A long list of English expressions and idioms!

The other day someone asked me how many English expressions and idioms we had featured on the World of Words since it started.

With several hundred articles each featuring at least five new English expressions or idioms, there must be well over a thousand English words, expressions and idioms explained on this site.

Here’s a list of some of the interesting vocabulary tagged in the site for you to explore. Click the words to see them in context in an article.

Urban Dictionary: The English Words of Young People

Growing up in London has made me realise that the correct English language is a bit of a myth. The only person I remember ever speaking the correct English language in my entire life was my Secondary School Head Teacher. To be fair she was about 70 something year old, it would have been very weird if she came out and greeted us with “Yo students!”

In the olden days, around the time of Henry VIII and Queen Victoria, I’m sure people didn’t greet each other with “What’s popping?” (Meaning, “Hello, how are you?”). You were more likely to hear greetings such as “How do you do?”
Being a young adult myself, I have heard many different ways of saying one phrase, sentence or word which all mean the same thing.

Wa Gwan
What’s Up

Good Bye
See you later
I’m out of here
I’m bouncing
How are you?
What’s good?
How’s it going?
What up?
Thank you

As you can see, the English language has been ‘urbanised’ by young people nowadays and surprisingly, as they get older, they tend to stick with the same words. 5o’clock rush hour on the London Underground, you get the random 30-35 year olds with their expensive looking suits and briefcases, speaking with their work colleague and coming out with sentences such as:

“Work was long today, can’t wait to bounce home” meaning “Work was long today, can’t wait to get home”


“Can’t wait for the weekend, I’m going to get wasted” meaning “Can’t wait for the weekend, I’m going to get drunk”

As generations go by, the correct English language will start to fade away. Although children are taught the right English vocabulary and grammar in school, once you leave school, it’s a whole new English language you hear, learn and speak. Eventually, we are going to need language translations to help us understand one another! But as they say English is a funny language and for decades this language has evolved and the next generation could bring a new chapter to this interesting story.

Author Bio: Nancy Carranza, 24 year old university graduate with an artistic background. She works in retail and for Translation Services 24 ltd.

A Beginner’s Guide to Cockney Rhyming Slang

Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

What is Cockney rhyming slang?

If you’ve ever been to London and witnessed people speaking a strange kind of English that you didn’t understand, you were probably hearing Cockney rhyming slang. CRS replaces one word with a pair of words that rhyme with it. For example, ‘trouble and strife’ means ‘wife’ in Cockney rhyming slang, so you might hear someone saying:

Where’s my trouble and strife?

What he means is, ‘Where’s my wife?’ And to make matters worse, sometimes only one word from the pair is used, so somebody might just say:

Where’s my trouble?

Quite a long way from the original sentence, isn’t it?

Where does Cockney rhyming slang come from?

Cockney rhyming slang, which is spoken by Cockneys, originated in the mid-nineteenth century in the East End of London. A Cockney is someone who was born within earshot of Bow Bells (the bells of a particular church in East London), but now it really just means any Londoner with a specific kind of accent.

No one knows how or why Cockney rhyming slang developed. Some say it was spoken by criminals to confuse the police, while others think it was used by market traders to talk to each other without their customers knowing what they were saying. Whatever the case, it probably also served a double purpose of maintaining a sense of community.

One of the interesting things about Cockney rhyming slang is how it changes over the years to reflect popular culture. In the 1980s, ‘flares’ (a type of trouser that gets wider at the bottom) were referred to as ‘Lionel Blairs’ after the famous actor. Nowadays, they’re known as ‘Tony Blairs’ after the ex-Prime Minister:

Anyone seen my Tony Blairs?

Another example is that ‘Scooby Doo’ suddenly started to mean ‘clue’ with the arrival of the mystery-solving cartoon dog on TV:

I haven’t got a Scooby!

Films and music

If you’re a fan of British films and music, chances are you’ve come across Cockney rhyming slang at some point before. In the film Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Barfly Jack makes heavy use of it when telling a story about someone being set on fire. Amusingly, the scene has been subtitled in ‘normal’ English, with additional flashbacks to help the viewer understand. And to be honest these extra measures are completely necessary to know what’s going on – even for a native speaker!

