Idioms Found in the News!

Idioms are everywhere in American life. Here's a collection of idioms (with definitions) found in popular newspapers & magazines. Next time you're reading a magazine or newspaper, keep a pen handy and write down interesting idioms and expressions you find. Keep a journal of such expressions. You'll be surprised how quickly you can fill it! If you find a colorful usage, let us know and we'll post it below. Write to us at:

Venture capitalist David Cowan is a professed chess-playing nerd who studied math and computer science at Harvard. Last year, though, he decided he needed a crash course in getting hip. – The Wall Street Journal

crash course - a quick lesson

(Note: a nerd is somebody who's very interested in technology and who's usually very smart but who has limited social skills. It's similar to a geek. You may also hear the phrase "computer nerd").

WOW! We were really excited when we read this sentence. It contains three idioms:

Many older tech investors, eager not to miss out, are going to great lengths to shed fuddy-duddy images and ingratiate themselves with the younger generation.
The Wall Street Journal

(to) miss out - to miss an opportunity; to fail to make use of an opportunity

(to) go to great lengths - to do a lot; to do a lot to achieve a certain goal

fuddy-duddy - out of fashion; not modern; an old-fashioned person who doesn't want to change

As she pushed her shopping cart down an aisle of the Super Stop & Shop near her hometown of Warren, R.I., recently, Ms. Cabrera, a retired schoolteacher, offered her thoughts on why she steers clear of high-fructose corn syrup: "It's been linked to obesity, and it's just not something that's natural or good for you." - The New York Times

to steer clear (of something) - to avoid something; to stay away from something. (Note that "to steer" means to guide with a wheel or a similar device. When there's something in the road, you may need to steer your car around it).

No one is predicting that the iPod economy will be slowing soon. Mr. Baker said: "We've barely scratched the surface with the video iPod." - The New York Times

In some communities, efforts are being made to increase the amount of affordable housing. Celebrity-heavy Aspen, for example, has created 2,600 low-cost units over the past 30 years. But such measures only scratch the surface of the problem. - Financial Times

to (barely or only) scratch the surface - to only begin to explore or understand something; to deal with something only superficially

Rap-metal, once all the rage in the '90s thanks to bands like Limp Bizkit, now seems as relevant as Beavis and Butt- head. - People Magazine

"Condos are all the rage right now," Hodgett said. "People like to be close to downtown and walk to restaurants and shopping. They can come home in the evening and not worry about mowing the lawn." - Contra Costa Times

all the rage - very popular, trendy

Weber, the grill maker founded in Mount Prospect, Ill., in 1952, is refining its most expensive grill, the $2,200 Summit Platinum D6, in response to buyers who want more bells and whistles, said Brooke Jones, a Weber product manager. "They are looking for stainless steel grills and more accessories like rotisseries, warmer drawers, side burners and hand lights," she said. - The New York Times

bells and whistles - fancy features; product features that make a product more premium or expensive but that are not usually necessary; extras

Just seven months after the city's bid to host the 2012 Olympics fell flat, a key booster of the effort has opened the door to a scramble for the 2016 games - statements that fly in the face of previous comments by Mayor Bloomberg and other city officials. - New York Post

fly in the face - contradict; go against

WOW! This example has two idioms in one sentence:

It took Carolyn Fellwock and Charlie Watson only 11 months to tie the knot after meeting on Yahoo Personals – and three years more to call it quits. – Wall Street Journal

to tie the knot – to get married
to call it quits – to end something (such as a relationship, a job, a project, etc)

Some people who met a spouse online and later divorced aren’t losing heart. Some even say they would date online again. – The Wall Street Journal

to lose heart
– to give up hope; to get discouraged

Diana Leal, a Woodland Hills paralegal, said that when she was working in Dallas, she immediately lost respect for her attorney boss when he asked her out for dinner. I couldn't believe it. I think he just fell for my beauty or something. And then when I said `no,' he fired me," Leal said. "Bottom line, you can't be friends with your boss. It complicates things." – Los Angeles Daily News

bottom line – the main point is…; the conclusion is…

You can "kiss up" to both teachers and bosses, so here's one example of each:

Kids too into school have lost their love of learning (if they ever had any). They cram and forget. They're stressed. They're sleep-deprived. They compete with their "friends" and kiss up to their teachers. – The Oakland Tribune

Have a good relations hip with you boss. That does not mean kiss up to your boss. If it gets too far along a bad path, it means you don't get the good assignments, don't get the promotions and don't have a chance to advance your career. Plus, you may just be miserable. Make sure your relationship with your boss is open and honest, casual yet also professional. – The News & Observer

to kiss up – to flatter; try to gain favor with; behave in a way to make people like you more

But Vladimir Nuzhny, a toxicologist, said up to half of imported wine has not corresponded to the required quality since the fall of the Soviet Union . "It never killed anyone and Russian leadership used to turn a blind eye, but now relations are worsening with the Georgian and Moldovan leaders they don't see a need to ignore it any more," he said. - The Guardian

to turn a blind eye - to ignore; to pretend that something is not happening; to let something illegal or wrong happen without saying anything

George W. Bush can be sure of one thing when he next visits China on official business. Chinese president Hu Jintao won't try to emulate the Texas charm the US president dishes out at his Crawford ranch, dressing down to shoot the breeze over pork dumplings at a village restaurant. - Financial Times

shoot the breeze - to talk; to chat; to make conversation

Woof woof! Animals frequently show up in English idioms. Here's one with a dog:

Steve Girdler, director of services at Kelly UK, agrees that Sugar's methods are impressive. "Sometimes I think we can be too soft in our assessment of graduates. But what's the point when we know that in reality, business can be a dog-eat-dog world?" - The Guardian

dog-eat-dog world - a cruel world; a challenging environment in which people just look out for themselves

"Helping hand" can take either "a" or "the" before it. Here's an example of each since we're so eager to lend a helping hand!

As the cost of living for young people rises, the helping hand from parents is extending well past college years. – The New York Times

There was a table for the folks from Alcoholics Anonymous, another where people could sign up for food stamps and another where homeless veterans could find a helping hand. -The San Francisco Chronicle

(the or a) helping hand assistance; help

STAY TUNED! Check back soon for more Idioms Found in the News. We update this list as we find more idioms in the news. Send your contributions to!

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