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British Life and Culture

by Mandy Barrow

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British life and culture - England, Scotland and Wales
British Sayings and Proverbs

Sayings/idioms | Proverbs

British Sayings/idioms

'Bob's your uncle'
It is added to the end of sentences to mean that something will be successful.

Origin of Bob's your Uncle

"Bob's your Uncle" is a way of saying "you're all set" or "you've got it made." It's a catch phrase dating back to 1887, when British Prime Minister Robert Cecil (a.k.a. Lord Salisbury) decided to appoint a certain Arthur Balfour to the prestigious and sensitive post of Chief Secretary for Ireland.

Not lost on the British public was the fact that Lord Salisbury just happened to be better known to Arthur Balfour as "Uncle Bob." In the resulting furor over what was seen as an act of blatant nepotism, "Bob's your uncle" became a popular sarcastic comment applied to any situation where the outcome was preordained by favoritism. As the scandal faded in public memory, the phrase lost its edge and became just a synonym for "no problem."
By James Harris

'Keep your pecker up'
Remain cheerful - keep your head held high.

'Big girl's blouse'
A weakling; an ineffectual person.

'Burning the Candle at Both Ends'
Working for many hours without getting enough rest

'Eyes are bigger than your belly'
Think you can eat more than you can
'My eyes were bigger than my belly, I couldn't eat every thing I had put on my plate'

'Sleep Tight'
Have a good nights sleep

'Gordon Bennett'
An exclamation of surprise

'Stone the crows'
An exclamation of annoyance.

'Tie the Knot'
Get Married

'Talk the hind legs off a donkey'
A person who is excessively or extremely talkative can talk the hind legs off a donkey.

'I'll put the Kettle on'
Let me make you a cup of tea

'Do you want a brew?'
Do you want some tea?

'Leg it'
Run extremely fast

'Popped his/her clogs'
He/she has passed away (died)

British Proverbs

'Every cloud has a silver lining'
There's always something good in bad times.

'A stitch in time saves nine'
If you deal with something when it first shows signs of becoming a problem, you prevent the problem and all its associated trouble and extra work.

'Nothing ventured nothing gained'
You have to try or you won't get anything.

'Out of the frying pan into the fire'
From one problem to another. By one's effort to get out of a very bad situation, one managed to get into an even worse one.

'One man's meat is another man's poison'
People often don't like the same things.

'Don't look a gift horse in the mouth'
Don't question good luck.

'You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink'
You can give a person a chance, but you can't make him or her take it.

'The grass is always greener on the other side'
You always think that other peoples lives are better than yours.

'The best things in life are free'
We don't have to pay for the things that are really valuable, like love, friendship, good health etc.

'Don't cross your bridges before you come to them'
Don't worry about problems before they arrive.

'It was the last straw that broke the camel's back'
There is a limit to everything. We can load the camel with lots of straw, but finally it will be too much and the camel's back will break. And it is only a single straw that breaks its back - the last straw.

This can be applied to many things in life. People often say "That's the last straw!" when they will not accept any more of something.

'Where there's a will there's a way'
If we have the determination to do something, we can always find the path or method to do it.

'Marry in haste, and repent at leisure'
If we get married quickly, without thinking carefully, we may be sorry later. And we will have plenty of time to be sorry.

'The best advice is found on the pillow'
If we have a problem, we may find the answer after a good night's sleep.

People also say: "I'll sleep on it."

'You can't judge a book by its cover'
This is a metaphor and is applied to people. Just like we need to read a book to know if it's good or bad. We can't always know what people are like by the way they look.

'Bad news travels fast'
'Bad news' means news about 'bad' things like accidents, death, illness etc. People tend to tell this type of news quickly. But 'good news' (passing an exam, winning some money, getting a job etc) travels more slowly.

'Birds of a feather flock together'
Birds of a feather means birds of the same type. The whole proverb means that people of the same type or sort stay together. They don't mix with people of another type

'Live and let live'
An injunction to be tolerant of people who are different from onself.

'The way to a man's heart is through his stomach'
Many women have won a man's love by cooking delicious meals for him. They fed his stomach and found love in his heart.

'Better untaught than ill taught.'
"It is better not to be taught at all than to be taught badly."
It's better not to learn something rather than learn it badly.

'Soon learnt, soon forgotten'
Something that is easy to learn is easy to forget.


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Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
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Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consultant.
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

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