In the 1960s, the influential British rock band The Kinks recorded a song called ‘Harry Rag’, which refers to the Cockney rhyming slang term for cigarette, ‘Harry Wragg’, or fag:

I’ll do anything just to get a Harry Wragg

Further examples

I’ll finish with some other popular examples of Cockney rhyming slang for you. Can you guess what these mean? (Answers are at the bottom of the page.)

Ouch! He hit me in the north and south!

That man’s got huge plates of meat

I don’t like it when you tell porkies (porky pies)

Let’s have a butcher’s (butcher’s hook)

I’ll call him on the dog and bone

I’m just going up the apples and pears

It’s all gone Pete Tong

Hi me old china! (china plate)

Matt Lindley is an English teacher and blogger living in East London. He blogs for HotelClub, a website where you can find great deals on London hotels and more.

Answers: mouth, feet, lies, look, phone, stairs, wrong, mate

English expressions and idioms with ‘beach’

life’s a beach
Meaning: life is good or easy
Example: I won the lottery last week and now life’s a beach for me

a beach bum
Meaning: someone who spends a lot of time at the beach (usually negative)
Example: He’s always surfing instead of doing his homework – what a beach bum!

not the only pebble on the beach
Meaning: not the only important person in a place or situation
Example: She’s a manager now but she’ll have to remember that she’s not the only pebble on this beach – there are lots of other managers in the company

take sand to the beach
Meaning: a pointless activity
Example: She has so much perfume, buying her another bottle would be like taking sand to the beach

English expressions and idioms with ‘ears’

music to your ears
Meaning: to approve of something you hear
Example: The news of his new job was music to his ears.

wet behind the ears
Meaning: young and inexperienced
Example: The new staff cam straight from school and were still wet behind the ears.

fall on deaf ears
Meaning: when advice or information is ignored by a person
Example: I told him to start saving money before the recession but the advice fell on deaf ears.

have an ear to the ground
Meaning: to listen carefully for news related to the future
Example: I’ve had an ear to the ground but I still can’t work out whether the boss will be leaving or not.

have (something) coming out of your ears
Meaning: to have a lot of something
Example: My apple tree had loads of fruit this year. I have apples coming out of my ears.

walls have ears
Meaning: someone might be listening
Example: Person 1 – Did you hear the news about Dave leaving? Person 2 – It’s best not to talk about that here. Walls have ears and we’re not supposed to know that news yet

Today’s image is by Andrea Kratzenberg.

English expressions and idioms with ‘fast’

It’s a busy week this week and I need to get motivated. These English idioms and expressions with ‘fast’ should do the trick!

to pull a fast one
Meaning: to carry out a clever (usually nasty) trick
Example: Dave said if I gave him £100, he would get me a good deal on a new TV but he pulled a fast one and ran off with the money.

life in the fast lane
Meaning: to live a dangerous, risky lifestyle
Example: Simon loves gambling and sports cars. He lives his life in the fast lane.

to make a fast buck
Meaning: to make money easily, usually in a dishonest way
Example: Dave thought he could make a fast buck selling stolen TVs but the police caught him in the end.

on the fast track
Meaning: likely to get somewhere or achieve something faster than usual
Example: Her attitude and knowledge put her on the fast track to success.

to hold fast
Meaning: to remain secure
Example: It was a big storm but the ropes held fast and the tent didn’t blow away.

Today’s image is by Ariel da Silva Parreira.

English expressions and idioms with ‘slow’

Are you having a busy week so far? If so, these English expressions and idioms with ‘slow’ will help you relax a bit.

slow down
Meaning: to decrease speed
Example: Slow down! You’re above the speed limit.

slow going
Meaning: to make little progress
Example: I’m painting the kitchen today but it’s really slow going. I’ve only done one wall.

slow off the mark
Meaning: to delay starting something
Example: Our company was really slow off the mark with releasing our new product and another company was able to dominate the market first.

slow but sure
Meaning: gradual but certain
Example: Despite tough conditions, Simon’s slow but sure progress meant he won the race.

a slow day
Meaning: A day with little activity or business
Example: It’s a really slow day today – we’ve only had one customer.

Today’s image is by Jacqueline Fouche.