Idioms which use nation names
‘Idiom’ can be defined as an expression which cannot be understood from its parts.
What? 😳 That’s terrible! How can anyone learn an expression when it cannot be understood by analysing it?
Well, the answer is, “by practice”.
Here is an example of an idiom. What do you think it means?
“call it a day”
First of all, call what a day? What is the ‘it’? Second, how do you call a thing, “a day”? Should you point to an object and say, “a day”? Do you simply rename something as “a day”? It is all very confusing.
Idioms—either you know them, or you don’t
To ‘call it a day’ means to end what you’re working on.
Let’s suppose that you and a friend have been studying hard for a long time, and now you’re tired. You could turn to your friend and say, “Let’s call it a day.” This would tell your friend that you wish to stop studying.
Again, let’s imagine that you and a friend have been waiting for someone for a long time. Your friend might say to you, “I don’t think he’s coming after all. Let’ call it a day and go home.”
Now, the point I’m trying to make is that it is impossible to know what let’s call it a day means just by reading it. If I hadn’t explained it, you’d not be able to guess its meaning. We call all expressions such as this, ‘idioms’.
Idioms which use nation names
Now that you know what an idiom is, let’s look at some examples of idioms which use nationalities.
A rather nasty situation when opposing forces neither can win, nor withdraw from a conflict. I strongly suggest that you never allow yourself to get into a Mexican standoff.
Courage gained under the influence of alcohol.
If you see a drunk small man take on a huge sober one, you may rest assured that the smaller man has taken Dutch courage.
It’s all Greek to me
When something is really difficult to understand, we say, “That’s all Greek to me.” To be fair, I find the German philosophers far more difficult to understand the ancient Greeks, so perhaps the expression should be, “It’s all German philosophy” to me.
Pardon my French
This is a request to excuse the use of inappropriate language. I find, however, that it is best to not use inappropriate language in the first place. Many people, it turns out, will not pardon your French, so mind your tongue always.
An Indian summer is when it is unexpectedly warm in a cold season. The idiom originated in the United States of America, but I’ve heard it used here in the UK. I don’t think the Americans mind.
A young person who is a passionate member of a political group that supports radical ideas. Generally speaking, we are all young Turks when we are young. Our minds are wide open, and our waists are narrow. Then we grow older—and our minds are narrow and our waists are wide. At least, that’s what has happened to me.
Not for all the tea in China
Apparently, there is a lot of tea in China—and I mean, a lot. So if someone offers you “all the tea in China” and you say, “No”, you’ve just turned down a fortune. Saying, “not for all the tea in China” is saying, “I don’t care how much you are offering me, I won’t do it.” It’s an honourable attitude, but it won’t make you rich.
To share expenses incurred by a group evenly. If there are two (2) people in the group and they face a charge of £10, by ‘going Dutch’, each will pay £5. If there are five (5) people in the group and they face a charge of £100, by going Dutch, each person will pay…? (See, there’s no getting away from maths, so you might as well embrace it. 😉)
To take French leave is to go away from a place, a group of people, or an event, without first telling anyone. When someone takes French leave, other people are unaware that he has left.
Stretching the point a little, as Rome is not a country, but still:
~ Every road leads to Rome
When faced with a choice of different methods, any one will do. (Since all roads lead to Rome—i.e. a common destination—it doesn’t matter which road is taken.) Of course, in real life it matters quite often, because some roads go through pleasant, beautiful countrysides and others through dangerous and ugly urban areas.
~ Rome was not built in a day
This is a proverb which imparts (gives) the advice to be patient. It means that great things (like Rome, for instance) are not built in a short time. I remind myself of this idiom whenever I begin a new blog post. Sigh.
~ When in Rome
~ When in Rome, do as the Romans do
Properly, the former phrase should be written with an ellipsis (…) like this: “When in Rome…”, because it is a shortening of the longer phrase.
This is another idiom which imparts advice, this time, it admonishes (warns) the listener to behave like his guests to avoid giving offence. In other words, it is not just advice for how to behave when travelling abroad; it is also advice for how to behave whenever you are in a group of strangers. It is good advice, I think, unless you find yourself in the company of lemmings. 😜