English Phrases,
English Idioms and Expressions

"S" through "T"

Below on this page you see a partial listing of English idioms and expressions and American phrases beginning with letters "S" and "T".


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"S" through "T" begins here:
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Sacrificial lamb

Something or someone (that can easily be discarded) used in order to serve a more important purpose.

When someone says: Johnny’s a sacrificial lamb, they mean something like:
He’s not important to them.
They’ll get rid of him when necessary.
They’ll sacrifice him to save themselves when the time comes.

Also:
Fall guy.
Being set up.
Being left high and dry.

Compare to:
Deep-sixing.
Being framed.
Taking the fall.
Selling someone down the river.
Throwing someone under the bus.

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Safety net

A back up plan in case something goes wrong.

Q. You have no contract, no insurance, no retirement, nothing! What are you doing?
A. What can I say? I love working without a safety net!

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Same old, same old

There’s nothing new.
Everything is the same.
Everything is as boring as ever.

Q. Hey, how’s life treating you?
A. Oh, you know. Same old, same old.

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Save it for later.

Save it.
We’ll talk (or do something) about it later.

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Saved by the bell
Sports

Saved or helped by something unexpectedly, somewhat similar to being saved by the bell at the end of a class in school.

Background:
This expression comes from boxing. Imagine that a boxer is about to get knocked out or knocked down, but is saved by the bell at the end of the round.

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Saving face

Saving one’s dignity.
Keeping self-respect.

They know they can’t win, but they’re trying to save face by staying in the race. They don’t want to be completely embarrassed.

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Saving one’s breath

Not wasting one’s time or efforts.

A. Boss, I know you’re busy, but I need to talk to you about a raise.
B. Save your breath. There won’t be any raises this year, not even for me!

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Saving someone’s skin

Saving their job, life, reputation, etc.
Saving them from difficulty, exposure, embarrassment, etc.

A. You know, when you took the responsibility for wrecking the car, you really saved my skin!
B. It’s okay. That’s what friends are for!

Also:
Saving one’s (own) skin.
Saving someone’s hide, neck, or bacon.

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Say it like you mean it.

Say it sincerely.
Show you are sincere.
Say it from the bottom of your heart.

Also: Do it like you mean it.

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Scared sh-tless

Very scared.
(This is not a polite thing to say!)

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Scaring the heck out of someone

This is an exaggerated, but polite, way of saying: Scaring someone.

A. Hey, you really scared the heck out of me.
B. Did I? Oh, I’m so sorry!

The following mean the same thing but are not polite:
Scaring the hell out of someone.
Scaring the bejesus out of someone.
Scaring the sh-t (or crap) out of someone.

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Scoring big
Sports

Winning in a big way.

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Scot free
Scot-free

Free from harm, punishment, penalty, etc.

The bank robbers got away scot free.

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Scraping by

Living with the bare minimum.
Living with difficulty (due to being poor).

I know a number of people who, because of the bad economy, are just scraping by.

Compare to: Living paycheck-to-paycheck.

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Scratching one’s head

Wondering.
Thinking hard.
Trying to understand something, without having much luck.

A. Hank’s behavior at the party left the guests scratching their heads.
B. I’m sure he’s feeling embarrassed now.

Compare to: Raising eyebrows

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Scratching the surface

Not knowing everything yet.
Being at the beginning of a process.

The economy is in trouble and, with the banks beginning to fail, we’re only scratching the surface.

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Scumbag

Low-life.
A low person.
A worthless person.

Also: The scum of the earth, as in:
He stole from his own mother! He is the scum of the earth.

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Second fiddle
Second banana

The supporting (not the main) person or group.

Compare to:
Top banana.

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Second thought

Thinking thoroughly, as in:
I yelled at her too quickly, without giving it a second thought. I should have given the matter more consideration.

Compare to:
On second thought.
Having second thoughts.

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Second to none
Second-to-none

The best.
Number one.
Ahead of everybody else.

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Second-guessing

Criticizing someone or something.
Attempting to anticipate something.
Doubting someone’s action, especially after the results of the action are known.

I’m not here to second-guess anyone. So, let’s just hope that everything will happen as planned.

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See the light of day.

Be free.
Be born.
Become known.
Come into existence.

Q. When are you going to make your movie?
A. The script is ready, but I don’t have the money. I don’t know if it will ever see the light of day.

Q. When is the ex-prime minister going to be freed from prison?
A. He won’t see the light of day for a long time.
Q. What about his chief of security? I understand that she tried to kill herself.
A. Yes, she did, and she went into a coma. After that, she never saw the light of day.

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Seeing eye-to-eye
Seeing eyeball-to-eyeball

Agreeing.
Being in agreement.
Understanding each other.

Q. Do you see eye-to-eye with your wife about anything?
A. Well, we used to, but not anymore!

Also see:
On the same page.
On the same wavelength.

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Seeing red

Being very angry.

Q. Do you think I could ask Ray for a raise?
A. Not a good time! His wife just left him, and he’s only seeing red these days.

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Seeing the big picture

Seeing the overall view.
Understanding the issue in relation to everything else.

You see the cute little umbrella, I see the big picture. Yes, it’s a beautiful umbrella, but it won’t help us when the big storm hits!

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Selling an idea

Making others believe in an idea.

When someone says: I can’t sell my ideas, they mean something like:
People don’t believe in them.
They don’t believe what I’m saying.
I can’t make them interested in my ideas.

Opposite:
Buying an idea.

I am buying this Global Warming theory. I think we should do something about it.

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Selling one’s soul (to the devil)

Doing anything, even immoral things, in return for something the person wants.
Giving up one’s moral principles in return for material wealth or some other desired thing.

Q. How could your friend steal from the kids’ funds? He knows they’re orphans!
A. He must have sold his soul to the devil. He’s not my friend anymore!

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Selling oneself short

Not giving oneself the credit deserved.

A. If I was a bit more handsome, a few inches taller, and a lot younger, I would ask Amy to come and live with me.
B. Oh, come on. You’re selling yourself short. You should give yourself more credit.

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Selling someone down the river

Lying to a friend.
Betraying someone.

When someone says: She’s selling him down the river, they mean something like:
She’s betraying a friend.
She’s lying to him, even though they’re friends.

Compare to:
Sacrificial lamb

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Sense of urgency

When someone says: There’s a sense of urgency about something, they mean:
It is urgent.
It’s an issue with high priority.
It’s something that must be addressed quickly.

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Serves one right.

This is about someone deserving a punishment.

Serves you right, means something like: You deserve what’s happening to you!

They got my son into drugs, and now they’re in jail. Well, it serves them right!

Compare to:
Have it coming.

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Set in stone
Written in stone

Permanent.
Cannot be changed.

A. I promised my friends to go to the party with them. I can’t change my word, Mom!
B. If it’s not written in stone, then you can!

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Setting the record straight

Clarifying misinformation and misconceptions.

Just to set the record straight, I want you to know that so far I haven’t been totally honest with you!

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Settling a suit
Legal

Coming to a mutual agreement without going to trial.

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Seven-year itch

The desire to leave any situation, and move on, after a while.
The desire to experience a new romance after being with one’s spouse for approximately seven years.

