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English Idioms and Idiomatic Expressions 


from:   'millstone around neck'   to:  'scratch the surface'

  • a millstone around your neck
    • Something described as a millstone around your neck is a problem or responsibility that becomes a burden and a source of worry.
      "The money he borrowed became a millstone around his neck."

  • be murder
    • If something is murder, it is very difficult or uncomfortable.
      "The journey home through the storm was absolute murder!"

  • a necessary evil
    • If you say that something is a necessary evil, you don't like it but you understand that it has to exist and be accepted.
      "Vaccinations are a necessary evil if you want to travel."

  • one's number is up
    • To say that one's number is up means that either a person is in serious difficulty and something bad is going to happen, or the time has come when they will die.
      "The police have located the escaped prisoner so it looks as if his number is up!"

  • ostrich strategy/policy
    • Someone who adopts an ostrich strategy or policy chooses to ignore or evade an obvious problem in the hope that it will resolve itself or disappear.
      "Adopting an ostrich strategy will only make matters worse - we've got to find a solution."

  • out of sync
    • If two movements or actions are out of sync, they are not coordinated and are not taking place at the same time or at the same speed.
      "The traffic lights are out of sync and causing a lot of confusion."

  • out of whack
    • If something is out of whack, it is not working properly or is not in good order.
      "The dishwasher is making a strange noise. Something must be out of whack."

  • paper over the cracks
    • To say that someone is papering over the cracks means that they are concealing a problem rather than dealing with it effectively.
      "The measures taken to reduce unemployment are just paper over the cracks."

  • pass the buck
    • If you say that someone is passing the buck, you are accusing them of not taking responsibility for a problem and letting others deal with it instead.
      "Whenever a customer comes to complain, she always finds a way of looking busy - a great way of passing the buck!"

  • in a pickle
    • If you are in a pickle, you are in a difficult situation and need help.
      "My car won't start and the trains are on strike today, so I'm in a real pickle!"

  • no quick fix
    • To say that there is no quick fix to a problem means that there is no simple solution.
      "There is no quick fix for unemployment; major reforms are necessary."

  • put on a brave face
    • When confronted with difficulties, if you put on a brave face, you try to look cheerful and pretend that the situation is not as bad as it is.
      "Even in the worst of times she put on a brave face."

  • ride it out / ride out the storm
    • If you manage to survive a dangerous or very unpleasant situation, like a ship sailing through a storm, you ride it out.
      "His business was hit by the recession but he managed to ride it out."

  • saved by the bell
    • If you are saved by the bell, something happens at the last minute to rescue you from a difficult situation.
      "Saved by the bell! A friend arrived just when I realized I had no money for the parking meter."

  • scratch the surface
    • When you only scratch the surface of a problem or subject, you deal with only a small part of it.
      "Some countries are only scratching the surface of their environment problems."

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