Use your idioms right

Micmanz Lanugage Improvement series

The English language is full of phrases and idioms that we often use without understanding them. Here are some popularly used idioms and their meanings…

Eager beaver: A person who is eager to work extra.

Example: Seema is a real eager beaver and she will do very well in her job.


Get on one’s high horse: Behave with arrogance.

Example: Seema is always getting on her high horse and telling people what to do.


Hold one’s horses: Be patient.

Example: Hold your horses while I finish this typing.


In the doghouse: In disgrace or disfavour.

Example: He is in the doghouse with his teacher because he did not do his homework.


Let the cat out of the bag: Reveal a secret.

Example: The teacher let the cat out of the bag when she told the class about the picnic plans.


Put the cart before the horse: Do things in the wrong order.

Example: Organising an event around a movie before buying tickets is putting the cart before the horse.


Take the bull by the horns: Take decisive action and not worry about the results.

Example: My mother decided to take the bull by the horns and arrange my sister’s wedding.

Create concise compositions

This article is published in the Tuesday  issues of Deccan Chronicle .

Micmanz Lanugage Improvement series

Wordiness is a common problem. The best idea is to write simple sentences that form cohesive and crisp reading material. So look at your work and see if you have been rambling on and try and cut out the excess words.


Example: Seema saw the thief leap across the boundary wall but she was so scared that she decided to say absolutely nothing at all to anyone.

The concise way to write this would be to say: Seema saw the thief leap across the boundary but she decided to say nothing to anyone because she was scared.

Let’s look at another example: I am afraid that it is with deep regret that on this point I can say very little.
Here, the syntax is wrong as well. You should say: I can say little on this point. This is short and concise.


Another mistake most of us make is to use expressions that are often repetitive words or phrases — in short, redundant.

Example: Seema told me that she would not reply back to her. In this sentence, the “back” is redundant.
Called pleonasms, some common redundant expressions/words/phrases are: advance planning/warning/reservations (no need of “advance”); meet together (“together” is unnecessary); armed gunman (no need for “armed”); the autobiography of my life (“of my life” can be removed); commute back and forth (“back and forth” is not required); green in colour (“in colour” can be done away with); basic fundamentals (no need for “basic”); consensus of opinion (do away with “of opinion”); and join together (drop “together”).