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Shake a leg.

Get up.
Hurry up.
Get going.
Get out of bed.

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Shake-up at the top

A rearrangement of the staff at the upper levels of an organization.

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Sharpest knife in the drawer

Smartest person in the group.

Also:
Sharpest tool in the shed.

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She made her bed, and she’s got to lie in it.

She caused the situation, and now she must deal with the consequences.

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She’s all over him like a cheap suit.

She doesn’t leave him alone.
She’s spending too much time with him.

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She’s got to go.
She will be let go.

She will go.
She is supposed to go.
She is supposed to be fired.

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Shell-shocked

Shaken.
Extremely surprised.

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Ship-shape

Everything being in its proper place.

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Shock jock

A radio and/or television personality who shocks audiences with controversial material.

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Shoe in
Shoe-in
Shoo-in

Winner.
Likely winner.
Appropriate candidate.

She’s a shoo-in for the job. I’m sure she’ll get it!

Background:
To shoo-in comes from horse racing and means to direct or guide in a specific direction, maybe even in a “rigged” way.

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Shoe is on the other foot.

Things are the other way around.

I helped him as much as I could when I was the boss. However, if the shoe was on the other foot, I don’t think he would do the same for me.

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Shoot!

Talk.
Talk to me.
I’m listening.
Go ahead, say it.

A. I’ve been meaning to tell you something.
B. Okay, shoot!

Also, an expression of disappointment, as in:

Q. I’m going to watch the game tonight. Do you want to join me?
A. Shoot! I can’t. I have to work tonight.

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Shooting fish in a barrel

A very easy task.

Q. Do you think you can find me an inexpensive, but really nice, house?
A. In this slow market? Sure! It’ll be like shooting fish in a barrel!

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Shooting from the hip
Origin: Military, Sports

Making honest remarks.
Acting or reacting quickly.
Saying things as they come to mind, without thinking about any consequences.

Q. What do you think of our new neighbor?
A. I’ve known him for a long time and I trust him. He shoots from the hip.

Also see:
Calling it like it is.

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Shooting the sh-t

Casual conversation.
Talking about unimportant things, without really thinking.

Also:
Chit-chat. Shooting the breeze.

Also see:
Small talk.

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Shooting yourself in the foot

Hurting yourself.
Getting yourself in trouble.
Making it worse for yourself.

Wait until you have all the facts before accusing your boss, otherwise you could be shooting yourself in the foot.

Compare to:
Putting your foot in your mouth.

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Short list

Any list of the most qualified, favorites, etc.
Short list of candidates, best books, top movies, places to visit, etc.

Q. Am I on your short list?
A. You’re on everybody’s short list! We all want to work with you.

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Short sale
Legal

As used in real estate: Sale of a property at a price less than the amount owed to the bank, where the bank and the seller both lose money, but both agree to do it.

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Shot

Gone.
Messed up.
Screwed up.

My chances of getting a job with the university are shot. I don’t think they’ll hire me.

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Shotgun wedding
Shotgun marriage

A forced marriage.

Related:
Shotgun bride.

Background:
It used to be that if a woman got pregnant without being married, her father, or other male relatives, would force the man who impregnated her to marry her. In some places this still happens.

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Should something happen

Should it happen means If it happens, as in:
Should it rain, the roof will leak.
Should you see her, please say hello for me.

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Shouting down

Keeping someone from speaking by shouting.

When someone says: They shouted me down, they mean: They shouted so loudly that I couldn’t continue speaking; nobody could hear me!

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Shovel-ready
Political

Ready to be started.
A project wherein all of the planning and scheduling has already been done.
A project wherein all that needs to be done is to hire the workers to get started.

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Shying away from something or someone

Avoiding them.
Staying away from them.
Trying not to deal with them.

She shied away from the reporters and instead retired to her room to reflect on the ordeal.

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Significant other

One’s spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend.

A. I hear that you have a new significant other.
B. Oh, yes, and she’s a lot more significant than you think!

Also:
Better half (primarily refers to one’s spouse).

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Signing on the dotted line
Legal

Agreeing to do something.
Taking the final step in making a commitment.

Have you signed on the dotted line yet? If you have, it’s too late to change your mind.

Before you sign on the dotted line, please consider everything carefully.

He keeps saying that he wants my car, but he hasn’t signed on the dotted line yet!

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Silent treatment

Getting or receiving the silent treatment has to do with being ignored on purpose, as in:

Q. Why wasn’t your wife talking to you today?
A. Ever since we had our latest argument, I’ve been receiving the silent treatment!

Opposite:
Giving the silent treatment.

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Silver bullet

A special solution.
A magical solution.
A solution that would solve all sorts of problems.

A. We’re facing a lot of problems. We need a silver bullet.
B. This is too complicated. There ARE no silver bullets for this!

Also:
Magic bullet.

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Silver lining

A hidden, good thing.
There’s a silver lining to high gas prices: public awareness. People are finally becoming aware of some important issues.

Also see:
Blessing in disguise.

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Silver spoon

Sign of being rich.

When someone says: He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, they mean something like: Let’s face it, he’s been rich since he was born!

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Silver tongue(d)

A liar.
A great, persuasive speaker.
One who’s good at using one’s speaking ability!

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Sin City

This is a nickname for the City of Las Vegas.

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Singing the blues

Feeling sad.
Complaining.
Talking about one’s problems.

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Sinking in

Becoming clear.
Penetrating the mind.

I can see now why she never returned my calls. It’s finally beginning to sink in!

Also:
Kicking in.

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Sitting duck
Military, Sports

An easy target.
An easy victim.

You know they’re looking for you. You have to ask for police protection or something. Instead, here you are, like a sitting duck, doing nothing!

Compare to:
Clay pigeon.
Moving target.

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Sitting on one’s hands

Doing nothing, especially if some action is needed or expected.

Every once in a while, I see her, sitting on her hands, even as everyone else is working hard.

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Sitting something out

Not doing something. Sitting, instead of participating, through something, as in:

When someone says: I’m sitting this dance out, they mean: I won’t be dancing this round.

Attending an entire event, as in:

When someone says: I’m sitting this lecture out, they mean: I will stay throughout the lecture.

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Sitting well

Being accepted.

The new proposal by the Democrats won’t sit well with the Republicans. They don’t like it and won’t accept it.

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Six-pack

A pack of six cans or bottles, such as beer or soda.

Related:
When someone says: Steve Reeves had a perfect six-pack, they mean something like: He was in excellent physical shape because his ab muscles looked like a six-pack.

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Size matters.

It’s important whether something is big or small!
(Usually this has a sexual connotation.)

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Skeletons in one’s closet

Terrible secrets.
Bad things from one’s past that are hidden.

A. I don’t like it when they ask all of those questions in an interview.
B. Why? Are you hiding some skeletons in your closet that I should know about?

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Skin game
Origin: Sports

An operation involving trickery.
A casual game where the members of one team are not wearing shirts. (Women don’t usually participate in such a game!)

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Slap on the wrist

A light punishment.

