Sunday, October 15, 2017

55 “House” Idioms

"He's really in the doghouse now." 
The integral nature and the ubiquity of houses in our culture has given rise to a number of idiomatic expressions that include the word house. This post lists such terms.

1. A house divided against itself cannot stand: A statement from a speech by Abraham Lincoln based on biblical scripture and alluding to the impending conflict between the North and the South over slavery
2. A house is not a home: A saying that differentiates a physical building from a dwelling identified with a family

3. A house of cards: a precarious situation, from the notion of an activity in which one or more people try to build a structure out of vertically placed playing cards without causing it to collapse
4. A plague on both your houses: A curse, based on a line from Romeo and Juliet, in which the speaker expresses disgust with both parties in a dispute
5. As safe as houses: In British English, a reference on the presumption that a house is secure, to satisfactory protection
6. Basket house: A music venue in which performers earn only money collected in a basket or other receptacle as donations
7. Big house: Slang for prison, or a reference to the main residence of an estate
8. Boardinghouse reach: An especially long reach across a table, alluding to the relaxed table manners of a boardinghouse, a lodging in which meals are provided
9. Bottom the house: A reference to thoroughly cleaning a place
10. Brick house: A sexually attractive woman, from the notion that she, on the analogy of a sturdy structure made of brick, is well built
11–12. Bring down the house/bring the house down: A reference to a performer being so entertaining that everyone in the venue in which the person is performing responds so enthusiastically that the performance is temporarily interrupted
13–15. Call house/house of ill fame/repute: Euphemisms for brothel
16. Clean house: A reference to thoroughly reforming an organization by replacing employees or members or changing policies or traditions
17. Crack house: Slang for a house from which crack cocaine is sold
18. Dream house: A house one considers ideal as a residence
19. Eat (one) out of house and home: Deplete all the food in a house
20–21. Fox guarding the henhouse/in the henhouse: A proverbial reference to the folly of allowing a person inimical to an organization to lead it or be involved in it
22. Full house: Said of an entertainment venue with the audience at capacity.

(A full house is also a term used in poker and means having all three of a kind and a pair... for example, three aces and 2 jacks)
23. Get (one’s) own house in order: An admonition to improve one’s own situation before criticizing another person for theirs
24. Get along like a house on fire: Become friends immediately upon meeting
25–26. Go around/round the houses: An expression, synonymous with “beating around the bush,” alluding to a person talking about trivial matters to avoid bringing up a sensitive topic
27. Halfway house: A residence for rehabilitating ex-convicts, drug addicts, or mental patients; by extension, a midpoint
28. Hash house: An inexpensive restaurant
29. Haunted house: A house thought to be inhabited by ghosts or spirits
30. House band: A musical ensemble hired to play regularly at a venue on its own, backing up visiting performers, or both
31. House music: A style of electronic dance music similar to disco but with few or no lyrics
32. House of correction: A euphemism for prison
33. House of many doors: Slang for prison
34. House poor: Able to afford housing costs but little else
35. House specialty: A menu item or other product that a business takes pride in offering
36. House wine: Any type of wine offered as a specialty of a restaurant or bar
37. Housebreak: Train a pet to use a special receptacle or go outside to urinate or defecate; by extension, make polite or submissive
38. Housewarming party: A celebration to commemorate moving into a new residence
39. In the house: Present (usually in the context of an entertainer being in a performing venue)
40. Keep house: Manage a household
41. Keep open house: Said of a residence in which visitors are always welcome
42. Lady of the house: A woman who manages a household
43. Like a house on fire: Quickly, from the notion that a burning house will swiftly become engulfed in flames
44. My house is your house: An expression of hospitality to make a guest feel welcome
45. On the house: Free (meaning that the house, or establishment, will on a special occasion pay for a product offered in the establishment)
46. Open house: An event in which visitors are welcome, either for a house party, a showing of a residence for sale, or an event in which members of the public are invited to visit an organization’s headquarters
47. Out of house and home: Evicted or otherwise deprived of shelter
48. Outhouse: An outdoor toilet
49. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones: A proverb that discourages hypocrisy; compare “put (one’s) own house in order”
50. Play house: Pretend to engage in activities associated with being part of a family (usually said of children role-playing domestic behaviors such as cooking and cleaning)
51. Put (one’s) house in order: Manage one’s affairs; contrast with “Put (one’s) own house in order”
52. Put (one’s) own house in order: An expression exhorting people to take care of their own affairs before criticizing how others handle theirs; compare “Those who own glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” and contrast with “Put (one’s) house in order”
53. Rock the house: Elicit an enthusiastic response from an audience
54. Shotgun house: Slang for a long, narrow house built with rooms in a straight line, from the notion that a shotgun shell could be fired through the front door and out the back door
55. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house: A reference to a dramatic performance that causes everyone in the audience in a performance venue to cry

A couple more...
Cat house: Same meaning as # 13-15 above.
He is really in the doghouse now. He forgot his wife's birthday!: He is in trouble with his wife. 

