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Cat Got Your Tongue? American Idioms Explained (A-F)

Two female students talking

Every language and culture has its own quirks that can confuse newcomers. Idioms, or common phrases that only make sense with a little further explanation, especially love to “throw a curve ball” at you. But after you read this list, understanding American idioms will be “as easy as taking candy from a baby.”

College Students Whispering

As easy as taking candy from a baby

Something that’s very easy. Like stealing from helpless infants, you monster.

Example: “I bet you got a good grade. That math exam was as easy as taking candy from a baby.”


At the eleventh hour

At the last possible moment. Also known as “when you’ll start studying for that math exam.”

Example: “I didn’t start studying for that math exam until the eleventh hour.”


Be there with bells on

To be enthusiastic about an event (probably not a math exam).

Example: “I’m excited about your party! I’ll be there with bells on.”

An excited kid on the beach


Between a rock and a hard place

To be stuck in a difficult situation or have a tough choice to make.

Example: “I’m between a rock and a hard place! I don’t want to go to her party, but I don’t want to hurt her feelings, either!”


Blowing smoke

Exaggerating or lying about something.

Example: “You said you’d come to my party. I should have known you were blowing smoke!”

A smoke stack blowing smoke


Blow off steam

Get rid of extra energy, stress or anger.

Example: “She’ll be okay after she blows off some steam. The party wasn’t even fun.”


Break a leg

Way to wish someone good luck, often before a performance of some kind.

Example: “She’s so nice, she told me to break a leg on stage tonight.”

a broken leg in a cast


Cat got your tongue?

Asked when someone is being quiet and you want them to talk.

Example: “Cat got your tongue?” “No, I was just trying to ignore you.”


Curve ball

Something tricky or unexpected, like trying to hit a curve ball in baseball.

Example: “These American idioms are so confusing!” “Yeah, they’re real curve balls.” “What does that mean?!”


Cut to the chase

Well, this is something that you might say to someone when they’re, you know, wasting time in conversation and you want them to get to the point.

Example: “Next time, please cut to the chase with your American idiom definitions.”


Dime a dozen

When something is so common that it’s easy or cheap to replace.

Example: “People wearing their pajamas in the dining hall are a dime a dozen.”

the number 12 spelt out in dimes


Different strokes for different folks

Way to say that people have their own ways of doing things.

Example: “I’d never wear my pajamas in public.” “Different strokes for different folks, I guess.”


Drive someone up a wall

To make someone angry or frustrated.

Example: “She really drove me up a wall by insulting my pajamas. They were a gift from my grandmother!”

a female looking frustrated while looking at a computer


Eat crow

To admit you were wrong about something. Your maturity is very impressive and attractive.

Example: “I thought I didn’t have to study for that exam, but now I’m eating crow.”


Face the music

To accept the (unpleasant) consequences of your actions.

Example: “She shouldn’t have done that, and now she has to face the music. Her maturity is very impressive and attractive.”


Feel like a million bucks

To feel really good or happy.

Example: “They say money can’t buy happiness, but this million bucks sure makes me feel like a million bucks.”

a man with a thought bubble with the money symbol above him



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