Q. They gave him only two years in jail for burning down a house. Isn’t that ridiculous?
A. Yes! That’s just a slap on the wrist!

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Sleeping on it

Thinking about something (overnight).
Taking one’s time to think about something.

Q. Can I give you my answer in a few days?
A. Sure. I don’t want you to rush. Sleep on it and let me know when you’re ready.

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Slim pickins

Nothing much.
Not much to choose from.

Q. Did you find anything?
A. Well, I checked the store. There were slim pickins there!

Background:
As used in the above context, slim pickins probably comes from slim pickings.

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Slipping through the cracks
Falling through the cracks

Being missed.
Being overlooked.

Something happening that (if rules are followed) shouldn’t happen.

We were searching everywhere looking for your package, but it slipped through the cracks and got shipped. Nobody noticed it until it was too late! I’m sorry.

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Small potatoes

Not important.
Of little importance compared to something else.

Q. Did you ever get hired to do the school construction project?
A. We didn’t even apply. It was small potatoes. We’re doing bigger projects instead.

Also:
Not worth writing home about.

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Small talk

Unimportant conversation.

Also:
Chit-chat.
Shooting the breeze.

Also see:
Shooting the sh-t.

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Smart as a whip

Very smart.

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Smelling blood

Ready to fight.
Ready to take advantage (of a weakness).

When someone says: They’re smelling blood, they mean something like: They’re getting ready to destroy us, or get rid of us, or kill us, etc.

Similar:
Out for blood.
Circling the wagons.
Getting ready for the kill.

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Smelling trouble

I smell trouble, means: I think there’s something wrong!

Also:
It smells fishy.
It smells like trouble.
Something doesn’t add up.
There’s something fishy (about it).
There’s something wrong with this picture.
Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark!

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Smoke screen
Origin: Military

Something used for hiding the truth.

Politicians always use smoke screens. They exaggerate about unimportant things to avoid dealing with the real issues.

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Smoking gun
Legal, Military

Evidence of someone’s guilt.
A piece of evidence that could solve a case.

Q. What evidence do you have?
A. Her fingerprints are on the murder weapon. That’s our smoking gun. Isn’t that enough?

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Snow job

An attempt to deceive.
A cover-up or misrepresentation.

A. The mechanic says that the car door was dented already and that it’s not his fault.
B. Oh, what a snow job!

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So be it!

So what?
Let it be as it is.
What else can we do?

If it takes a gift to make her change her mind, then so be it. Get her a gift, so we can continue with the party.

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So help me (God)!

I swear!
I mean it!
I’m serious!
I swear to God!

You clean your room, or you’ll be in trouble, so help me!

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So long.

Good-bye. See you later.

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So much as

Rather, as in:
She didn’t so much teach as she became a friend to the students, means: She became the students’ friend rather than their teacher!

Even, as in:
They didn’t give me so much as a ride to the airport, means: They didn’t even give me a ride to the airport!

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So to speak

In a way.
One way of saying it.

Q. What’s the new girl doing in your office?
A. She keeps track of calls, files reports, makes appointments, etc. She’s my secretary, so to speak.

Compare to:
If you will.

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SOB

This is an abbreviation for: Son Of a Bitch.

It is an insulting way of referring to a man. It is also used as an exclamation at finding out something unpleasant.

Compare to:
Son of a gun.

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So-called

Supposedly.
Wrongly or incorrectly called.

The so-called chief engineer doesn’t even have an engineering degree!

None of these so-called experts could predict the environmental disaster we’re facing.

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Sock it to me!

See: Hit it.

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SOL

This is an abbreviation for: Sh-t Out of Luck.

When not abbreviated, it is an impolite way of saying: Out of good options.

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Something as hell

When someone says: It’s hot as hell in here, they mean: It’s very hot in here.

Related examples:
My uncle is stingy as hell.
Your dogs are stupid as hell.

Similar:
Hot as it could be.
Sure as one could be.

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Something else

Great.
Exceptional.
Extraordinary.

When someone says: The cruise was something else, they mean they really liked it.

Also:
Out of this world.

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Something may be in order.

It may be the right time for that something.

When someone says: Writing a book about your trip may be in order, they mean: It may be the right time to write a book about your trip.

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Something to it
There’s something to it

It might be true.
It has credibility.
It means something.
It has some importance or significance.

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Something worth writing home about

Something important.
Something worthwhile.
Something that’s good to know.

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Something’s gotta give!

It cannot continue like this.
It will work out one way or another.

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Son of a gun

A guy. (Informal.)
A less offensive way of saying: Son of a bitch.
An exclamation made in anger, as in: Son of a gun, I hurt myself.
An exclamation made in surprise, as in: You son of a gun! When did you get back?

Note:
Depending on who says it, or how it is said, it could be considered an insult.

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Sorry excuse

You’re a sorry excuse for a father, means:
Shame on you!
You’re not a good father.
You should be ashamed of yourself.
What kind of a father are you, anyway?

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SOS
S.O.S.

This is an abbreviation for:
Save Our Ship, or
Save Our Souls.

It is an internationally recognized distress call for help.

Also see:
Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!

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So-so

Okay.
Average.
Not good, not bad.

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Soul food

Food for the mind, such as literature, music, etc.
Foods traditionally favored by African Americans.
In the African American culture it means comfort food.

Compare to:
Comfort food.

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Soul man

A nice way of referring to an African American male.

Related:
Soul sister.
Soul brother.

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Sound bite

A short portion of a speech (or movie, or program, etc.) meant to be remembered and recited repeatedly and easily. This idea is used by politicians and advertisers, among others, for promotional purposes and makes it possible for certain features to stay fresh in people’s minds.

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Sounding board

Someone who listens when you talk about your ideas, and may even comment on them.

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Speaking to what’s possible

Talking about what’s possible.

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Speaking volumes

Implying a lot of things.
Containing great meaning behind what is being said.

What he did yesterday speaks volumes about his love for her. I know now that he really loves her!

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Speaking with a forked tongue

Lying.
Being two-faced.
Speaking dishonestly.
Saying one thing but meaning something else.

Compare to:
Talking out of both sides of the mouth.

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Spiking the ball in the end zone
Sports

Being in a celebratory mood, especially in a sporting event.

Background:
This is a celebratory end-zone expression from American football that metaphorically says Take that! To the opposing team!

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Spilling one’s guts

Confessing.
Saying everything one knows about something.

A. I was on a date last night.
B. Really? Wow, come on, spill your guts. I want to know everything!

Also:
Spitting it out.

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Spilling the beans

Revealing a secret, maybe unintentionally.
Giving away a surprise, maybe unintentionally.

A. The birthday party was supposed to be a surprise. Who spilled the beans?
B. Your wife, boss! With all due respect, boss, you know how women are!
A. Yes, I do, and here’s another surprise: You’re fired for spilling the beans about her!

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Spin doctor

A disc jockey (DJ) who spins records at parties.
A publicist hired to give a positive appearance to ideas promoted by politicians or other public figures.
Someone who paints beautiful faces on ugly facts, and makes good excuses for terrible decisions.

I wonder what the spin is today!

How are they going to spin it this time?

Politicians never get tired of spinning things!

