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Common and Humorous English Phrases

     In the English language, like many world languages, there are a lot of common phrases that are often found in literature and conversation. The actual meaning of some of these common phrases may be quite different than the translation of the phrase. The word for such phrases in the English language is "idioms" and they can be a wonderful way to make a student's English conversation sound more natural. While a student may already be familiar with some, here are more common idioms that a student will likely enjoy learning about and using.

"Pulling someone's leg"

This is one phrase that is so common that many native English speakers likely don't even ponder how silly it sounds. If someone said to you: "You're pulling my leg!", you might look at the person and say: "You must be joking!" Ridiculously enough, when someone says: "You're pulling my leg!", they are actually saying: "You must be joking!"

"Let the cat out of the bag"

Don't worry. This phrase thankfully doesn't have much to do with cats or bags. The phrase is actually used in reference to a secret being revealed. For instance, "He let the cat out of the bag about winning the lottery when his friend saw his new sports car." The phrase supposedly originates from a practice of people in a marketplace selling cats to other people in bags, while pretending that a baby pig was in the bag. Cats were considered less valuable for some reason.

"Quit something cold turkey"

This is another phrase containing an animal that has nothing to do with the animal in the phrase. This is a phrase commonly used when a person quits smoking cigarettes or a similar habit. When a person quits smoking cigarettes "cold turkey", it means that the person intends to stop smoking completely and immediately. Here is an example sentence: "Instead of giving up television slowly, the person quit watching television cold turkey."

"Look a gift horse in the mouth"

Here is a really humorous phrase that likely needs some clarification. You are correct if you already guessed that the phrase doesn't have much to do with a horse. The phrase does supposedly originate from the way that people can look into a horse's mouth to verify the horse's supposed age. The phrase is used as a way of telling a person to appreciate any gift and suggesting that a person not be too picky about the details of a gift. Here is an example: "I received a million dollars as a gift, but one of the dollars was slightly wrinkled. I reminded myself to not look a gift horse in the mouth and I decided to enjoy the million dollar gift anyway."

"Straight from the horse's mouth"

This is another phrase that amazingly includes a conceptual reference to a horse's mouth. This phrase also has little to do with horses when used in English literature and conversation. It is used as a way to say that information is from a reliable source. For instance, "The CEO of the company told me, so this stock tip is straight from the horse's mouth." The phrase supposedly originates from people gambling on horse races. The horse would conceptually be the best one to ask about its condition prior to a race.

Hopefully you have enjoyed learning about even more common and humorous English phrases

Article Source:

Visit for a complete guide on learning English. Included is a list of English idioms as well as a free English course.

Posted on 2010-05-26, By: *

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Note: The content of this article solely conveys the opinion of its author.

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