like a chicken with its head cut off
- act in a frenzied manner
- behave in a distracted, crazy way
- in a frantic and disorganized manner
- be in a frenzy
- act in a haphazard or aimless way
- not be in control
- Does he know how to handle the situation? He has been running around all morning like a chicken with its head cut off.
- He ran around the place looking for his missing bags like a chicken with its head cut off.
- When she realized that the child was not with her, she ran around looking for him like a chicken with its head cut off.
- He does not know what to do. He has been running around like a chicken with its head cut off all day.
- When he realized that he was being removed from his position, he started running around the building like a chicken with its head cut off.
- When he lost the match, he ran all over the ground like a chicken with its head cut off, venting his anger on anything he could get hold of.
This phrase literally refers to to decapitated chicken or poultry, which have been known to twitch and even stagger around for a few minutes after having their heads cut off. It was known in the USA by the late 19th century, with an early print recording being in July, 18802 from The Atlanta Constitution.
knock on wood
or touch wood
- tap knuckle on wood in order to avoid bad luck
- said when you want good luck or a good situation to continue
- said when expressing hope for something to occur
- I am expecting a promotion and a big pay hike this year, touch wood.
- The team I support has been winning every game so far, knock on wood.
- We have had a great week so far and, touch wood, we will end it on a high note.
- We expect to close the deal by the end of this week, knock on wood.
- We have had a smooth journey so far, touch wood.
- Our new venture has got off to a great start and touch wood, we’ll be doing good business by the end of the year.
- Your health seems to be improving, knock on wood.
The phrase originated based on a superstition that knocking or touching wood will ward off evil spirits. Wood and trees have an association with good spirits in mythology. It was considered good luck to tap trees to let the good spirits know that you were there. The British version of the phrase is “touch wood”, while the American version is “knock on wood.” The phrase originated in Latin (absit omen) in the early 17th century, and came into English (British version touch wood) by 1850. The American version knock on wood was known from the early 20th century.
knee jerk reaction
- an automatic response to something
- an immediate reaction made without thinking
- a reflex reaction
- an instant reaction made without examining causes or facts
- a spontaneous and involuntary reaction
- It was a typical knee jerk reaction. He said no immediately without considering our proposal.
- In a knee jerk reaction after the big defeat, the coach dropped many of the players and fielded a new look team for the next match.
- We want to avoid a knee jerk reaction to this crisis, so we will have to sit down and plan our next course of action.
- Her remark was probably a knee jerk reaction to your comments, which were not very flattering.
- The actions of the police were a knee jerk reaction to the sudden rise in crime in the city.
- In a knee jerk reaction to the increase in costs, the company decided to shut down some of its operations.
- Megan was so afraid of the horror movie that she denied to recognise her father on phone call in a knee jerk reaction.
This phrase refers to the actual physical tendency of the knee to jerk involuntarily when when hit sharply just below the kneecap. Scientifically, this is called the patellar reflex. The phrase began to be used figuratively from the early 20th century onwards. An early reference is found in O. O. McIntyre’s column New York Day-By-Day in The Coshocton Tribune in October 1921.
keep body and soul together
- manage to stay alive with very little money
- earn barely enough to keep you alive
- just be able to pay for the basic necessities of life – food, clothing and a place to live
- to survive or exist, especially in difficult circumstances
- When he first came to the city, he earned barely enough to keep body and soul together.
- John said he would not be able to keep body and soul together on the salary he was being offered by that company.
- Artists and writers often do not earn enough to be able to keep body and soul together. They need a second job to sustain themselves.
- With rising costs and dwindling income, she had to take up two jobs to keep body and soul together.
- Those workers worked long hours in toxic conditions just to be able to keep body and soul together.
- He did not earn enough from his job to keep body and soul together, so he took up a small side business in order to supplement his income.
This phrase alludes to the belief that the soul gives life to the body and life continues as long as the soul inhabits the body. It has been used since the early 1700s.
kiss and make up
- to become friendly again after an argument
- to forgive each other and be friends again
- to settle one’s differences
- to reconcile and forget past animosity
- to stop being angry at someone
- to kiss each other and apologize
- After having a heated argument the previous night, the young couple kissed and made up and decided to settle their differences amicably.
- They were a peculiar couple. They were always fighting with each other, but at the end if the day, they would always kiss and make up; only to start all over again the next day.
- My friend and her partner have not been speaking to each other for the past five days. I wish they would stop all this and just kiss and make up.
- Steve realized his mistake and apologized to his wife for having been so rude to her; and they finally kissed and made up.
- They never let their differences come in way of their goals. They did have their arguments, but they always kissed and made up and decided to start afresh.
This phrase originated in the mid 1900s and replaced another phrase “kiss and be friends” which was in use since the 1400s.
- To be quiet when one knows that if the wrong thing is said then there will be more trouble.
- To not say something to anyone.
