One of the most enjoyable aspects of learning a language is getting to know its idioms and expressions. Indeed, it’s an area of language where the culture of the speakers can really make itself known. With English spoken in so many places around the world, it’s no surprise that the language has a wealth of entertaining sayings and slang, some funny, some rude, some clever and some bizarre. We’ve picked out 21 unusual English expressions from around the world to give you just a taste of this variety.
21 unusual English expressions from around the world
An omnishambles (something that has been managed or has turned out badly in every possible way) UK. First they mixed our rooms up, then the toilet flooded, and when we finally got to the beach it started raining. The entire holiday was an omnishambles!
Go off like a frog in a sock (go beserk, go crazy). AUSTRALIA. Blimey, mate – if she sees the mess you’ve made, she’ll go off like a frog in a sock.
A Bronx cheer (a loud sound, like blowing a raspberry, that expresses derision or contempt). NEW YORK. The crowd let out an enormous Bronx cheer when the quarterback fumbled the ball a second time.
Catch no ball (I don’t understand) SINGAPORE. Tell me that again. Catch no ball, lah.
Do the needful (do whatever you need to do to make it happen). INDIA. This plaintive little expression might come in handy if you ever need to deal with bureaucracy in India, where it’s often used in formal emails.
The whole nine yards (everything available, everything possible, the whole way). US. The scholarship covers course fees, accommodation, even some living expenses – honestly, the whole nine yards!
Donkeys’ years (a very long time). LONDON I haven’t seen Jeff in donkeys’ years. Although widely understood around the world, this expression really has nothing to do with the lifespan of donkeys at all. It’s actually an example of Cockney rhyming slang – donkey’s ears for years – that has been misinterpreted.
I don’t give rocks (I don’t care at all). SOUTH AFRICA. I don’t give rocks what you think! I’m doing it anyway.
Pack a sad (throw a tantrum). NEW ZEALAND. Don’t tease him like that or he’ll pack a sad. You know what he’s like.
Put the heart crossways in someone (give someone a fright, a heart attack). IRELAND. Jesus, don’t be sneaking up on me like that, will you? You put the heart crossways in me.
My teacher is sitting on my head (my teacher is putting pressure on me). INDIA. In super-multilingual India, it’s not unusual for people to translate idioms from one language to another. This one comes from Hindi. My teacher’s really sitting on my head. He’s given us three essays to write by Monday.
What’s for ye’ll no go past ye (what will be will be, qué será será) SCOTLAND. Don’t be fretting now, love. What’s for ye’ll no go past ye.
Go for/out for a rip (go out for a drive somewhere and have a great time, usually with beer involved) CANADA. A: Hey buddy, wanna go for a rip? Just got the keys to my new truck. B: Hell, yeah!
Out of whack (misaligned, wonky, broken, askew). US. Looks like you put those shelves up in a hurry! They’re a bit of whack. In the UK, skew-whiff has a similar meaning.
Lekker (cool, tasty, sexually attractive). SOUTH AFRICA. This word comes from Dutch via Afrikaans. A: Did you see that guy at the bar? B: I know, man – so lekker!
Get off the grass (an expression of surprise or disbelief). NEW ZEALAND. A: Guess what! Jill and I are getting married. B: Get off the grass! I bet she thought you’d never ask her!
Y’daft apeth (you idiot, you fool). MANCHESTER Don’t just stand there, y’daft apeth! Help me! Daft is a synonym of stupid and apeth comes from ha’p’orth, an abbreviation of halfpennyworth, i.e. an insignificant amount.
Go to see a man about a dog (go to the toilet). UK. A: Are you leaving already? We’ve just ordered dessert. B: No, I’ll be right back. Just going to see a man about a dog. A good example of British reticence when it comes to talking directly about anything vaguely awkward. Which is in stark contrast to our next one…
Syphon the python (for men – pee). AUSTRALIA. I’d better go syphon the python before I burst, mate.
What’s occurrin’? (How are you?) WALES. This is a typical way to greet someone in the country, a little like What’s up?
Bob’s your uncle (that’s all there is to it/that’s all it takes) VARIOUS. It’s really easy to use. Just plug it in, push this button and Bob’s your uncle!
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