The English language is such a colourful, vibrant language. As your skills improve while studying at Oxford English Academy, you will most certainly come across a few sayings that might not make sense at first. These sayings just do not fit into the conversation and seem to have a double meaning.  Do yourself a favour and please ask your teacher or any of our staff about the meaning of these sayings, called ‘idioms’. Here are a few of my favourites and their origins:

I certainly love the saying ‘letting your hair down’. What does it mean? It means that after a long day you can go home and relax or ‘let your hair down’. The origin of this phrase comes from the medieval times when ladies were expected to be formally dressed at all times in public, usually with their hair tied up into incredibly high creations. Only once they were in the privacy of their bedrooms, were they allowed to let their hair down and relax.

Ever heard someone say they are ‘having second thoughts’? This can be confusing as surely we all have more than one thought at any given time. The meaning here is to have doubts about something, not to feel completely convinced about a decision or to consider changing your mind. I would imagine this has been happening since the beginning of time, however the phrase was first found in print in 1622.

When someone makes a joke with you they might be inclined to say they were ‘only pulling your leg’. Which sounds like a crazy notion as you are sure this person came nowhere near your leg? So why do we say this then? According to the website All that is Interesting, the phrase “To pull someone’s leg had much more sinister overtones when it first came in use. It was originally a method used by thieves to entrap their pedestrians and subsequently rob them. One thief would be assigned ‘tripper up’ duty, and would use different instruments to knock the person to the ground. Luckily, these days the saying is much friendlier, though being on the end of a joke might not always be fun.”

Another saying that has a slightly darker origin is saying someone is a ‘basket case’. Today we might use it casually when joking that someone is acting silly and in general it is used to describe a person who is not entirely sane. The origin as I mentioned has a pretty sad explanation to it. Wiktionary explains it as follows: “The term originated from WWI, indicating a soldier missing both his arms and legs, who needed to be literally carried around in a litter or “basket.” Today it indicates a state of helplessness similar to the metaphoric removal of the appendages, most frequently in the context of mental health or aptitude.”

As I started off saying, when you come across these sometimes silly and fun sayings please ask someone to explain the meaning to you. The staff here at Oxford English Academy wouldn’t want you to bark up the wrong tree now would we?