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Idioms using 'Fish'

The ubiquity of fish in culinary traditions and the popularity of fishing as both a recreational pastime and a food-gathering activity has led to the development of many fish-based idioms, including those listed and described below.

1. all is fish that comes to his net: a proverb that alludes to a person’s resourcefulness

2–4. another/different/whole other kettle of fish: spoken to recognize an abrupt shift in the topic being discussed

5–6. better/other fish to fry: a reference to having more important things to do than what one is doing or than what is proposed

7. big fish: an important or influential person

8–9. big fish in a little/small pond: an important or influential person on an insignificant scale, such as in a small community

10. cold fish: a person who does not exude friendliness or show emotions

11. cry stinking fish (primarily British English): self-deprecate

12. drink like a fish: imbibe excessive amounts of alcohol

13–14. fine/pretty kettle of fish: a predicament

15. fish around: investigate

16–17. fish for a compliment/compliments: encourage someone to say something favorable about you without asking outright

18. fish in troubled waters: involve oneself in a dangerous or difficult situation to risk gaining an advantage

19. fish or cut bait: an admonition to act or to remove oneself as an obstacle to another person acting

20. fish out of water: a reference to a person who feels awkward or uncomfortable because he or she is in an unfamiliar environment

21–24. fish out/fish out of/fish up/fish up out of: retrieve (the first variation is also used literally to mean “deplete a body of water of its fish population by overfishing”)

25. fish story: an exaggerated account or tall tale, from the supposed tendency of fishermen to claim that the “one that got away” was larger than it actually was

26. fish-eating grin: smug smile

27. fish-eye lens: a type of wide-angle camera lens

28. fish: inept or stupid person

29. fishy: suspicious

30. like shooting fish in a barrel: a reference to something that is extremely easy to do, on the notion that fish swimming in a barrel rather than in open water make for an easy target

31–32. need (something) like/about as much as a fish needs a bicycle: a reference to the incompatibility of a fish and a bicycle to convey that something is utterly useless to someone

33. neither fish nor fowl: an allusion to something difficult to categorize, describe, or understand

34–35. odd/queer fish: a strange person

36–37. plenty of/more fish in the sea: a reference to the notion that many other romantic partners are available to one after the end of a relationship or after one is rejected by another person

38. teach a man to fish: the essence of a proverb, one version of which is “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime,” which means that it is better to teach someone to do something than to do it for him or her

39. The cat would eat fish but would not wet her feet: A proverbial comment referring to the necessity of enduring annoyance or taking risks to achieve goals

40. What’s that got to do with the price of fish? (primarily British English): a response to an irrelevant comment or a non sequitur

And I would add one that you hear in many gangster movies:

41. Sleep with the fish/fishes: He will be sleeping with the fishes by morning means he will be dead (killed) by the next morning.
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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Conditionals Besides “If” and “Unless”

If and unless are common conditional conjunctions employed to express conjecture and uncertainty, but a number of other words and phrases that perform similar functions are discussed in this post.

“Should you” is the future conditional form of “do you,” seen in formally polite requests such as “Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.” It is more flexible than “if you,” which is strictly conditional in the present, in inviting the audience to contact the speaker/writer at any time, not just now.

“Had you” is an example of a subject-auxiliary inversion, employed in statements such as ‘Had you bothered to ask, I would have told you.” The implication of the sentence is that the audience did not do something that, if he or she or they had, would have achieved the stated result.

If (noun/pronoun) were” statements pertain to possible but improbable occurrences or to recommendations, as in “If you were to open your eyes, you would find what you were looking for.” A more formal version of this form is “were (noun/pronoun) to (verb),” as in “Were we to think otherwise.”

Several words or phrases impose conditions or set limits, such as “As long as” (less formal) or “so long as,” (more formal), “only if,” “on condition that,” and “provided” or “providing” (or “provided/providing that”).

The conjunction or is used conditionally to establish an alternative possibility to a condition or state: “Hurry up, or you’ll be late.” Otherwise, as used earlier in this post, is a pronoun; as a conjunctive adverb, it serves the same function as or (but notice the difference in punctuation): “Hurry up; otherwise, you’ll be late.” (Some writing guides accept the punctuation used with or.)

Suppose and supposing apply to what-if situations: “Suppose that I were to say no—what would you do?” “Supposing that I were to say no, what would you do?” Suppose also pertains to proposing an idea, as in “Suppose I pay for dinner, and you buy the movie tickets?”

In “if only,” only appears as an intensifier to express a strong wish for a different condition or state, as in “If only you had told me before.” “If so” and “if not” pertain to opposite potential affirmative and negative conditions or states, respectively, when the condition or state is known: “Do you plan to attend the event? If so, click on yes. If not, click on no.”  

Even is also used as an intensifier with if, but unlike in the case of only, it precedes if; it pertains to extreme or surprising conditions or states, as in “Even if I were to believe you, what would you expect me to do about it?”


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