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Spin the bottle.

A game of chance.

Background:
This is from a game where the player spins the bottle and gets to kiss the person that the bottle points to!

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Spinning one’s wheels

Not moving.
Not going anywhere.
Trying but not making any progress.

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Spitting image

Looking alike or exactly the same.

You’re the spitting image of your grandmother.

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Spitting into the wind

Going against the flow.
Fighting a war that you can’t win.

If someone says: Arguing with your boss is like spitting into the wind, they mean:
You might get fired.
You’ll be sorry for sure.
You’ll have to forget about any promotions in the near future.

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Splitting the spoils

Sharing the winnings, the prize, etc.

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Spoiling for a fight

Really wanting to fight.

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Spur of the moment

Without pre-planning.
Doing or saying something spontaneously, without thinking about it thoroughly.Something came up and I made a trip to Michigan on the spur of the moment.

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Square

This word, which is sometimes used as an insult, means:
Not hip.
Not cool.
Conventional.
Old-fashioned.
A traditional person.

Background:
This word is used by young people to describe others, especially older people, who don’t seem to agree with them, or are unfamiliar with some of the more modern concepts or trends.

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Squeaky wheel gets the grease.

The louder you complain, the sooner you’ll get attention.
If you don’t complain, you won’t get any attention.

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Stacking cheese

Saving money.
Making lots of money.

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Stacking up

Making sense.

His argument simply does not stack up. He should come up with better answers before I can trust him.

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Standing on a soap box

Making a speech.
Stating your opinion as if you’re making a speech.

A. Listen to him bragging.
B. I know, he’s always on his soap box!

Another example:
Are you standing on a soap box again? It’s just you and me here, so just tell me what’s on your mind.

Background:
At one time, wooden soap boxes were most often the most readily available structures to be used as a platform for making political speeches in parks or on campuses.

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Standing out

Outstanding.
Conspicuous.
More noticeable than others but in a good way.

He stood out from the rest of the crowd because he was so big.

Related: (Not a compliment.)
The way he was dressed, he stood out from the rest of us like a sore thumb!

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Standing someone up

Not keeping a date.
Not showing up for a planned meeting.

Q. She stood you up again?
A. Yeah, I waited for her, but she didn’t show up. Is there something I should know?

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Standing the test of time

Lasting for a long time.
Making sense, being applicable, being effective, being correct, etc., for a long time.

Our company has been around, successfully and in good standing, for almost fifty years. Now, that’s what I call standing the test of time!

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Standing up for

Supporting, believing in someone or something.
Defending or protecting someone, their ideas, their honor, their physical well-being, etc.

I’m tired of being a quiet observer. Starting today, I’m standing up for victims of violence and their rights!

Also see:
Taking a stand.

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Starter wife

A first wife.
A first wife who stays with her struggling husband, and helps him, until he succeeds in life and then leaves her (usually) for a trophy wife!

Compare to:
Trophy wife.
Gold-digger.

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Starting with a clean slate

Starting over, fresh and clean.

When you say: Let’s start with a clean slate, you mean something like:
Let’s forget about the past and start again.
Let’s start from the beginning as if nothing bad has happened.

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State of the art
State-of-the-art

The latest, most advanced, version of something available.
Having, or employing, the latest technological advancements.

We have purchased a state-of-the-art security system for our banking operations, I hope!

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Status symbol

A sign of belonging to, being associated with, or being a part of the upper class.

It used to be that driving a Mercedes-Benz was a status symbol. Well, not anymore. Nowadays everybody is driving a Mercedes, including me!

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Stay of something

A delay of something.

When someone says: The authorities agreed to a stay of execution, they mean something like: They agreed to delay the execution and look at new evidence.

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Staying the course

Not changing anything.
Doing the same things as before.
Working consistently toward a goal, as planned.

Compare to:
In for the long haul.
Standing the test of time.

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Step on it!

Faster.
Hurry up.
Come on, drive faster.

Q. You want me to step on it?
A. Yeah, we don’t have all day, you know!

Also:
Flooring it.

Also see:
Putting the pedal to the metal.

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Stepping into something

Getting involved in something. (Can be used in a negative or positive way.)

He stepped into it again, didn’t he?

I stepped into politics when I was very young.

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Stepping on someone’s toes

Offending people.
Overstepping your boundaries.
Interfering with other people’s affairs.
Taking over other people’s responsibilities without their consent or knowledge.

I’m new here, so I’m going to get acquainted with everyone first before I do anything. I certainly don’t want to step on anyone’s toes.

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Stepping outside

This is about asking or wanting to fight.

If someone says: Do you want to step outside? it usually means: Let’s step outside because I want to beat you up.

Also:
Taking it outside.
Continuing it outside.

Background:
If someone wants to have a fight with another person, and they want to be relatively civilized about it, then they invite the other person to go and have the fight outside. This could be outside the workplace, or a bar, or a friend’s house, etc. So, asking someone to step outside is usually considered to be an invitation to engage in a physical altercation.

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Stepping up to the plate

Doing it.
Assuming responsibility.
Giving it one’s best effort.

Well, my dear, this is it. It’s time for you to step up to the plate and show them that you can do it.

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Stick a fork in it!

Something having been completed.
Something having been destroyed. (If destruction was the intention.)

Q. Is it done?
A. Sure! You can stick a fork in it!

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Sticking it to someone

Hurting someone.
Retaliating against someone.

Q. It wasn’t clear at first, but you were really sticking it to the club owner, weren’t you?
A. I sure was. They charge too much!

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Sticking someone’s head in the meat grinder

Threatening someone.
Forcing someone into doing something.

A. The suspect isn’t very cooperative.
B. Stick his head in the meat grinder. He’ll talk!

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Stick-in-the-mud

A stubborn person.
A person who resists change.

Hey, come on, let’s go to the party. Don’t be such a stick-in-the-mud!

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Stiff upper lip

This has to do with:
Seeming to be serious.
Not showing one’s emotions, and maybe even show some determination.

I want you to keep a stiff upper lip, and go back to class. For now, act as if nothing is wrong, but we’ll talk about the situation later.

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Still waters run deep!

A quiet person may have deep thoughts.
When it’s calm on the surface, it may be stormy underneath.
People are not necessarily what they seem to be on the surface.

Compare to:
You can’t judge a book by its cover.

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Stopping in one’s tracks

Stopping early.
Stopping suddenly.
Keeping from continuing.

He was hiking along, without a care in the world, until he was met by a grizzly bear and stopped dead in his tracks!

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Stopping on a dime

Stopping quickly.

Q. Did you fix the brakes on your car?
A. I sure did. It now stops on a dime!

Similar:
Turning on a dime.

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Straight from the horse’s mouth

First hand.
From the source.
From the most reliable source.

Well, I’ve got the latest information, and it’s straight from the horse’s mouth.

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Straight shooter
Straight-shooter

An honest person.
A person who speaks openly about what’s on his or her mind.

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Strategic planning

Planning that will move you closer toward a desired goal.
Planning that has to do with the overall situation and involves many factors.

Compare to:
Seeing the big picture.

