Posted by: Jack Henry | February 21, 2023

Editor’s Corner: English Idioms from Around the World, Part 1

Good morning, all. While happily scrolling through articles about language, I hippity-hopped down a rabbit hole about idioms, and I found a wonderful article called 21 Unusual English Expressions from Around the World. I love idioms—they bring language to life, and sometimes they reveal surprising secrets.

Today and Thursday, I want to share the idiom joy. Like many languages, English is spoken around the world, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that these English idioms are coined in some unexpected places. Not only do they come from the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, but some come from India and Singapore. I hope you get as much pleasure from these gems as I do. Since I’m sharing 20 of them (one was a bit too racy to include), I will give you half today and half next time. Enjoy!

· An omnishambles (something that has been managed or has turned out badly in every possible way) UK. First they mixed our rooms up, then the toilet flooded, and when we finally got to the beach it started raining. The entire holiday was an omnishambles!

· Go off like a frog in a sock (go berserk, go crazy). AUSTRALIA. Blimey, mate – if she sees the mess you’ve made, she’ll go off like a frog in a sock.

· A Bronx cheer (a loud sound, like blowing a raspberry, that expresses derision or contempt). NEW YORK. The crowd let out an enormous Bronx cheer when the quarterback fumbled the ball a second time.

· Catch no ball (I don’t understand) SINGAPORE. Tell me that again. Catch no ball, lah.

· Do the needful (do whatever you need to do to make it happen). INDIA. This plaintive little expression might come in handy if you ever need to deal with bureaucracy in India, where it’s often used in formal emails.

· The whole nine yards (everything available, everything possible, the whole way). US. The scholarship covers course fees, accommodation, even some living expenses – honestly, the whole nine yards!

· Donkeys’ years (a very long time). LONDON I haven’t seen Jeff in donkeys’ years. Although widely understood around the world, this expression really has nothing to do with the lifespan of donkeys at all. It’s actually an example of Cockney rhyming slang – donkey’s ears for years – that has been misinterpreted. [dbb – the origins of this one surprised me! My spouse sometimes uses this phrase, and he is from London where Cockney rhyming slang originates. Even he didn’t know this idiom
started out as rhyming slang.]

· I don’t give rocks (I don’t care at all). SOUTH AFRICA. I don’t give rocks what you think! I’m doing it anyway.

· Pack a sad (throw a tantrum). NEW ZEALAND. Don’t tease him like that or he’ll pack a sad. You know what he’s like.

· Put the heart crossways in someone (give someone a fright, a heart attack). IRELAND. Don’t be sneaking up on me like that, will you? You put the heart crossways in me.

Have a lovely day!

Donna Bradley Burcher |Technical Editor, Advisory | jack henry™

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123

Pronouns: she/her/hers

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