep your eyes peeled

(Courtesy of John)

Keep your fingers in the pie

Keep a few irons in the fire

Out of thin air

Out of wazoo

(Courtesy of Bryan)

Sharp cookie (very smart)

(Courtesy of Joe)

Free boat (get it for free)

(Courtesy of Joe)

Whole nine yards

Whole ball of wax

A blind squirrel finds a nut

(Courtesy of Joe)

It makes about much sense as blind men driving

(Courtesy of Joe)

Blind leading the blind

(Courtesy of Joe)

Shooting fish in a barrel

(Courtesy of Joe)

Slam dunk

Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey

(Courtesy of Bryan)

Going to hell in a handbasket

(Courtesy of Joe)

Don't pull mask off the lone ranger

(Courtesy of Joe)

Pissing contest

(Courtesy of Bryan)

Don't piss into the wind

(Courtesy of Joe)

Thick as a pea soup

(Courtesy of John)

Close but no cigar

(Courtesy of Joe)

It's a slow boat to China

Up the shit creek without a paddle

(Courtesy of Joe)

Pretty penny

She's burning the candle at both ends

He's pulling the wool over her eyes

He's leading you up the garden path

I've got a bone to pick with you

I can smell a rat

They paid through the nose for it

He has turned over a new leaf

Tango Uniform

Yank your chain

Pushing a rope

Grin and bear it

Pass the buck

Pass on a counterfeit to another person

American Football Related

* Throw a hail Mary: throw a last minute desperate ball hoping it will result in a touchdown. (Courtesy of Brice)
* Drop back ten and punt: When you want to start over with a positive attitude. (Courtesy of Joe)


FNG: F* New Guy
SNAFU: Situation Now All F*ed Up
FUBAR: F*ed Up Beyond All Recognition
PEBKAC: problem exists between keyboard and chair

Slang Web Sites

Slang City

3 Responses to American Idioms

  1. Rick says:

    think you have a type. The saying is ‘strike while the iron is hot’ (not ion). It refers to when a blacksmith is making something and the iron (metal for making a tool, horse shoe, etc). is heated up. You have to hit it with hammer (strike) while its hot or you won’t be able to flatten the meta.


  2. grammarmaven says:

    Great list!

    Some small corrections:
    You snooze, you lose.
    Wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.
    Make like a tree and leave. (old-fashioned. Something our grandparents might say — if they were being rude.)

    A few of your translations are not exactly correct, but they’re close.

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