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Stretching the truth

Exaggerating.
Overstating the facts.

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Striking a balance

Reaching an acceptable middle point.

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Striking a nerve

Touching on an issue that is already sensitive.
Saying or doing something that, directly or indirectly, upsets people or makes them worry.

The principal’s actions, combined with budget cuts, have struck a nerve in the parents.

Also:
Hitting a raw nerve.

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Subject of attention

Something, or someone, that everybody pays attention to, or wants to know about.

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Sugar daddy
Sugar mommy

A rich person who buys gifts for or gives money to another person to spend time together or have sex.

Also see:
Kept person.

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Sup?

What’s up?
What’s happening?
How are you doing?

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Swan song

A final action.

A. This could be her swan song.
B. I know. It may very well be the last time she’ll ever make a speech!

Background:
A swan, some believe, doesn’t sing, except one beautiful song that it sings before it dies.

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Swearing by

Vouching for, or seriously believing in, someone or something.

When someone says: I swear by warm, steamy baths for relaxing the body, they mean: I seriously believe that a warm bath relaxes the body!

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Sweating bullets

Being very anxious.

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Sweeping something under the rug

Hiding something.
Hiding something, hoping to avoid giving an explanation, or doing something, about it.

We have a corruption problem here, and they’re sweeping it under the rug again instead of addressing it.

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Swing shift

Late afternoon to midnight work shift.

Compare to:
Graveyard shift.

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Tail between the legs

An expression used when someone is:
Ashamed.
Embarrassed.
Humiliated by defeat.
Asking for forgiveness.

Q. Who was that guy standing there with his tail between his legs?
A. It was my boss, saying he was sorry that he yelled at me. So, I asked for a raise!

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Tail wagging the dog

A minor situation (or item, or person, etc.,) that affects or controls a much larger situation, as in a tail wagging the dog instead of the other way around.

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Take a listen.

Listen.
Listen to this.

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Take a look.

Look.
Look at this.

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Take care.

Good-bye.
Take care of yourself.

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Take it with a grain of salt!

Accept what you hear, but maintain a degree of skepticism about its truth

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Take note of this.

Look at this.
Write this down.
Pay attention to this.

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Take this job, and shove it!

I’m quitting.
I don’t want this job.

Background:
This is the title of a country song. The song became so popular that the title is occasionally used in conversation. It could also be used with other words (such as proposal, idea, etc.) but is never a nice thing to say to your boss!

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Taken out of context

Misunderstood or misinterpreted.

I said something, but it was taken out of context. That is not exactly what I meant. They’re looking at it the wrong way.

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Taking a beating

Losing big.
Losing a lot.
Being physically beaten up.

We took a beating in the stock market today, and lost a lot of money.

Also:
Suffering, as in: She took a beating at work. Her coworkers weren’t nice to her and kept criticizing her.

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Taking a chance

Taking a risk.

She’s taking a big chance by quitting her job in this economy. Either she’s very brave, or she’s simply crazy!

Also:
Risking it.

Also see:
Going out on a limb.

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Taking a potshot at

Saying something negative about someone in an unfair fashion.

Compare to:
Cheap shot.

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Taking a powder

Leaving in a hurry.
Disappearing without prior notice.

Q. Have you seen my brother?
A. He was here a minute ago. He must have taken a powder!

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Taking a stand

Choosing a cause.
Supporting someone or something.

When someone says: It’s time for you to take a stand, they mean something like: You can’t remain indifferent any more.

Also see:
Standing up for.

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Taking a toll

Hurting.
Having a negative effect.

When someone says: If the new law is passed it will take a toll on us, they mean something like: It will affect us in a negative way. It will wear us out.

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Taking by storm

Occupying.
Overtaking fast.
Succeeding in a sudden and overwhelming way.

A. Everybody on the Internet is suddenly talking about global warming.
B. I know. It’s taken the Internet by storm.

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Taking exception to

Objecting to something.
Disagreeing with something.

I take exception to what you’re saying. Your assessment of my involvement in this matter is totally wrong.

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Taking flight

Rushing out.
Leaving in a hurry.

He didn’t wait around when he heard the woman’s husband in the hallway. He took flight before she could stop him!

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Taking for granted

Not appreciating someone or something fully.
Assuming they will always be there.

A. I think my secretary is upset with me.
B. That’s because you’re taking her for granted.
A. How am I doing that?
B. She’s always there, she does everything, and you don’t pay her much or even thank her or compliment her for what she does!

We’ve been taking cheap gas for granted.

Don’t take me for granted. I may not be around much longer!

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Taking into consideration

Considering.

When someone says: Don’t forget to take my experience into consideration, they mean something like:
Remember that I have experience.
Remember that you should think about my experience.

Also:
Giving thought to.

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Taking issue with

Arguing.
Disagreeing with someone’s perspective, actions, or words.

He doesn’t want to take issue with her because he doesn’t like speaking or going against her.

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Taking it out on someone

Blaming someone.
Punishing someone for something that they typically are not responsible for or didn’t do.

I took it out on him because I was mad at him, but it wasn’t really his fault that I lost my wallet!

Don’t take it out on yourself. It’s not your fault that he didn’t listen to you!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking it to heart

Taking something seriously.
Getting upset over something.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking liberty with

Using or abusing someone or something as one pleases.

Whenever Tommy comes to visit, he goes into our refrigerator without asking. He takes his liberty with our food and acts like he lives here!

My roommate always took liberty with my school supplies. Finally, I asked him to leave.

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Taking matters into one’s own hands

Making one’s own decisions.
Taking action when others do not take action.

We’ve waited long enough for assistance from the banks. It’s time to take matters into our own hands and come up with a solution!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking measure

Getting ready.
Taking the necessary steps to do something.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking no prisoners
Military

Giving no mercy.
Aiming to destroy.
Not compromising.

They’re taking no prisoners, means:
They’re destroying us.
They want us to lose completely.
They’re not looking for a compromise.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking one’s time

Not rushing.

I’m taking my time because I’m mad at these guys. So, leave me alone and don’t rush me!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking place

Happening.

Q. When did the fight take place and where?
A. It happened this morning right over here.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking sides

Choosing sides.
Choosing one side (of the issue or argument) to agree with.

I’d like everyone to know that I’m not taking sides with either Republicans or Democrats on the immigration issue. I have my own ideas!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking someone for a ride

Cheating someone.
Making people believe a lie.
Making someone believe that something will be done or will happen that won’t.

A. You know what? I’m going to buy Sammy’s car.
B. Oh, boy! He sure is going to take you for a ride. His car isn’t worth a cup of coffee!

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Taking someone to the cleaners

Charging someone too much.
Cheating someone by charging them too much.

Don’t eat at some of these waterfront restaurants. They’ll take you to the cleaners!

Similar:
Highway robbery.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking something in stride

Taking things as they come, without getting upset about them.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking something lightly

Not taking it seriously.

We’re talking about safety on the road and in the air. Please don’t take it lightly.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking something lying down

Accepting something undesirable without fighting it.

The tenants have announced that they won’t take the latest rent increase lying down, and will even go to court if necessary.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking stock in

Believing in something.

