Saturday, May 1, 2010


Idioms use language metaphorically rather than literally. If you 'make your bed and lie in it', it means you accept the consequences of your actions, not that you arrange your bed and then lie down and go to sleep. Idioms are also fixed groups of words so you can't change the wording of an idiom. For example, you can say 'face the music' to mean 'accept a punishment for a wrong-doing', but you can't say 'face the song' or 'face the movie'.
To be in/get in trouble:
To be in hot water 
To get in hot water
To land in hot water
To find oneself in hot water
To be in a dangerous situation, or a difficult situation where you are likely to be punished: 'She sent quite a few emails complaining about her boss. Someone forwarded them to the boss - she's in hot water now!'
To be in the soup 
This idiom is similar in meaning to 'to be in hot water.' It means: to be in a dangerous situation, or a difficult situation where you are likely to be punished: 'I told her not to send that email, but she wouldn't listen to me, and now she's in the soup.'
To get out of the soup 
To escape from a difficult or dangerous situation, thus avoiding punishment: 'We're in quite a lot of trouble right now, but I have a plan which could get us out of the soup.'To be in somebody's bad books
To be in the dog house 
To be off the team 
These idioms all mean that somebody who you are usually close to is angry with you, because of something you did (or something you should have done, but didn't).
'I'm in my mum's bad books again. I said I'd do the washing up before I went out, but I didn't.'
'I'm in the doghouse because I forgot my boyfriend's birthday. He hasn't spoken to me for three days.'
'I went to a party with my girlfriend last weekend, but she said I spent all my time talking to my friends, and not enough time with her, so I'm off the team at the moment.'
To be up the creek without a paddle 
This means that you are in trouble and you have no way to save yourself. A creek is a small river: if you are in a boat without a paddle (a paddle is a short, flat oar that people use to move and control small boats) you are stuck in the middle of the creek with no way to control your boat: 'It was the middle of the night. I was at the station, with no money, no ticket and no telephone. The last bus had just left, and all the hotels were full. I was definitely up the creek without a paddle.'
To catch somebody red-handed 
To discover somebody in the act of committing a crime or doing something bad: 'We spent ages wondering who the office thief was. Then one day I came back from lunch and discovered it was Julie. I caught her red-handed, going through my bag.'
To put the cat among the pigeons 
To do or say something that causes trouble or makes people angry, worried or upset:
'Tell them that they are all going to have their pay cut. That shouldput the cat among the pigeons!'

The consequences of trouble:
To make your bed and lie in it 
This means that if you have done something bad or stupid, you have to accept the results of your actions.
'I don't want to hear you complaining that you haven't got any money: you bought a really expensive watch last month when there is nothing wrong with the watch you already have. If you've got no money, it's your own fault - you made your bed, now lie in it!'
To face the music 
To receive punishment or judgement for something wrong or illegal that you have done:
'The young man was taken to court and forced to face the music for the crimes that he had committed.'
To throw the book at somebody 
This idiom is used when the police or other official body try to get the maximum possible punishment for someone's wrong-doings:  'He drove really fast, straight through a red light. The police stopped him and found that he was driving with no tax, no insurance and he had been drinking alcohol too! They threw the book at him and he got sent to prison for a long time.'

(To get/give someone) a slap on the wrist 
To get a light punishment for a crime or wrongdoing: often lighter than expected or normal: 'He stole handbags from at least 7 old ladies, but all he got was six weeks in prison. That's just a slap on the wrist, if you ask me!'
(To get/give someone) a tongue-lashing 
A tongue-lashing is where someone speaks to you very sharply (and often for quite a long time) because you did something bad or wrong: 'She was very lucky that she didn't get sent to prison for what she did. The judge let her go with a fine and a severe tongue lashing.'
To get one's knuckles rapped
To get a rap on the knuckles 
'Knuckles' are the joints of the bones in the hand and fingers. 'Rap' means to hit sharply. The literal meaning of this idiom is to hit sharply on the back of the hand (a punishment that used to be used in some British schools). The idiomatic meaning is to receive a short, immediate punishment, that is not especially severe: 'He stole a car and drove it around for a couple of hours before returning it to its owner. It was his first offence and he seemed sorry, so the judge let him go with a rap on the knuckles'.

Other trouble idioms:
To stitch somebody up
To be stitched up
To arrange for somebody else to be blamed for a crime or wrongdoing they are not responsible for. These idiomatic verbs are often used in the passive form:
To fit somebody up
To be fitted up 
'After he had spent several years in prison, the police found evidence to suggest that he was innocent and had been stitched up by one of his colleagues.'
To pin something on somebody 
To find or create evidence that will identify somebody as the person who committed a particular crime (even though they may be innocent): 'The police think he robbed the bank, but they haven't got enough evidence to pin it on him.'
To be on the level 
To be legally and morally acceptable; genuine and truthful: 'He tried to sell me some cheap concert tickets but I wasn't sure if they were on the level so I said no.'
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