- To keep a sensitive matter a secret.
- To not divulge any information.
- I can’t tell you because you will not be able to keep schtum about it.
- She can keep schtum about such a sensitive thing, you can trust her.
- My aunt loves to gossip, she is not going to keep schtum if she ever finds out.
- The whole college kept schtum about the incident, nobody said a word about what happened there that day, it is truly remarkable.
- To keep schtum is a virtue that not everyone can carry.
- The prisoner kept schtum for years to keep his comrades safe.
The word ‘stumm’ in the German language means to be silent. The phrase in question originates in the United Kingdom and comes from the criminal world. Frank Norman used the phrase in his book “Bang to rights: an account of prison life” in the year 1958. The phrase is mostly used in the United Kingdom itself.
- keep stumm
- keep shtoom
- keep shtum
as keen as mustard
- Very excited and enthusiastic.
- Awaiting eagerly.
- Little kids are always as keen as mustard to learn new things around them.
- She is as keen as mustard to get her hands on the new toys that her mother promised her.
- The class was as keen as mustard to begin the 4 day trip.
- She went to Europe for a vacation and came home as keen as mustard to go back.
- I am as keen as mustard to live rest of my life in Surrey, Canada.
- Why you are as keen as mustard to open my parcel? It’s something secret I am not going to show you.
Roast beef, which is a popular English meal which in the olden times would gather long queues in order to get the Sunday lunch. Richard Leveridge described this enthusiasm in his song ‘Roast beef of Old Engand’ in the year 1735. Mustard being an accompaniment was soon associated with this enthusiasm.
Mustard has a reputation to cure fevers and colds too and was a popular home remedy in the 19th century. The phrase in use today was first used by William Walker in 1672 and again by F. Smith’s in his work ‘Clod-pate’s Ghost’ in the year 1679 which clarified the meaning of the phrase.
A speculation of the popularity of the phrase also goes to Keen and Sons who used to manufacture mustard since 1742 but they did not use the phrase for their operations.
know the ropes
- to know all the ways and means to get something done
- to understand the nuances of how something should be done
- the acquaintance of all possible means is said to know the ropes
- She has been working here for 30 years and knows the ropes to getting anything done.
- When the captain arrived at dock he worked so smoothly that it was clear he knows the ropes. The loading in the ship was suddenly completed in no time.
- He knows the ropes of the circus since he has been here his entire life.
It is not 100% clear if the origin comes from the sea, where a sailor is expected to ‘know the ropes’, literally or if the origination is from the world of theatre where ropes bring the curtains up and down. In the literary word, the expression was first used in 1840 by Richard Dana Jr. He used in the context of the sea but in the sense of someone being knowledgeable. The title of the book was ‘Two years before the mast’. Ten years later the same phrase was used by J. Timon which cited a theatrical reference in his work called ‘Opera Goer’.
- It refers to a court that passes judgement but is not a valid court.
- an unauthorized court
- a bogus court
- The Kangaroo court announced two years back that the family should be banished and the people in the village followed the judgement. To this day, nobody even talks to anyone in that family.
- A lot of small villages in India still believe in Kangaroo courts rather than actual ones to get their legal issues resolved.
- The punishments meted out by Kangaroo courts should not be taken seriously since they are all just a sham.
- Kangaroo courts have long been banned by the government of India but still run at a grand scale.
- One often read about ghastly punishments given out by Kangaroo courts in the newspaper.
The term Kangaroo in Kangaroo court did not come from the native place of Kangaroos that is Australia. There is a speculation that the term originated as being equivalent to Kangaroos with regards to the claim jumping that was noticed in the case of the California Gold Rush. Although the earliest known usage of the phrase was in 1853 in a magazine article by Philip Paxton which was titled ‘A stray Yankee in Texas’. The notion of Kangaroos jumping and providing blank stares at people when they see them for the first time is said to be equivalent to the vacant stares by the judges in a Kangaroo court.
kick the bucket
- Have you heard? The old man down the street has kicked the bucket.
- All the fish in my aquarium kicked the bucket when we went on a vacation.
- The old dog finally kicked the bucket when the winter got too harsh for him.
- I have decided to donate my organs when I kick the bucket.
- The old lady had lead a solitary life, but when she kicked the bucket, the whole neighbourhood came to her funeral.
The phrase first appeared in print in the “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue” in 1785. Its origin is unclear, though there are several theories. One common theory is of hanging, when a person standing on a bucket with a noose over the head kicks the bucket and hence, dies. There is no evidence to support this claim, and it appears rather implausible. Another, more plausible, theory refers to the archaic meaning of the word bucket, which used to mean beam in 16th century England. A bucket, or beam, was used to hang animals by the feet for slaughter, and they would kick it while dying. A third theory refers to the Catholic practice of placing the holy water bucket at the feet of a person who has died, so that visitors could sprinkle the holy water on the body.