Why does English have so many idiomatic expressions?
There are thousands of idioms, occurring frequently in all languages, but it is estimated that there are at least twenty-five thousand idiomatic expressions in the English language. A long way to go!
To ride in the front passenger seat of a vehicle, next to the driver. From the wild wild west days, riding shotgun was used to describe the guard who rode alongside a stagecoach driver, ready to use his shotgun to ward off bandits.
- Riding Shotgun with Tupper: Lunch with Lou and Illini hoops
- ‘Riding Shotgun With Brevard County Sheriff’s Office’ Features AG …
Flying off the handle
Becoming enraged suddenly and unexpectedly.Refers to the uncontrolled way a loose axe-head flies off from its handle.
Let the cat out of the bag
Reveal a secret carelessly or by mistake. Historically, a common street fraud included replacing valuable pigs with less valuable cats and selling them in bags. When a cat was let out of a bag, the game was up.
Another possible origin could be that The ‘Cat’ referenced is the ‘Cat O’ Nine Tails. This was a whip stored in a leather bag aboard sailing vessels. Talking about something that should be kept secret would be described as not letting the cat of the bag.
Bite the bullet
Decide to do something difficult or unpleasant that you have been putting off or hesitating over. Patients would literally bite on a bullet to cope with the pain of having surgery before anaesthesia was common. Apparently.
- Chelsea: Bite the bullet and use Thibaut Courtois for one last season
- In fighting graft, we must bite the bullet or hang separately
- Microsoft: Just bite the bullet, release Surface Andromeda
- ‘Pay the money’ – These Celtic fans want club to bite the bullet on …
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water
To discard something valuable while disposing of something considered worthless. The phrase is often used as a warning against thoughtless behaviour. This idiom allegedly comes from a time when the household bathed in the same water; first, the lord would bathe, then the men, the lady, the women, the children, and the babies last. The bath water is said to have been so dirty that there was a risk of throwing the baby out with the water once everyone was done bathing.
Turn a blind eye
To pretend not to notice. This is said to originate with Admiral Horatio Nelson, who allegedly looked through his telescope using his blind eye to avoid acknowledging signals from his superior telling him to withdraw from battle. I want this one to be true!