I took stock in his proposal and supported it, but I wish I hadn’t!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking the blame
Taking the fall

Accepting the blame without accepting the responsibility for someone else’s action when something goes wrong. (This is not necessarily done willingly. Maybe there’s no other choice.)

Q. Why are you taking the blame?
A. It’s for the good of the company. I can always do something else.

Compare to:
Sacrificial lamb.
Holding the bag.
Throwing someone under the bus.

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Taking the bull by the horns
Origin: Sports

Trying to solve the main problem.
Taking action directly, head on, where it counts.

By addressing the manufacturing crisis, we’re taking the bull by the horns because that’s our most serious problem.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking the edge off

Relaxing, or helping to relax.
Making the situation more pleasant.
Reducing the unpleasant effect of something.

A. Oh I’m very angry with her.
B. Here, have some lemonade, and take the edge off!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking the heat

Being criticized.
Tolerating criticism.

My wife is very outspoken and has taken a lot of heat for her comments.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking the high road

Using the ethical way to get to your goal.
Being more moral, mature, or classy than another person in an unpleasant situation.

When someone says: Sandra pretends to be taking the high road, they mean something like: She wants people to think that she’s better than us, or that she has higher standards, or is more moral.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking the liberty
(Used with “of” or “to.”)

Taking action on one’s own authority.
Assuming to have permission, and then taking action.

Sir, I took the liberty to order some food for you. I also took the liberty of making ticket reservations for your group.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking the stand
Legal

Answering questions truthfully.
Going to the witness stand (in a court of law) and answering questions under oath.

As a witness, you’ll have to take the stand, and answer questions truthfully! Can you do that?

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Taking to task

Rebuking or censuring angrily.
Holding someone responsible for something.

The government was taken to task for the nation’s high unemployment.

Also:
Telling off.
Dressing down.
Calling on the carpet.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Talking back

Arguing.

Q. How do you feel about kids who keep talking back?
A. I don’t think they’re cute!

Also:
Back-talking.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Talking one’s way out of something

Escaping punishment.
Getting out of a difficult situation by talking, explaining things, or making excuses.

Q. Is David in trouble again?
A. Yes, but he’s talking his way out of it. He’s good at that!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Talking out of both sides of the mouth
Speaking out of both sides of the mouth

Saying one thing to one person, but something different to someone else.

How can I trust you when you talk out of both sides of your mouth?

Compare to:
Speaking with a forked tongue.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Talking points

Important topics.
List of important issues.

Let’s put together a list of our talking points for the meeting tomorrow.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tall tales

Somewhat believable stories with unbelievable parts, similar to stories told by kids, or some folk stories, said as if they really happened (but often highly exaggerated).

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Teflon president

President Reagan and, later, President Clinton.

Background:
This term was originally used to refer to President Reagan, as nothing negative would ever stick to him. No matter how bad a situation he got into, people still liked him. President Clinton was also given the title later.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tell me about it!

Oh, I know.
I totally agree!
I know all about it.

A. I was just outside. It’s so cold!
B. Tell me about it!

Also:
Oh, don’t I know it! (Not a question.)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tell off

Rebuke.
Angry comment.
Telling someone exactly what you think of them, their actions, or their words, etc.

If someone says: Sue told Jane off, they mean something like: Sue told Jane exactly what she thought about her lies.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tempered

Toned down.
Calmed down.

When someone says: Her optimism is tempered by what she knows, they mean something like: Because of what she knows, her expectation has been toned down. She knows we cannot be too optimistic or hopeful about the situation.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Testing the waters

Examining the situation before one actually does something.

Background:
Originates from the fact that people test the temperature of the water before they jump in for a swim or before they step into the bathtub or shower.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

TGIF

This is an abbreviation for: Thank God It’s Friday!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Thanks to

Because of someone or something.
Thanks to her I’ve got a good job.
Thanks to the economy we’re all in trouble.
Thanks to the rain we can’t go swimming today.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

That makes two of us!

I agree!
Me, too!

A. I wish I had a lot of money.
B. That makes two of us.

Related:
That makes one of us, which means the listener doesn’t agree with the speaker!

A. I wish I could watch TV all of the time.
B. That makes one of us.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

That said

Now that I have said that.
Now that that has been said.

When someone says: That said, let’s leave, they mean: Now that I have said that, let’s leave.

Also:
That being said.
Having said that.
That having been said.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

That’s the horse you rode in on.

Those are your promises.
You did it, now you’re stuck with it.
You made a promise, now you have to keep your word.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

That’s the horse you’ve got to ride.

That’s something you have to do.
These are the problems you have to tackle.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The $64,000-dollar question

The main question.
An important question or issue.
The question the answer to which will determine the outcome of something else.

When someone says: The economy is the $64,000-dollar question, they mean something like: It’s how we handle the economy that will determine if we can be successful again.

Other numbers are sometimes used also, such as: The million-dollar question.

Background:
The $64,000-dollar Question was a television game show that was broadcast in the United States in the 1950s. The top prize was worth $64,000. What a surprise!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Big Easy

This is a nickname for the City of New Orleans.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The buck stops here.

I take full responsibility.
This is the end of the road (for something).

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The cat is out of the bag.

It’s too late.
The secret is out.
Everybody knows about it now.

Also:
It’s in the water.
It has hit the fan.
The ship has sailed.
We’ve already set the table.
The horse is out of the barn.
The toothpaste is out of the tube.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The jig is up.

The truth is out.
You’ve been caught.

Hey! You can stop acting. The jig is up!

I was sure the jig was up, and I prepared for the worst. Fortunately, however, there was some distraction, and I survived the situation.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The long and the short of it

The essence of something.
Everything there is to know about something.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The long knives are drawn.

They’re ready to fight.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The marker has been laid down.

It’s all clear.
These are the limits.
The limits have been defined.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The powers that be

Powerful people.
The government.
The people in charge.
Those whose opinions matter.
Those who control public affairs.
Those who make the important decisions.

The powers that be are interested in this casino development. I know it will happen!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The works

The complete package.

Q. What do you want on your pizza?
A. I want everything. Give me the works.

At the carwash:
Q. Do you want me to wash the windows only?
A. I want the works. Wash it inside and out!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The world over

All over the world.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Then-something

Something at that time (in the past).

She was married to then-New York Governor, means: She was married to the man who was the governor of New York at that time.

In 1975, I met my then-future wife at a school event.

Examples:
Then-professor.
Then-son-in-law.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

There are no atheists in foxholes.
Military

When there’s danger of death, people believe in God.

Also:
There are no atheists on a sinking ship.

Background:
This has its origins in days of war. When you may get killed any second, there is a tendency to believe in God!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

There’s more to it!
There’s more to it than meets the eye!

There’s more.
This is not the whole thing.
They’re not telling us the whole story.
There’s more about it that we don’t know or don’t understand.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

There’s no daylight between them.

They are the same.
They are no different.
There’s no difference between them.

Also:
They are two peas in a pod.
They are two sides of the same coin.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

They don’t “X” for nothing.

There’s a reason for “X.”

