chickens have come home to roost!
(aquellos polvos traen estos lodos)
If your chickens have come home to roost, it means that you have
started to experience the bad or unpleasant effects of something you
have done before.
For example: ‘Last year my mother spent all her hard earned savings on a
new flat. But now her chickens have come home to roost and she’s got
nothing to live on in her retirement’.
Are you acting the goat?
(actuar de manera tonta)
If you act the goat, then you are deliberately behaving in a foolish or
For example: ‘Stop acting the goat. You have to get this work done in an
hour’s time’. On the other hand, if you get somebody’s goat, you annoy
them very much.
For example: ‘It really gets my goat when people don't say thank you’.
Look what the cat’s dragged in!
(complicarle alguien la vida a uno)
This expression came about because cats tend to bring objects such as
dead birds or mice, into their owners’ house as presents. It is a funny
expression used when someone comes into a room looking very dirty, wet,
For example: ‘Look what the cat’s dragged in’, his wife shouted, as her
husband returned from football, covered in mud.
Killing the goose that lays the golden egg
(matar la gallina de los huevos de oro)
This expression is used to refer to an action which destroys or ends
something which brings you profit or success.
For example: Microsoft is worth millions to the US economy. If the
government punishes them for breaking the law, it risks killing the
goose which lays the golden egg.
Swan song (última actuación o
esfuerzo antes de retirarse)
Someone's swan song is the last time they do something for which they
are famous. The swan song for an actor or performer is the last time
that they appear in a play in the theatre.
An example: 'The 1997 Spice Girl tour was Geri's swan song.'
Play it by ear (tocar de
oído, hacer algo sobre la marcha, improvisar)
If you play something by ear, then you decide how to act or respond to a
situation as it happens, rather than by planning in advance how you are
going to act.
An example: 'You can't prepare for this interview, so just play it by
If you don't respond or act well, you could be 'out on your ear’. This
means you have suddenly been told to leave or been dismissed from a
course, job, or group.
An example: 'I messed up the interview, and now I am out on my ear.'
Don't drop a clanger! (meter
la pata, cometer un error garrafal)
This spoken English expression refers to a situation where you say or do
something, which embarrasses or insults someone nearby, without you
realizing it. The reason we say drop a clanger is because everyone in
earshot usually becomes silent, just as when something is dropped which
makes a loud noise, like a clang.
An example: 'I dropped a real clanger when I asked George at a party
when he was going to marry Sarah. I didn't know he had just left her.'
He's cooking the books!
(falsificar los libros contables)
An informal expression which means to change facts or figures in
order to make a situation seem better than it is, or to hide the fact
that you have stolen money, usually from the business you work for.
An example: 'This company, which has revealed a million pounds profit,
was almost bankrupt when I left last year. Someone must be cooking the
I have bigger fish to fry!
(tener cosas más importantes para hacer)
If you have bigger (or other) fish to fry, it means that you have more
interesting, useful or important things to do.
An example: 'That film director is not going to drop in and look at your
film script. He's got bigger fish to fry in Hollywood.'
If you are ‘a fish out of water’, it means that you feel uncomfortable
because you are in unfamiliar surroundings.
An example: 'I went to this St Valentine's party to have some fun, but I
soon discovered that everyone was my mother's age. I felt like a fish
out of water!'
He's on a knife-edge
(encontrarse muy ansioso o nervioso)
If someone is on a knife-edge, they are very anxious about the future
result of something. 'He's on a knife-edge about his exam results.' This
expression also refers to a situation which is delicately balanced, with
the result extremely uncertain.
An example: 'The success or failure of this plan was balanced on a
What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander!
que es bueno para el pavo es bueno para la pava)
A spoken expression often used by men who think their wives or
girlfriends have been doing things that they should not have been doing.
If a woman can behave in a certain way, then the man should be allowed
to behave in that way, too. Women can use this expression too, but not
as well, as a gander is a male goose. 'If my girlfriend can stay at the
pub with her friends until closing time, why can't I? What's sauce for
the goose is sauce for the gander.'
She went out of the frying pan into the fire
(salir de Guatemala para meterse en Guatepeor)
If you go out of the frying pan into the fire, then you go from a bad
situation to one that is even worse. 'Sarah, who is obsessed about
cleanliness, finally left Paul because he never washed up after meals.
But to her horror, she soon discovered that her new boyfriend not only
never washed up, but was also incapable of tidying up the house. She had
gone out of the frying pan into the fire.'
