Did you know these?
A camel is a horse designed by a committee.
Decision making by a group is not an efficient process.
Burning the candle at both end
Working too hard, Overextending oneself, Doing too many things at once
A day late, and a dollar short!
Too little, too late!, It's not enough besides it's too late
Coming out of the woodwork or Crawling out of the woodwork
Appearing unexpectedly, Coming from everywhere
You've got people coming out of the woodwork, screaming for more bus service. Everybody's asking for more service.
This expression has to do with the fact that insects come out of an infested wooden structure in large numbers, especially if it's suddenly disturbed.

Is there an expression you'd like to see here?
Let us know and we'll add it here and if it isn't in the book, we'll add it there too for our next edition. Also make sure t check out Facebook Page to share some of the expressions or illustrations with your friends.

Sample Expressions

Please note:
Examples are in Italics.
Idioms and expressions from other cultures are in
red font.

Ace in the hole 
Origin: Gambling
Big secret help.
A winning factor kept hidden.
She is our ace in the hole. With her at our side, I’m sure we’re going to win this thing. But keep it to yourself for now.
The prosecutor had an ace in the hole: an eyewitness!


This may have its origin in the game of poker where you have an ace with the face down, until it’s time to show it.

Achilles heel
A seemingly small, but actually crucial, weakness.
A very significant weakness in an otherwise very strong person or idea, etc., that can result in complete failure
Her biggest Achilles heel is the number of people who don’t think she is qualified to be their representative.
According to Greek mythology, Achilles was invulnerable all over his body except in the area of his heel. He died from an arrow that had been shot into his heel.

Walls have ears; doors have eyes. (Thai.)
Walls have mice; mice have ears. (Persian.)
Birds listen to day-words, and rats listen to night-words. (Korean.)
                                                    Be careful. Someone might be listening!


All the same
In spite of.
It was a long trip, but a nice one all the same.
She may have acted stupidly as they say, but she’s a gifted performer all the same.

Making no difference, as in:
Democrat, Republican, they’re all the same.
If it’s all the same to you, I’d rather stay home.

And counting
Still going on.
There will be more.
Layoffs total 45,000 and counting

And then some
And even more.
Even more than that.
Q.   This lady was nice to offer us food. Did you pay her for the food?
A.   I’ve been very generous to her. I’ve paid for the food, and then some!

At sea;
All at sea
A.   I don’t really think he knows what he’s doing.
B.   No, he doesn’t. Let’s face it, he’s at sea again!

Similar: At a loss.
Also see: Out to lunch.

Back of the barn
This has a sexual connotation.
When you say: They’ve been to the back of the barn, you mean something like:
They’re more than friends;
They know each other very well;
They have (had) a sexual relationship; etc.

Behind the eight ball
In a tough spot.
In a difficult situation.
From the game of pool, where, if you’re behind the eight ball, you will be in trouble.

Being a burning candle for someone
Showing the way.
Benefiting people.
Helping someone.
Saying a prayer for someone.
If I can’t be a burning candle for those who count on me, then what’s the use?


Water finds the pothole. (Persian.)
The kettle rolled down and found the lid. (Greek.)
                                       (People with similar characteristics find each other.)

Between a rock and a hard place;
Between the devil and the deep blue sea
Being in a position where one doesn’t have any good choices available to choose from.
When someone says: I’m between a rock and a hard place, they mean something like:
I can’t do anything; I don’t know what else to do; etc.

Big brother
The government.
Be careful, big brother is watching us! They are listening to our phone conversations, too!

Burning the candle at both ends
Working too hard.
Overextending oneself.
Doing too many things at once.

Carrot and stick;
Carrot or stick

This is about rewarding someone for doing something good, or threatening to punish them if they don’t. The carrot represents the reward, and the stick represents the threat.
She used the old carrot or stick trick with her son to get him to eat the spinach; Some ice cream tonight, or no ice cream for a week!
Compare to:
Carrot on a stick.
Some believe this has to do with mules: There are two ways to get a mule move forward. Dangle a carrot in front of it, or hit it in the back with a stick.

Closing ranks
Origin: Political
Joining forces to show solidarity.
After the earthquake, politicians closed ranks with the president and called for immediate help for the victims.

Come hell or high water
No matter what.
It doesn’t matter what happens.

Coming out of the woodwork;
Crawling out of the woodwork

Appearing unexpectedly.
Coming from everywhere.
You’ve got people coming out of the woodwork, screaming for more bus service. Everybody’s asking for more service.
This expression has to do with the fact that insects come out of an infested wooden structure in large numbers, especially if it’s suddenly disturbed.

Crying uncle
Giving up.
They’re trying to make her cry uncle, but I know her better. She’ll never give up.

Curve ball
A tricky situation.
A deceptive action.
Something that takes you completely by surprise.
Q.   How can you blame her? She was thrown a curve ball!
A.   I know but, in her position as the chairwoman, she should have been more prepared.

The term comes from baseball. A curve ball is thrown in such a way that it follows a curved path in the air. This, combined with the high speed at which the ball is going, makes it difficult or tricky for the opponent player to handle. Curve balls are also thrown when the batter is not expecting it, to throw them off.

Don’t look for noon at two o’clock! (French.)
                                                   Don’t complicate the issue.

Dead presidents
Monetary bills.
Dollar bills, paper money, in general, because they mostly have portraits of the late U.S. presidents on them.
A “Hot one” is a $1 bill.
An “Abe” is a $5 bill.
A “Jackson” is a $20 bill.
A “Grant” is a $50 bill.
A “Benjamin” or a “C-note” is a $100 bill.

Deep sixing;

Getting rid of or throwing away.
Rejecting beyond resurrecting.
I’m not deep-sixing my chances, am I?
I made a proposal to the Board of Directors, but they deep-sixed it.

Probably comes from burial procedures, referring to bodies being buried six feet under the ground. It could also be a nautical term relating to ships and submarines sinking so deep that they could not be resurrected.

Digging up bones
Looking into the past and uncovering old secrets.
Don’t you have anything better to do than to dig up bones? Come on, don’t waste your time. Get on with your life!

Dirty old man
An older man who thinks a lot about having sex with younger women, or actually does or says things about it.
Also a humorous way of saying that an older man is thinking too much about sex and sexual themes.
Don’t worry about him. He’s just a dirty old man!

Dissin’ someone;
Dissing someone

Disrespecting someone.
Ignoring or avoiding them.
Hey man, stop dissin’ me!
Joe and Moe haven’t talked to each other ever since Joe dissed Moe’s wife.