An Idiom, or a “saying” is a phrase that isn’t supposed to be taken literally. Often an idiom means something completely different to what you think it does. Idioms, and the way that they are understood, are often unique to a country or language. To help you understand your new Australian friends and colleagues a little better here is an explanation of 15 commonly used idioms in Australia.
1. Beat around the bush
When someone takes ages to say something and doesn’t get to the point they have “beaten around the bush”.
E.g. “Sam: I hate your shoes
Max: You certainly don’t beat around the bush do you!”
2. Barking up the wrong tree
This means that you have come to the wrong place for information, or you are asking the wrong person.
E.g. “Caitlin: Hi Ben, when are our applications due for placement?
Ben: I have no idea Caitlin, you’re barking up the wrong tree.”
3. Don’t give up your day job
If you’re not very good at something someone might say “Don’t give up your day job.”, this infers that you’re not good enough at something to do it for a living.
E.g. “You haven’t hit one pin and we’ve been bowling for hours! don’t give up your day job!”
4. Feeling under the weather
This just means that you are feeling sick. If you ask someone why they aren’t at Uni and they say that they are “feeling under the weather” they just mean that they are sick.
5. Big note
To “big note” is to talk yourself up or brag. Someone would “big note” by saying “I got the highest score in the exam. I’m the best”. Big noting is generally frowned upon in Australia and modesty is favored.
6. It takes two to tango
When two people are involved in something, or you are trying to point out that there are two sides to something, you can say “it takes two to tango”.
E.g. “You have to consider the things that you’ve done wrong as well. Remember – It takes two to tango.”
7. Hit the nail on the head
To be right about something or do something efficiently is to “hit the nail on the head”. e.g. “Sam hit the nail on the head when he said we need to split this group assignment into parts”.
8. Missed the boat
If you have “missed the boat” you have missed your chance/opportunity or it is too late to do something. e.g.
“Kate: Tickets for Uni ball have sold out.
Harry: Oh no! Looks like I missed the boat on that one.”
9. Piece of cake
When something is easy it was a “piece of cake”. e.g.
“Lucy: Have you finished your assignment yet?
Ben: Yeah, finished last week – it was a piece of cake!”
10. Sitting on the fence
When you can’t make up your mind about something, or can’t choose a side, you are “sitting on the fence”.
E.g. “I’m on the fence about the new Pitbull album. I can’t decide whether I love it or hate it.”
11. Speak of the devil
You might say this when you’re talking about someone and they come into the room, message you or you see a photo of them. e.g. “(Jill walks into the room) Speak of the devil! I was just telling Mary about your new job Jill.”
12. Wouldn’t be caught dead
If you would never do something or wear something you can say that you “wouldn’t be caught dead” doing or wearing that thing. e.g. “That is the ugliest dress I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t be caught dead in it!”
13. On the ball
When you’re energetic, organised, attentive and knowledgeable you’re “on the ball”.
E.g. “Emily’s answered so many questions in class today – she’s really on the ball!”
14. Last straw
When you’ve had enough of something you have “had the last straw”.
E.g. “That’s the last straw, I’m not talking to you anymore sally – you’re too rude.”
15. Hit the road
When someone is going to leave they might say that they are going to “hit the road”. even if they are not driving, someone might say this.
E.g “Alright guys, I’m going to hit the road. See you tomorrow.”
English is a confusing language, but throw in idioms and it becomes even more challenging. If you want help understanding English – why not study in Australia? You can read about our English language courses here.
There are hundreds of English idioms out there. What’s your favorite one?