WORK PLACE IDIOMS
Working Around the Clock
(trabajar las 24 horas del día, trabajar sin descanso)
If you work around or round the clock, this expression means that you
work all day and night without stopping.
An example: 'John has been working round the clock to finish the work on
If your business runs like clockwork, it means it works very well and
happens in exactly the way it is expected to.
An example: 'John soon had the business running like clockwork.'
Skeleton Staff (plantilla de
Most businesses use a skeleton staff, crew or service at some time
during the year. The expression refers to the minimum number of people
necessary to run an organisation or service, usually during a holiday or
An example: 'At Easter, we have a skeleton staff answering phones
because we don't get much business'.
If you have a skeleton in the cupboard or closet, it means you have an
embarrassing secret or scandal in your past which is kept hidden.
An example: ‘That company is going to get raided soon. They have a lot
of skeletons in their cupboard.’
Mickey Mouse organisation
(una empresa desorganizada y de poca monta)
A negative expression which describes an organisation or business that
is very small, unimportant and not very good at doing what it is
supposed to do. This expression comes from the cartoon character, Mickey
Mouse, whose owner, Walt Disney, is ironically the creator of a huge and
profitable global business.
An example: 'That driving school is a Mickey Mouse organisation. Its
cars break down all the time.'
Bring home the bacon (llevar la
batuta económica de una casa, "parar la olla")
An informal expression meaning simply to earn enough money to support
An example: ‘My husband is a published poet, but I am the one who both
looks after the family and brings home the bacon.'
This expression is not the same as to 'save someone's bacon', which
means that someone is removed from a difficult or dangerous situation.
An example: 'Thank goodness I packed a spare shirt. It saved my bacon,
when I spilled coffee on myself just before my presentation.’
Money doesn't grow on trees!
(el dinero no es fácil de encontrar)
An expression often used when explaining why you are not going to give
someone any money.
An example: 'I cannot afford to buy you another Rolex watch. Money
doesn't grow on trees, you know.'
Money talks (el
dinero habla por sí solo, el dinero todo lo puede)
A saying which means that money gives you influence and power, and
allows you to do whatever you want.
An example: ‘That oil tycoon should be in prison by now but in this
world, money talks.'
This saying can be confused with, 'Put your money where your mouth is!'
This informal expression means that you give practical support to what
you have just said, often in the form of money.
An example: 'You said you believed in the fox-hunting campaign. Put your
money where your mouth is!'
(caza de brujas)
A deliberate attempt to find and punish people whose opinions are seen
as wrong or dangerous. Often this is based on false information, and the
people who are punished in a witch-hunt are often completely innocent.
An example: 'During the 1950s, there was a witch-hunt in USA organised
against the Communists. Many people's careers were ruined, when the
finger of suspicion fell on them.'
(República Bananera, país políticamente inestable)
The term 'banana republic' is a rude way of describing a small country,
especially in Africa or Central and South America, that is politically
unstable, poor and under-developed and often dependent on financial
support from abroad.
An example: 'That is the third
coup they have had this year. We should give no more aid to that banana
Kangaroo Court (corte no
diplomada, tribunal ilegal y arbitrario)
A 'kangaroo court' is an unofficial and illegal court that has been
organised by a group of people to examine and usually to punish other
members of the same group.
Usually injustice rather than justice is done in a kangaroo court.
An example: 'After the miners' strike failed, angry miners held a
kangaroo court to try those miners who had gone to work during the
hatchet (hacer las paces)
When two people or two sides bury the hatchet, they agree to stop
arguing about something and become friends again.
An example: ‘After being bitter enemies during the hostile takeover bid,
Vodaphone and Mannesmann decided to bury the hatchet.’
When peace was made between two American Indian tribes, they used to
take the axes or hatchets of both the chiefs and bury them. When
hostilities broke out again, the hatchets were dug up again as a
declaration of war.
Throw down the gauntlet (aceptar un reto o un desafío)
If you throw down the gauntlet, you do or say something that challenges
someone to take action.
An example: ‘The miners threw down their gauntlet to the government, and
said they will strike until their demands are met.’
A medieval knight issued a challenge by throwing down a metal leather
glove or gauntlet, and his challenge was accepted if the other knight
picked up the glove.
Pour oil on troubled waters
(tranquilizar los ánimos, apaciguar los disturbios)
If you pour oil on troubled waters, you try to settle an argument or a
dispute by speaking calmly to the people involved.
An example: ‘As a personnel officer, I have had a lot of practice
pouring oil on troubled waters.’
In classical times, people believed that oil poured on stormy waters
reduced the waves to a calm and allowed ships to ride through a storm.