Idioms (N)

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neither here nor there
not important; doesn’t matter (compared to the bigger idea)

– examples

“What is important is that we are together. Whether we live here, or at your parents’, is neither here nor there.”

(have) nerves of steel
don’t get nervous at all

– examples

Graduates can have many skills, but if they don’t have nerves of steel then being a fighter pilot is going to be difficult.

“I don’t know how you did that. You must have nerves of steel to not be scared. How high were you? 100 feet?”

never say die
(often: ‘a never say die attitude’)
doesn’t give up

– examples

A lot of people might hate him, but everybody respects his never say die attitude. He will fight until the very end.

new blood
new people who will bring in new ideas and skills
(often to replace people who have been there too long)

– examples

“This office is filled with old people waiting for their pensions. It’s time we got rid of the dead wood and brought in some new blood.”

(in the) nick of time
at the last minute; at the last possible time

– examples

The doctors performed the operation in the nick of time; if they had waited any longer, he might have lost his leg.

no holds barred
not playing by rules; not holding anything back

– examples

He went into that fight no holds barred – he didn’t care if the other person got hurt.

“Anne was furious at Dave. She shouted everything at him, no holds barred.”

no love lost (between x and y)
really don’t like each other

– examples

Ever since she left them for the old boss’s new company, there has been no love lost between Anne and her old employers.

no pain, no gain
(spoken) only through hurt can you have success

– examples

“Stop crying, you baby. No pain, no gain. If you want to be a professional footballer, you’ve got to be fitter. Now run, you fat pig!”

no laughing matter
it is not something to laugh about; this is serious

– examples

“This is no laughing matter. If she notices the doll is missing, she’ll tell her father and then we are in big trouble.”

no two ways about it
this is the only choice; there are no other options

– examples

“Stop complaining. You are going to go to this wedding, no two ways about it.”

(somebody is) not all there
dim-witted; his/her brain seems to be missing something; in a daze

– examples

The kids in the playground laughed at him, and even the teachers thought he was not all there.

“You must excuse me: sometimes in the morning I am not all there. What did you say you wanted to do today?”

not my cup of tea
not what I enjoy

– examples

“You go ahead, but I am staying here. You might like paintball, but running around in the mud pretending to be a soldier is not my cup of tea.”

not much cop
(an opinion) not very good

– examples

The TV show premiered last night, after weeks of advertising, but most critics this morning said it was not much cop and, if you missed it, don’t bother watching next week.

“5 games to 0? Obviously I’m not much cop at squash.”

nothing to write home about
(an opinion) nothing special

– examples

Dave returned from his holiday, but didn’t seem too happy. It had not been anything to write home about, he said.

“I thought the movie was OK, but certainly nothing to write home about. I don’t know why it won so many awards.”

now and then
(often: ‘every now and then’)

– examples

Phil was a normal, boring guy, but every now and then he had an urge to do something dangerous. That was why he went sky-diving. That urge was what killed him.

“I’m not much of a card shark, but I play poker now and then.”

null and void
obsolete; no longer valid; no longer of any use

– examples

“As of today, all offers made by the previous management are null and void. We start afresh.”

number cruncher
(verb: number crunching)
(often negative) a person who works with numbers (usually data)

– examples

Dave dreamed of living out by the sea, and no longer being a simple number cruncher stuck to his desk.

“Why am I listening to your opinion? You are only the office number-cruncher. You know nothing!” [

nuts and bolts
the key / core aspects or ideas

– examples

They argued about the decision all weekend. The nuts and bolts of the problem was money, although Anne also thought she should have more power.

(take a) nosedive
(also (v.) ‘nosedive’)
events or fortunes have suddenly gone bad

– examples

The first half of the year was very good, but recently his exam results have nosedived. His mum thinks it is because he is spending too much time with his new girlfriend.