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What Are Some of the First English Idioms You Learned?


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This is for both non-native and native speakers of English.  Tell us which idioms you first encountered in English; not just in classroom study but perhaps also in everyday conversation or in books.  What idioms stood out for you in some way -- you liked them, found them baffling, amusing, etc.?

English is my native language and, I remember as a child hearing expressions that created strong visual impressions before I understood the idiomatic meaning.  In particular I remember hearing that idiom "wild goose chase" and literally thinking of it as a cartoon, of people chasing wild geese!  It struck me as strange since I didn't understand the meaning -- i.e. the pursuit of something that's not attainable.

Another one that struck me was "burning the candle at both ends."  Again, I tried to picture this and thought it was very odd.  It means doing too much all at once or working incessantly.

What are your first experiences with idioms? 

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I remember being younger and hearing being "stabbed in the back".  I was very distressed and then learned it meant betrayal and not a physical assault.  I also wanted to have a "gift horse" when I heard that people "looked them in the mouth".  I think any horse idiom would have caught my attention including a "horse of a different color".

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  • 4 weeks later...

I think one of the first that I ever encountered that confused me was the idiom:

Keep an eye out! or Keep an eye on them!

As a small boy I had this horrible thought of having to literally take an eye from your head.....Yuk!

Some of the old idioms do have general meanings though.

Back in the days when we had thatched roofs for our houses, quite often the family pets would nest in the roof (Inside the house) for warmth, when it rained really heavy the thatch would get sodden and the animals fall from their nest.

It's raining cats and dogs, became a popular idiom to show how heavy it was raining.

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I don't remember the first idiom that I've learned but there are a few that I've been using for quite some time. I tend to say "pardon my French" after I use a swear word or if I've just said something nasty. I also like to say "break a leg", especially if the person hearing this gets annoyed :grin:.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The first idiom that I recall is "I'm all ears". I was as small as small gets and, I remember mom telling me this every time I badgered her with my day's tales. Obviously back then I didn't know it was an 'idiom' or what an idiom meant. All I knew was mom was listening to me with both her ears. Haha.

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One idiom that is overused in schools and which you certainly can't help hearing a teacher use is: "pull up your socks." I heard it used so much in class that it become more of an earworm. Each time I saw a teacher, first thing I'd expect to hear him or her say is. . .

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I can’t forget my mom’s everyday idiom “A Bird in the Hand Is worth Two in the Bush’. For me I didn’t understand what she meant until a time I asked her and she said that  having something worth in hand is much better than taking a risk for more, because chances are you might lose everything.

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I actually learned a lot of English idiomatic expressions and I am currently teaching them to my Korean students. :) Some idioms I know of are: "as easy as pie", "hit the sack", "hit the books", "go figure", "feel like a million dollars" among others. It is fun learning and teaching them. :)

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  • 4 weeks later...

I believe I heard a lot of idioms from my parents when I was still young, but to me they're just like silly talk as these bunch of words/phrases don't made sense to me back then.  :grin:  The first English idiom that I remember learning was "hitting two birds with one stone" which means getting two things (or more ) done with just one action, sort of multi-tasking.  :smile:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Piece of cake is a funny one. I first learned this one about 15 years ago when I played an Ego-Shooter game called Duke Nukem...In the beginning of the game you had to choose the difficulty level and the easiest one was called "Piece of Cake" :=)

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Piece of cake is a funny one. I first learned this one about 15 years ago when I played an Ego-Shooter game called Duke Nukem...In the beginning of the game you had to choose the difficulty level and the easiest one was called "Piece of Cake" :=)

oh, really? that is funny. I can remember that game and also this fact about the difficulty levels  :grin:

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  • 2 weeks later...

"Raining cats and dogs" is one of the few ones I have first learned. It sounded funny the first time I heard it. And when I learned that it means it's raining heavily, it even became more funny!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't know why, but I can distinctly remember being taught "raining cats and dogs" in elementary school. Maybe it's because the imagery is vivid for a child. Just imagine the sky raining meowing cats and barking dogs!

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My memory of this is a little blurry since I was very young when I started learning English at school, but I still remember getting taught some of these idioms early on and at least one of the first ones I learned and remembered was "The grass is always greener on the other side". I'm sure there were lots more taught within that period, but it's the one I remember most for some reason.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The first idiom I can remember learning about was "it is raining cats and dogs!" I thought this was really fun and peculiar at the time. However, I have gown old of it. Also, this idiom seems to not be popular apparently, I thought I would have seen it a little more here on this thread. 

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