One of the many quirks of the English language is our knack for twisting words into proverbs and phrases. But often, the literal meaning of the words makes no sense at all.
Even more often, native speakers are so used to hearing and using these sayings that they don’t even think about the meaning. They just instantly understand the phrasing due to familiarity and context.
There are many hundreds of these sayings, also known as idioms. Here, we’re going to take a look at sample of them and see if you know what they really mean.
Supposedly, in 17th-century Britain, people used to associate dogs with throwing up a lot. That's where this saying comes from. If you’re sick, especially with your head in a toilet, you’re sick as a dog.
Even the mangiest among us will have a good day at some point. This saying could be offensive, or could be used to inspire hope among society’s less fortunate.
Fairs used to give out cigars as prizes for some of their games. As we all know, fair games are ironically quite unfair. Near misses are all too common, so many people’s results would have been close, but no cigar.
Similar to “the grass is always greener on the other side,” the idea is that things may appear nice from a distance, but the reality is often not what you thought it would be. While the idea has been around for a long time, its original form comes to us from the Bard himself. Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, 1596, has the line as "all that glisters is not gold."
Often shortened to simply “when in Rome,” this phrase has expanded far beyond referencing the Italian city. It is now used to justify any behavior that could be attributed as popular in the local setting.
There are few experiences more extreme than being in love or involved in a war. Anything is fair under these circumstances. Using the phrase suggests that rule applies to all intense situations; any behavior is justifiable.
The thinking here is that ineptitude is all relative. Even a person with few skills is better than a person with no skills.
The beauty of a person, place, view, or anything else is an abstract quantity. The value is determined by the person who is experiencing it. Beauty is down to interpretation, and something uninspiring to one person could be breathtaking to another.
Those reliant on the generosity of others have to accept what they are given and are unable to have an influence on what they receive. It's basically another way of telling someone they can't be too picky.
Investigating other peoples’ business, or things that you have no involvement in, can have bad results. Be careful what you stick your nose into.
Nothing in life is guaranteed, so don’t count on potential good things until that potential has been realized.
If you put all your hopes into one thing, and that thing doesn’t work out, you’ll be in trouble. Sometimes, baskets break and that’s bad news for the eggs inside them.
The external appearance of a book gives almost no information compared to the thousands of words contained inside it. This idea applies to more than just books. A person’s looks do very little, if anything, to tell you about who they are inside.
If a situation involves more than one person, then the responsibility of the outcome lies with both parties.