Clever use of Idioms

Idioms are part and parcel of any language.  They often add colour to the language.  It is rather disappointing that many students have forgotten the beauty of idioms to express their thoughts in their essays.  Idioms are useful in vividly showing something by providing images that give an impactful yet concise explanation.

There are thousands of idioms and it’s virtually impossible to go through every single one.  In this article, I would like to share the following which are very useful.

  • A chip on the shoulder – to be upset / afraid by something that happened in the past

He was almost drowned as a child in the pool.  Now, whenever he sees water, he’s fearful.  The incident has become a chip on his shoulder.

  • A dime a dozen – something that is very common

Pandas are a rarity in Singapore.  In China however, pandas are a dime a dozen.

  • Bark up the wrong tree – blame a wrong person or to take a wrong approach

Some parents are too busy for their children.  They shower their kids with everything except attention.  They are barking up the wrong tree, when sometimes what the child wants is their attention.

  • Count your chickens before they hatch – to be too sure or over-confident 

We should never count our chickens before they hatch.  Although we may be very good at a particular subject, it pays to be careful and check our work especially in exams.

  • Go to hell in a handbasket – something that is already bad and will become disastrous

The team is weak and its members are also not in harmony with one another.  They will be going to hell in a handbasket when they meet the defending champion in the next match.

  • Other fish to fry – other more important things to do

The exams are coming.  Instead of playing all the time, don’t you have other fish to fry?

  • Paddle your own canoe – to do something without any help

Parents should let their child paddle their own canoe as much as possible so that the child can learn to be independent.

  • Sail under false colours – to pretend to be something that one is not

When making friends on social media, we should always be wary of people who sail under false colours.  They may be criminals looking to cheat or harm us.

  • See the world through rose-coloured glasses – to be too optimistic and only see the good side about something

Although technology has brought convenience to our lives, we should not see the world through rose-coloured glasses.  It has also caused distress to victims of scam and cyberbullying.

  • When the chips are down – when situation becomes really bad or difficult

We will only know who our friends are when the chips are down.  True friends will help and encourage us.  Those who are not our real friends will abandon us when we need them.

For those who want to know more about using idioms in essay writing, you can always grab a copy of these books (that I have authored) from the school bookshop or Popular Book stores.

This book is used by some of the top schools such as Hwa Chong, Nanyang Girls and Raffles Girls as teaching aid and recommended reading text.