When someone says: They don’t call him a traitor for nothing, they mean something like:
So, that’s why they call him a traitor!
There’s a reason they call him a traitor.
There must be a reason they call him a traitor.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

They’re eating our lunch.

WE should be up there.
They’re stealing OUR ideas.
They’re benefiting from OUR efforts.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Think nothing of it.

It’s not a big deal.
Don’t think about it.

When someone says: I think nothing of going there, they mean something like: Going there is not a big deal.

It is also used in response to Thank you!
A. Thank you very much for taking me home.
B. Oh, think nothing of it. It was a pleasure!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Thinking highly of

Having a lot of respect for someone.

I think highly of my parents, means:
I respect my parents very much.
I have high regards for my parents.
I think my parents are great people.

Also:
Thinking the world of someone.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Thinking twice about something

Not making a decision right away.
Thinking about something seriously.
Giving something serious consideration.

Also see:
Second thought.

Compare to:
On second thought.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Third time’s a charm.

The third time, it’ll work.
The third time you do it, you’ll get it right.

Also, for humor:
The third time is “not” a charm!
This is actually a play on the above expression and is meant to say: That old expression is not going to work this time!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Three sheets to the wind

Disoriented.
Really drunk or high on drugs.
Someone not knowing what they’re talking about.

By the time I got there, he was three sheets to the wind!

Note:
Other numbers have been used also.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Three strikes, you’re out!
Origin: Legal, Sports

This is a warning, and it basically means:
If you do it one more time, you’re finished.
If you do it three times, you’ll be in real trouble.

Background:
This is a legal term that is also used by the general public. It has its origins in baseball. If you get three strikes in a baseball game while you’re at bat, you’re out of the game until your next turn at bat. In law, it means that if you commit three minor offenses, you will suddenly be facing more severe punishments.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Three-dollar bill

When someone says: Henry is as phony as a three-dollar bill, they mean something like:
I don’t trust him.
He’s a con artist.
He’s not trustworthy.

Background:
Because there are no three-dollar bills in print, if you see a three-dollar bill, you’ll know it’s fake. Hence the expression.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Through and through

Thoroughly.
Completely.
Throughout.

She read the report through and through.

He’s an honorable man through and through.

Also:
Completely through something.
The bullet hit him and went in through and through.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Through the roof

Very high, as in:
Q. Now that the prices are coming down, are you going to buy a house?
A. I was hoping to, but home prices are still through the roof.

Over-reaction or anger, as in:
When Joe finds out how bad the situation is, he will go through the roof!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Through the wringer

Gone through a lot of tough times and hardship.

We’ll be put through the wringer if we screw up again.

Losing all her savings in one day, and at her old age, has put her life through the wringer.

Also:
Through an emotional meat-grinder.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Throwing a wrench into something.

Screwing things up.
Making something fail.

Q. Was your loan approved?
A. Almost, but my ex-wife threw a wrench into the process and told them that I was broke!

Also:
Throwing in a monkey wrench.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Throwing in the towel
Origin: Sports

Giving up.

Q. What happened to the new teacher?
A. Oh, she threw in the towel and quit after only two weeks at the school.

Background:
In boxing, when one boxer is being severely beaten by their opponent, if they are so badly banged up that they cannot make a decision for themselves, often their manager or coach will throw their towel into the ring to end the match by forfeiture before the person gets too badly injured.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Throwing one’s hat into the ring

Joining a group of challengers.
Announcing one’s candidacy, usually for political office.

If someone says: She threw her hat into the ring of candidates for the senate seat, they mean: She joined the other candidates who are campaigning to become a senator.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Throwing out a question

Raising a question at random to get some ideas.
Asking a general question to see what the mood is like.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Throwing someone a bone

Rewarding people.
Keeping them happy.
Giving someone something small to keep them going or doing what you want them to do.

A. I wonder if she’s going to help us again!
B. Just throw her a bone and make her happy for a while until we think of something!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Throwing someone under the bus

Using someone as a scapegoat.
Sacrificing someone for personal gain.
Abandoning someone, denying everything, knowing that the person will get in trouble for something that other people did.

Samantha’s not needed by the campaign bosses anymore. I have a feeling that they’ll probably throw her under the bus and blame her for their failure one of these days.

Compare to:
Sacrificial lamb.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Throwing something in

Adding something extra.
Adding a free item into the transaction.

Q. Can I just buy the helmet?
A. No! But if you buy the bike, I’ll throw in the helmet for free!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Throwing the baby out with the bathwater

Getting rid of the good along with the bad.

Q. Should I throw away all that stuff in the garage?
A. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! Some of that stuff can be used.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Thumbing one’s nose

Being dismissive, arrogant, conceited, etc.

When someone says: They’re thumbing their nose at us, they mean something like: They’re not taking us, or our ideas, seriously.

Also:
Turning one’s nose up.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Ticker
Old ticker

Heart.

Q. Are you having heart problems?
A. Yeah, the old ticker is bothering me again.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Ticking someone off

Making someone angry.

He’s not nice to me anymore. I think I must have ticked him off!

It ticks me off, means:
I don’t like it.
It bothers me.
It makes me angry.

Also:
Pissing someone off. (Not polite.)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tight as a drum

Stingy.
Sealed watertight. (Like a welded, industrial drum.)
Stretched very tight. (Like the skin on a musical drum.)

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tightening the belt

Cutting expenses.
Becoming more careful about financial decisions.

A. These are tough times. I’m not spending as much money as I used to.
B. I know. I’ve noticed that you’ve been tightening your belt!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Time and again
Time after time

Repeatedly.
Again and again.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Time is of the essence.
Legal

Time is extremely important and limited (indicating a critical deadline for accomplishing something).

I want you to know that, per our contract, time is of the essence. Therefore, if you don’t meet any of the deadlines, you’ll be penalized accordingly.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Time is running out.

Hurry up.
The end is near.
We don’t have much time.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Time to pick a horse
Gambling

You must decide now.
It’s time to make a decision.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tipping point

A deciding moment.
The point where, as a result of several minor things adding up, a major change takes place.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To a T
To a tee
Down to a T

Exactly.
Properly.
Precisely.
To the smallest detail.

The witness described the suspect’s appearance to a T.

Related:
Suits you/him/her/them to a T.

Note:
To a “T” is believed to be the correct version, although To a “tee” is occasionally used.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To be sure

For sure.
We’re sure.
It is known for a fact.

To be sure, she has openly talked about the issue, means something like: We know for a fact that she has talked about the issue in public.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To begin with

First thing.
In the beginning.
Before you say anything.

To begin with, I wasn’t even in town when the accident took place.

It’s not that she broke up their friendship. They were never friends to begin with!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To boot

Also.
In addition.

He was driving without a license, and he was drunk to boot.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To date

So far.
As of now.
As of this date.

This is the largest project of its kind to date.

Compare to:
Up-to-date.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To each his own

Do your own thing.
People have different preferences.
One has the right to do as one pleases.
People have their own way of doing things.

I’m not quitting this job, but you quit if you want. To each his own!

I won’t spend my savings on a vacation, but you’re free to do so. To each his own!

