Playing with idioms 2 You scracth my back and I’ll scratch yours I’ll help you to get a copy of thet document if you promise to reccommend me for promotion. You know, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours! Una mano lava l’altra To scratch:graffiare/scorticare Before you can say “Jack Robinson” I only have to get some bread and milk. You wait here. I’ll be back before you can say “Jack Robinson”. In un batter d’occhio Jack Robinson: origin… It would be pleasing to be able to point to a historical figure called Robinson who was the source of this expression. Regrettably, we can't. 1)It could well be that there was an actual Jack Robinson who was reputed to be quick in some way, but, if that's the case, any reliable record of him has disappeared. 2)It is known that the phrase was in circulation by the end of the 18th century as Mme. Frances D'Arblay (Fanny Burney) used it then in her romantic novel Evelina, or the history of a young lady's entrance into the world in 1778. 3) Sir John Robinson was the Constable (governatore/guardia) of the Tower of London for several years from 1660 onward. Some have suggested that he was the source of the phrase and have bequeathed (ereditare) him a reputation for hastily chopping off people's heads 4)The lexicographer Francis Grose, in his 1811 edition of the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue defines 'Jack Robinson' thus: "Before one could say Jack Robinson; a saying to express a very short time, originating from a very volatile gentleman” To have forty winks* Before the Joneses come over to see us, I’m going upstairs to have forty winks, I only slept four hours last night. Schiacciare un pisolino. To sleep a wink provide the mental picture of a wink being the shortest type of sleep available and "forty winks" therefore gives an indication of an appropriate short sleep. *wink: strizzatina d’occhio Like the pot calling the kettle black You are calling me messy? Thet’s like the pot calling the kettle black! You’re bedroom is so untidy it would take a month to clean it! Da che pulpito viene la predica Il bue che dice cornunto all’asino N.B. kettle: bollitore To hang on by one’s eyelids The water is rising up. If you don’t get here soon we’ll all be drowned. As it is, we are hanging on by our eyelids. Hurry up! Essere appesi ad un filo N. B eyelids: palpebre Eyelashes: ciglia Eyebrows: sopracciglia A live wire You’ll like Edith. She is always doing things, always going out and meeting new people. She is a real live wire Avere l’argento vivo addosso. To have bats in the belfry When I told her that I like walking through marshes looking for insects, she looked at me as though I had bats in the belfry Avere una rotella fuoriposto N.B belfry – campanile Marshes: paludi To be snug as a bug in a rug “Look at the warm blankets I put on your bed”, the mother said to her child. “Get in, you’ll be snug as a bug in a rug!” Stare comodo come un pascià Snug: comodo Bug: piccolo insetto / baco Rug: tappeto Blue-eyed boy James Fenimore can do anything the wants here. Even if he makes a hundred mistakes a day, nobody will ever say anything. He is the professor’s blue-eyed boy Essere il pupillo To be knee-high to a grasshopper I used to go hunting with my dad when I wasn’t even knee-high to a grasshopper. Essere alto come un soldo di cacio N.P grasshopper - cavalletta Never bite the hand that feeds you We have been your best customers for years. How could you suddenly treat us so rudely? You should never bite the hand that feeds you… Non sputare mai nel piatto in cui si mangia A man about town Henry has become a real man about town – theatre, concerts, all the best restaurants. If there is something happening in New York, Henry will be there! Essere un uomo di mondo To go to pot. You’ve got to come back to the farm. Everything has gone to pot since you left. Nobody milks the cows and the chickens are allowed to roost (appollaiarsi) in the kitchen. It: Andare a rotoli Eng: Andare in pentola Mum’s the word. If the news reaches the press we’ll be in big trouble. Remember, mum’s the word! Acqua in bocca. (Mum è il suono che si produce tenendo le labbra chiuse) To have bigger fish to fry. We do not see much of Bob since he left home and went to work in New York. I expect he’s got bigger fish to fry now! Avere affari più importanti da sbrigare. As Happy as a Sandboy I saw Erica last week. She has been as happy as a sandboy since she started working at Disney World. She says that it’s the greatest job in the world! It: Contento come una Pasqua Eng: Contento come un venditore di sabbia As happy as a sandboy 2 ORIGIN: not a boy playing in the sand but one peddling it to the owners of shops and taverns where a fresh layer was spread on the floor every day to absorb the mud from customers’ boots. What a sandboy should be proverbially jolly is not very clear. In Dickens’ Old Curiosity Shop (1840), there is an inn called “The Jolly Sandboys” with a sign representing three sandboys increasing their jollity. Probably they were just happy because what they sold for money cost them very little or nothing. It has been estimated that they could make over £5 a morning and if they were also given the job of clearing out (pulire/sgombrare) the old sand before laying the new their happiness might well have been enhanced by the possibility of finding dropped valuables in it. To grasp – to seize the nettle. It’s now or never, Phil. Seize the nettle and go ask Laura to marry you. After all she has been your girlfriend for four years. Prendere il coraggio a due/quattro mani Ing: afferrare l’ortica To rub someone’s fur in the wrong way. I just can’t seem to get along with my motherin-law. I always seem to be rubbing her fur in the wrong way. Prendere qualcuno per il verso sbagliato/irritare To bring home the bacon In the old days, it was the man who brought home the bacon. Now, times have changed, and both women and men must go to work to provide for their family. Portare a casa il pane To put someone in the picture Since you do not know what the strategy is, let me put you in the picture. First we intend to consolidatev our domestic position and then we will try to penetrate the eastern European markets. Fare il punto della situazione To be so quiet that