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Figurative or literary phrases

Figurative or literary phrases
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The English language, chock-full of thousands of words and quirky borrowed phrases, can be mind-boggling. Take idioms, for instance. These common figurative or literary phrases don’t make much sense at face value. But you use idioms all the time – so often that you might not realise you’re weaving them into your conversations at all.

While it’s impossible to tally up the idioms spoken aloud each day, linguists and word nerds at theidioms.com have put together a list of the most common idioms in English-speaking countries. Ready?

Piece of cake

Piece of cake
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What could possibly be easier to tackle than a piece of cake? A “piece of cake” is something that’s so deliciously easy you could do it with your eyes closed. Remember not to mix up this idiom by getting carried away with all the sweet talk. Referring to your to-do list as a “pinch of cake” or “peach of cake” might make you look like you’re not the sharpest tool in the shed.

You’ll also want to avoid these 70 words and phrases most people use all wrong.

 A hot potato

 A hot potato
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Before heading to the supper table at the next family reunion, you might want to make a note to avoid hot potato political talk. In other words, avoid awkward or controversial topics. According to CulinaryLore.com, this 1800s idiom has a simple explanation: Since baked potatoes remain scorching inside long after they’ve been removed from the heat, “people are always very cautious when handling them.”

Here are some slang words from 2019 that we love. 

Once in a blue moon

Once in a blue moon
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When someone says something happens “once in a blue moon,” you know that whatever they’re talking about is a rare occurrence. For example: “When does your eccentric aunt who lives in a log cabin on a mountain come to visit?” “Oh, once in a blue moon.” Believe it or not, blue moons are real astronomical phenomenons, albeit rare ones. A blue moon is the second full moon appearing in one month, and it only occurs once every 2.7 years. Most blue moons still look white, grey or yellow. Once in a very long while, according to NASA, smoke from bushfires or other environmental factors do give the moon a slightly blue tinge.

These 12 synonyms will make you a better writer. 

Bed of roses

Bed of roses
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Often used as an intro to idioms in primary school classrooms, “a bed of roses” takes the cake as one of the easiest figurative phrases to decipher. Let’s use it in a sentence: “The queen’s life is a bed of roses compared to her servant’s.” Part of this idiom’s fun is that it is can also be used to highlight a negative situation. For instance, “Learning a new language isn’t always a bed of roses.”

Raining cats and dogs

Raining cats and dogs
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Close your eyes and imagine the loudest thunderstorm you’ve ever experienced. Does the wind sound like a whining cat? Does the thunder boom like the bark of a giant beast? Perhaps it seems like it’s raining cats and dogs. According to the Library of Congress, the origin of “raining cats and dogs” is still unclear. It’s an ancient idiom that could be rooted in “Norse mythology, medieval superstitions… or dead animals in the streets of Britain being picked up by storm waters.” You might be familiar with a legend that says cats and dogs once fell from their perches on thatched roofs during storms. However, this has been shrugged off as a ridiculous tale. What we do know is that animal-related idioms, from “the dog days of summer” to “cat got your tongue,” are just plain fun to weave into daily dialogue.

Discover the 12 funniest words that were added to the dictionary in the last decade. 

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When pigs fly

When pigs fly
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Imagine a potbelly pig languishing in the mud on a sweltering summer day. That pig is as likely to sprout wings and fly as you are to wring blood from a stone. It just can’t be done! Pigs don’t fly. Hell won’t freeze over. And the sky won’t fall. All these idioms refer to something impossible or highly unlikely.

Learn which real words were invented by accident. 

Devil’s advocate

Devil’s advocate
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According to Merriam-Webster, a devil’s advocate is the “person who champions the less accepted cause for the sake of argument.” That time you argued that we could all learn about dinosaurs from Jurassic Park (one of the most scientifically inaccurate movies of all time)? You were definitely playing devil’s advocate. Sometimes being the devil’s advocate in a debate is fun, but it can be lonely if you know you’re the only one who sees things the way you do.

Miss the boat

Miss the boat
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According to the Bloomsbury International School in London, warning others not to “miss the boat” can be traced back to the early 1900s, when passenger boat travel became more mainstream. Initially, of course, it was a simple instruction not to miss a literal sea vessel. But over time, sailors started using the phrase to describe all missed opportunities. Didn’t get to supper before the food was gone? You missed the boat. Forgot to submit an application to your dream job before the deadline? You missed the boat.

These 10 common sayings sound way funnier in other languages. 

Apple of the eye

Apple of the eye
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Every little baby in the world is the apple of their grandparents’ eyes. The phrase describes someone loved beyond all compare, held above all others around. Sometimes it’s used to describe pets or valuable keepsakes, but “apple of the eye” usually refers to a person. This idiom is one of the oldest, dating back more than 1,000 years. Grammarist.com says the eye’s apple is actually an outdated anatomical term. For years, the “apple of the eye” referred to the pupil, the dark centre of your eye. It makes sense that something kept so close and central – and also something that helps us see our loved ones – became a reference for a treasured item. We still don’t know exactly how and when the phrase evolved into what it is today, but it remains one of the most popular idioms of the English language.

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