People handle grief differently and she’s doing it with the help of music. To each his own!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To no avail

Having no effect.
Being unsuccessful.
Not getting what you worked for.

When someone says: He tried to get a degree in engineering but it was to no avail, they mean: He tried but he couldn’t get a degree in engineering.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To one’s credit

Deserving credit.
Giving credit where credit is due.

When someone says: He was wrong but, to his credit, he quickly apologized, they mean something like: He deserves credit because, when he realized that he was wrong, he quickly apologized.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To one’s heart’s content
To one’s heart’s delight
To one’s heart’s desire

To satisfy one’s heart.
To one’s complete satisfaction.

A. Please don’t let the kids eat too much ice cream.
B. Oh, it’s a birthday party! I’m going to let them eat ice cream to their heart’s content.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To one’s name

Owned by one.
Belonging to one.

They have a lot of assets to their name, means: They own a lot of things. They’re rich.

I’ve only got three dollars to my name, means: I only have three dollars. I’m completely broke.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To say the least

The least I could say.
The least that could be said.

When someone says: I was surprised, to say the least, they mean something like:
I was surprised, and then some.
I was at least surprised, if not shocked.
The least I can say is that I was surprised.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To the best of my ability

As well as I can.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To the best of my knowledge

As far as I know.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To the best of my recollection

As far as I remember.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To this end
To that end
To which end

So. Therefore.
For this reason.
For that purpose.

I’ll be going to Europe, to which end I need to get my passport renewed.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

To top it off

To complete.
To add on top.

He had a high-paying job. To top it off, they gave him a bonus, too!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Toe the line.

Do one’s share of the work.
Do what is expected of one.

Note:
Tow the line is not the correct spelling.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Toe-to-toe

Very close.
A very close competition.

Republicans and Democrats are going toe-to-toe on this issue.

Similar:
Neck-and-neck.
Too close to call.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tongue in cheek
Tongue-in-cheek

Sarcastic.
Humorous.
Not to be taken seriously.

She’s known for making tongue-in-cheek remarks.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Too good to be true

Not true.

When someone says: This story is too good to be true, they’re telling you that they don’t believe the story.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Top dog
Top banana

The main person.
The one in charge.

Compare to:
Second fiddle.
Second banana.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Topping something

Doing better than something done previously.

I’m sure you can top his performance if you try.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tossed out on one’s ear

Expelled.
Thrown out.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tossup
Toss up
Toss-up

When someone says: Something is a toss-up, they mean:
It could go either way.
It’s equally likely or unlikely.
They’re not sure what the outcome will be.
There’s a fifty percent chance that it might work.

Also:
Fifty-fifty.
Fifty-fifty chance.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Touching on something

Mentioning something or talking about it briefly.

Q. Did he say anything about why he would be a better candidate?
A. Well, he used the opportunity to touch on the subject, but he didn’t go into details.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tough love

The tough treatment of someone because you love them, as in: Son, you can’t go to the movies tonight because you still haven’t finished your homework!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Toughing it out

Tolerating a tough situation.
Listen, son, if you want to survive in this world, you have to tough it out when times are rough.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Track record

Record of accomplishments.
Someone’s or something’s established background based on past actions.

A. Make me a manager, and I’ll turn this department around!
B. But you don’t have a track record in management!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tracking down
Legal

Looking for something or someone (for a long time) and finding them.

Also see:
Running someone down.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Trading blows

Exchanging verbal or physical insults or punches.
A ritual where two persons take turns hitting each other until one is left standing.

Q. Are these guys always respectful of each other?
A. Not always. They’ve traded blows on occasion!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Trick or treat?

Are you going to give me something (a treat), or do you want me to play a trick on you?

Background:
This is a question asked by kids when they go trick-or-treating and knock on people’s doors as a part of Halloween. The typical response is that people give candies to the kids.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Trigger-happy
Legal, Military

A trigger happy person is a person who:
Likes to shoot people for fun.
Is ready to fire a gun or start a fight without much justification.

A. Too many kids are being shot to death in street fights.
B. The sooner we stop these trigger-happy people, the better!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Tripping up

Causing someone to stumble.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Trophy wife

A young woman whom an old (or rich, powerful, famous, etc.,) man has married in order to make him look (or feel) good in the society.

Compare to:
Gold digger.
Starter wife.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

True blue

Loyal.
Faithful.
Really honest.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Truth or consequences?

Tell me the truth, or you’ll be sorry.
Tell me the truth, or you’ll have to suffer the consequences.
Do you want to tell me the truth? Otherwise, there will be consequences.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Turn the tide
Turn the tables

A complete change in the situation.

I’m waiting for the tide to turn before I make any new investments.

The tides have turned against the Democrats as they did against the Republicans before.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Turning in

Stopping to do what you’re doing, as in:
If you say: I’ll be turning in now, you mean:
That’s it for me.
I’m tired. I’m going to bed.
I’m finished. I’m going home.

Submitting, as in:
I’m going to finalize my report tonight and turn it in tomorrow.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Turning lemons into lemonade

Making a good thing out of a bad situation.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Turning on someone

Betraying someone.
Turning against someone.

A. I thought they were friends!
B. They were, but recently they have turned on each other.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Turning one’s back on people

Rejecting people.
Refusing to help them.

My former boss had always said that he would help me with my job search, but when I asked him for a letter of recommendation, he turned his back on me!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Turning out to be

Becoming someone (or something) at the end, usually with a touch of surprise.

After my doctor’s visit, I received a message to call his office, which scared me, but it turned out to be nothing serious. I had merely left my jacket there!

This guy followed me in his car for several blocks. He turned out to be an old friend, however, and we had lunch!

Compare to:
Ending up.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Turning over a new leaf

Starting anew.
Changing for the better.

Tell me how he intends to turn over a new leaf after spending nearly two years in prison!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Turning someone on

Attracting someone sexually or romantically.
Finding someone sexually or romantically attractive.

Q. Does she turn you on?
A. Oh, yes. I find her to be very sexy.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Turning something on its head

Changing something completely.
Changing things, or the direction of things, to one’s advantage.

Also:
Turning something upside-down.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Turning things around

Making improvements.

When someone says: He’ll start to turn things around, they mean something like: Things will change. He’ll make things better.

Also:
Taking a turn for the better.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Turning to something

Becoming active or involved in something.

Turning to art means: Becoming an artist.
Turning to God means: Becoming religious.
Turning to crime means: Becoming a criminal.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Twenty-four/seven
24/7

Constantly.
A continuous operation.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Twisting someone’s arm

Forcing or pressuring someone to do or say something.

If someone says: I didn’t want to take the job but my wife twisted my arm, they could mean:
She forced me to do it.
She threatened to leave me if I didn’t!
She put strong pressure on me to take the job.
She promised me that her mother would leave us if I took the job!

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Two sides to every story

Consider all of the facts before you make a decision.

Always listen to both sides of a situation before you make a judgment about it.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Two-timing

Not being faithful.
Cheating in a romantic relationship.

When someone says: Sue is two-timing her boyfriend, they mean something like: She’s with him but she’s seeing someone else, too. She’s cheating on him. She’s a two-timer.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


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English Idioms

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English Idioms