In Full Fig

What are some lesser used idioms?


They are awfully stubborn. The elephants refuse to leave the room, the thoughts cower inside the box, and the tattered idioms worm their way back into innocent conversations.

The Oxford Dictionary of Idioms houses thousands of these ‘phrases that behave like words.’ Freud would find little surprise in the fact that we can’t resist using something called an Idiom.

Here are some less tattered options, with definitions in our words.

Ball the jack
Scurry; move quickly.

Bats in your belfry
Unusual, unstable, definitively quirky.

It’s off the boil
No longer trending. Well past the point of generating enthusiasm.

Bread and circuses
When politicians or despots use gifts, monetary incentives, and entertaining diversions to keep the people happy and in line.

Cudgel your brain
To busy your mind with a difficult problem.

A damp squib
Trying hard, but failing to impress.
~ Squibs are small fireworks that don’t work when wet.

You’ve had your chips
You’re on your way out, close to death, or no longer relevant (ouch).

Keep your hair on!
Don’t freak out. Stay calm and don’t get mad.

In full fig
You’re dressed in just the right clothes for this important do.



Jam tomorrow
Big promises of lovely things to come. Problem is, those good things rarely come to pass. This expression comes from Lewis Carroll and his 1871 Through the Looking Glass. ‘The rule is jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today.’

Kick up a dust
Make a scene, a fuss.

Laugh like a drain
Loud, uninhibited, gulping, snorting laughter.

Enter the lists
To challenge or accept a challenge.

Another pair of shoes
That’s a whole other thing.

Where the shoe pinches
This is where the real problem lies.

Mud sticks
Unpleasant, bitter accusations that are both hard to prove wrong and hard to escape.

Throw a wobbly or throw your toys out of the pram
Have a temper fit.



Header: Irving Penn. Black and White Fashion with Handbag. Jean Patchett. 1950

Alice in Wonderland: Original drawing by John Tenniel. Re-Coloured by John Macfarlane.


A Match Made In Free Fall


Robert + His Rules

Elizabeth Newton

Elizabeth Newton