English Idioms and their Meanings

In this article we’ll look at some of the strangest idioms in the English language and will discuss what they mean. One of the toughest things that translators have to do is understand these idioms and how they fit into the language, and the English language not only has more of them than any other, but they also tend to be the strangest.

Under the Thumb and Wrapped Around my Little Finger

These two idioms go hand-in-hand and they both come from the same place and the same time. Under the Thumb generally refers to a man who is controlled by his partner, often a husband and wife. A man who is Under the Thumb is one who doesn’t have his own way and agrees to everything his wife says. To have someone Wrapped Around your Little Finger means that you are in complete control of them. In this case, the wife would have the husband (who is Under the Thumb) Wrapped Around her Little Finger.

The reason we have grouped these together is because they both come from medieval times and from the favorite sport of the time. Football may rule the country these days, but back then it was falconry. The method of keeping the bird on your hand involved keeping your thumb pressed on its feet to stop it from flying away, whilst tying a piece of string around its feet and wrapping that string tightly around your little finger. That way, when you close your hand the bird doesn’t fly away.

Turn a Blind Eye

To Turn a Blind Eye to something is basically to look the other way. If you see a small child stealing in a shop and don’t want to cause trouble for the child, you would be Turning a Blind Eye by not reporting him.

This saying is said to come from Admiral Horatio Nelson, one of England’s most famous heroes. During a battle in 1801, when he was waiting on a signal from a superior that he didn’t want to see (which would tell him to withdraw from battle) he raised a telescope to his blind eye.

Mad as a Hatter

The expression Mad as a Hatter is used to describe someone who is a little crazy and eccentric. It is more of a joyful expression than one that would be used to describe someone who is clinically insane, but it works all ways.

There are many who believe that this saying comes from the Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, but the truth is that it originated sometime before then. In fact, Lewis Carroll likely gained inspiration for that character through this expression. A “hatter” is simply someone who makes hats, and during the 1700s and onwards, this manufacturing process used mercury, which would make it into the hats themselves. The hatters were therefore exposed to large amounts of this toxic metal which caused serious problems both mentally and physically.

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