you could hear a pin drop I do not like country road. This total silence gives me the creeps; it’s so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Non si sente volare una mosca To throw the baby out with the bath water. When we close the Birmingham branch (filiale) we must offer Miss Jones a new position within the company. She’s an excellent secretary and we mustn’t throw out the baby with the bath water. Eliminare il bene insieme al male. To throw/threw/thrown As the crow flies As the crow flies, it is only thirty miles from her house to the nearest town, but by road it’s nearly sixty. In linea d’aria. To give someone a taste of his own medicine. Neal thinks it’s funny to ring people’s doorbells in the middle of the night, so today we gave him a taste of his own medicine by ringing his doorbell all day long while he was studying. Chi la fa l’aspetti /dare una lezione To be a wallflower I used to be such a wallflower until I went on that self-confident course at the university. Fare da tappezzeria. To turn/go as red as a beetroot He turned as red as a beetroot when he walked into the ladies’ toilets by mistake! Diventare rosso come un peperone N.B. Beetroot: barbabietola To hang/ride on someone’s coat-tails She got that job by hanging on Jim’s coat-tails. When he got promoted she made sure she was kept on as his secretary. Avere successo sulla scia del successo altrui In a nutshell To put it in a nutshell, the company’s gone bust! In poche parole To cook the books They were worried when they found out that the tax inspectors were coming in. Everyone knew the manager had been cooking the books… Falsificare i libri contabili. On the Q. T. Now we know that the Mayor was receiving money on the QT from some of the city’s most important businessmen. Sottobanco On the Q. T. 2 ORIGIN: The slang term 'qt' is a shortened form of 'quiet’. There's no definitive source for the phrase 'on the q.t.’ The expression indicates that the subject under discussion is confidential. Both the US and the UK claim first ownership of this phrase. US cite their country’s love of abbreviations The British claim comes via Robert Hendrickson, in The Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins. Hendrickson says that ‘on the QT’ comes from a British ballad in 1870. However, this has been disputed as he provided no evidence for the claim. Bread and Butter I can’t possibly close the shop. It’s my bread and butter. Pane quotidiano To be dead as a doornail “Marley was dead, to begin with. There was no doubt whatever about that. Marley was as dead as a doornail.” Essere morto stecchito Doornail: borchia sulla porta To be dead as a doornail… If you hammer a nail through a piece of timber and then flatten the end over on the inside so it can’t be removed again (a technique called clinching), the nail is said to be dead, because you can’t use it again. dating from about 1350. Its meaning is disputed but most likely it referred to the costly metal nails hammered into the outer doors of the wealthy (most people used the much cheaper wooden pegs (pioli)), which were clinched on the inside of the door and therefore were “dead,” that is, could not be used again. Dead as a herring dates from the 16th century and no doubt alludes to the bad smell this dead fish gives off, making its death quite obvious. To be dead as a doornail…2 The usual reason given is that a doornail was one of the heavy nails on the outside of a medieval door, or possibly the phrase refers to the particularly big one on which the knocker rested. A doornail, because of its size and probable antiquity, would seem dead enough for any proverb; the one on which the knocker sat might be thought particularly dead because of the number of times it had been knocked on the head. To keep something under one’s hat. I’ll tell you what the boss plans to do next month but you have got to promise to keep it under your hat. Tenere la bocca chiusa To hang on Hang on, Harry! The police will be here in a minute. Tenere duro To get in someone’s hair. “Billy is a good boy, but sometimes he really gets in my hair especially when it’s raining and he can’t go out to play”, said his mother. Fare innervosire To know the ropes / to show someone the ropes. For this first week George will accompany you to show you the ropes; then you’ll be on your own. Insegnare i trucchi del mestiere Rope: corda To take something like a duck to water. I always thought Paul would be good at languages and I was right. He has taken to Spanish like a duck to water. Prendere confidenza To make ends meet. If it weren’t for your pay, Alex, I do not know how we would make ends meet this month. Tirare fino alla fine del mese N.B “fare combaciare gli estremi” To look like death warmed up My God, Claudia! What have you been doing lately? Aren’t you sleeping at night? You look like death warmed up. Avere una brutta cera *cera: wax *cera (aspetto): look “avere una bella cera”---to look well A watched pot never boils. You are not going to make Conrad get here any quicker by constantly looking out of the window. Remember, a watched pot never boils. Non essere così impaziente. Knight in shining armour. Jane has been waiting twenty years for her knight in shining armour. Il Principe Azzurro A chip off the old block. Peter is a great fisherman just like his father; he is a chip off the old block. Tale padre tale figlio N.B. Una scheggia dal vecchio blocco To be chicken. Come on, Silvia! Jump! Are you chicken? Essere un coniglio To drink like a fish. I’m not surprised he is in hospital with a liver (fegato) complaint. He has been drinking like a fish for years. Bere come una spugna To stick out like a sore thumb. Why did you have to wear jeans to that formal dinner party? You stuck out like a sore thumb. Essere un pugno nell’occhio. N. B. Saltare agli occhi come un pollice dolente. To stick/stuck To be the icing on the cake. I was thrilled when my son won a gold medal at the last Olympic Games. Then when my daughter won a bronze medal too, well, that really was the icing on the cake. Essere la ciliegina sulla torta. N.B. icing - glassa Not to have a leg to stand on You say that I killed the widow of Dr. Bones, but, my dear Holmes, I’m afraid that you do not have a leg to stand on. Non avere prove.