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Some Common English Idioms, Part III

This is the last part in our three-part Yabla series about sayings in English (called "idioms") that are not always so easy to understand, but that you will often hear native English speakers say. 

 

But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time.

Caption 11, Taylor Swift: Look What You Made Me Do

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To do something "in the nick of time" means to do it at the last possible moment. This comes from a 17th century meaning of "nick" that is otherwise no longer used, which means "a critical moment." Thus "in the nick of time" means "at a critical moment in time." 

 

Having a serious deadline like that caused the whole team to really buckle down and get it together.

Captions 43-44, Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World

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To "buckle down" means to "start working hard." Its origin is American, where it first appeared in print in the mid-19th century. The idiom "get it together" is probably related to the phrase to "get your act together," which means to get organized so that you can accomplish something effectively. 

 

And I am sick and tired of my phone ringing.

Caption 58, Lady Gaga: Telephone, featuring Beyoncé

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This doesn't really mean that somebody is either ill or exhausted, but rather that something is annoying or getting on their nerves. It probably originated in North America in the 18th century.

 

You better step your game up on that.

Caption 40, Java: The "Java Life" Rap Music Video

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To "step up your game" means to improve your skills. This probably started as a phrase used in sports, but is now commonly used for any subject. 

 

You keep your nose out of this.

Caption 36, Dream to Believe: aka Flying

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The phrase "to stick your nose in somebody's business" means to involve yourself in something that is none of your concern. Thus "to keep your nose out" means to "not get involved" in something. 

 

You wanna just kind of take it easy and rest?

Caption 52, Leonard Nimoy: Talking about Mr. Spock

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To "take it easy" means "to relax," but if someone "takes something hard" it means that something has had a negative emotional impact on them.

 

Because if they don't get him, we're up that creek without a paddle.

Caption 47, Karate Kids, USA: The Little Dragons

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As common sense implies, if you are in boat with no way to control it or make it move, you are in trouble. So "up a creek without a paddle" means to be in trouble! 

 

Further Learning
Go to Yabla English and review the three-part Yabla series about English idioms. See if you can make your own sentences using the idioms in different contexts to see if you understand them correctly.

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