Idioms (O)

odds and ends

meaning: small, not important details or objects

1. The two companies have agreed the takeover. Now it is the lawyers’ jobs to deal with the odds and ends.

2. The main ideas of the essay are there, but there are still some odds and ends that haven’t been addressed.

3. His house is full of all sorts of odds and ends: an old typewriter; half a bicycle; a robot’s leg. It is all very weird.
off on one

meaning: to start doing something and look super enthusiastic, crazy, and never wanting to stop

1. I showed my boss the project. He wasn’t impressed and went off on one about how we had wasted his time and money.

2. After he made his first basket, a minute into the second half, he simply went off on one. By the end of the game he had 42 points, and the game wasn’t close at all.

3. “Don’t mention Anne. He always goes off on one whenever someone talks about her. I don’t think he has forgiven her yet.”
off the chart

meaning: more than can be counted; more than anyone expected

1. Ever since the company started their latest advertising campaign, sales have been off the chart. This has been a very successful piece of marketing.

2. There is something out there, and it is big. Look at the seismograph: it is off the charts!
off the cuff

meaning: unplanned; spontaneous

1. Dave is still in the dog house after his off the cuff joke last night about how lazy she was.
off the hook

meaning: to not be in trouble any more

1. “The police are going to overlook the drugs they found if you tell them who you bought them from. If you help, you’re off the hook.”
off the mark

meaning: completely wrong; a first point, having previously failed to score

1. “You think I like her? My god, you are way off the mark.”

2. The share price rocketed up after it was seen that early reports suggesting a tough year had been off the mark.

3. Simpson got off the mark for his new club with a great goal, beating five players then shooting into the top corner.
off the rails

meaning: go crazy; lose control

1. Anne said that the only thing that stopped her going off the rails during that time was the support from her family.

2. “Ever since he lost his wife, he has gone completely off the rails. Last week I went to his house at 10am and he was drunk, and lying on the floor in his underwear.”
off the record

meaning: telling someone something, but not wanting them to publish it (usually journalism)

1. Whilst they shared a drink in the bar, the player told him – off the record, of course – that many of the team were not happy with the manager. It came as no surprise to him, therefore, that within a week the manager was fired.

2. “Off the record: there will be a challenge to the Prime Minister next week, so be ready for some big fights. But you didn’t hear that from me.”
off the top of (my) head

meaning: what I can think of right now, without any previous preparation

1. One of the reasons that Phil is such a good member of the board is that he can peel great ideas off the top of his head. Without him, the board meetings would be very slow.

2. “Why should you not marry her? Well, off the top of my head, there is the fact that she doesn’t love you. I would think that is a good reason.”
old hat

meaning: something old-fashioned or out-dated

1. When I bought this games console it was state-of-the-art. Now, of course, it just old hat.
the oldest trick in the book

meaning: an obvious, well-known but still successful way to get somebody to do what you want

1. “Oh, come off it! I’m not going to let you talk to him for me. It’s the oldest trick in the book: you tell him you did all the work, and you get the credit. I wasn’t born yesterday.”
on a roll

meaning: having continued success that isn’t stopping

1. The first few weeks were hard, but now the team were on a roll: eight wins in a row, and looking forward to the playoffs.

2. “I’ve been on something of a roll with these shares recently: almost each one I have picked has gone up significantly within a month or two of me buying them.”
on a fishing expedition

meaning: trying to get incriminating information by tricking or baiting the other person because you don’t actually know what you want to know

1. “This is not an interview, this is a fishing expedition. My client was not near the crime, so stop suggesting he is part of it. We have nothing more to say.”
(put something) on ice

meaning: to put something on hold; to stop doing a project for now

1. “I’m afraid the takeover means we will have to put your promotion on ice for a while. But don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten you.”
on (my) watch

meaning: while I am in charge

1. “You can be lazy in your own time, but you are not wasting company time and money on my watch.”

2. “Have you noticed how all the major mistakes happen on his watch. Not much of an assistant to the boss.”
on the cards

meaning: is likely to happen (often in the near future)

1. “I saw him buying a ring yesterday. I think we might have a wedding on the cards.”
on the house

meaning: paid for by the company; free (usually bars, restaurants or casinos)

1. The manager apologised for the quality of the service, and told them that their meal was on the house.

2. “Thank you once again for all your help moving the new tables in. Tell you what, your drinks are on the house tonight.”
on the line

meaning: at risk; in danger

1. The takeover has put several hundred jobs on the line; in the next week or two the employees should find out their fate.

2. “Who do you want in charge when lives are on the line? A soldier with combat experience, or a politician who has lived the easy life?”
on the rebound

meaning: looking for a new girlfriend or boyfriend straight after breaking up with somebody because it will make you feel a bit better

1. “I shouldn’t have kissed her. I was drunk, and she was on the rebound. What are we going to say to each other at work on Monday?”
on the same wavelength

meaning: we are thinking the same thing; we understand what each other is thinking

1. The reason their partnership works so well is that they are on the same wavelength: they understand how the other is feeling, and can act accordingly.

2. “Just so that we are on the same wavelength, let me just say that I do not accept people being lazy or late.”
on the wagon

meaning: gone teetotal; stopped drinking alcohol

1. Phil has been on the wagon for a few years now.

2. “Oh dear, I was very drunk last night. I think I need some time on the wagon.”
(in) one fell swoop

meaning: to do a lot, or solve a lot of problems, in one single action

1. The new manager came in and, in one fell swoop, fired the whole of the accounts department.

2. “If we can get her to come to the meeting too, then we might be able to solve both our problems in one fell swoop.”
one for the road

meaning: a final drink before you go home

1. “Do you have time for one for the road? Don’t worry, I won’t keep you out late.”

2. “One for the road, Dave?”
“No, thanks. I think I’ve already had enough.”
one hand washes the other

meaning: I help you, so you should help me

1. “Sure, I can do that for you, but remember one hand washes the other round here. If I’m helping you with this, maybe you can help me with my work.”
(a) one-off

meaning: will only happen one time; one time only

1. After they went out on their date, she told him straight that it was a one-off.

2. “Don’t fire me, please. It was a one-off thing. I’m sorry. I won’t steal paperclips again.”
one-trick pony

meaning: someone who can do one thing well, but nothing else

1. “Yes, he is funny, but he is a one-trick pony. And all his jokes are just stupid anyway.”
(an) open secret

meaning: something that is supposed to be secret, but actually everybody knows

1. Their office romance is something of an open secret. Nobody has spoken to them about it yet however.
(have) other fish to fry

meaning: I don’t care about this because I have other important things to think about (spoken)

1. “Ah, don’t worry about her leaving me. I have other fish to fry.”
opening a can of worms

meaning: beginning a conversation or topic that is going to cause a lot of problems

1. “Ah, you asked her about her relationship with Dave. I wouldn’t have done that. You’re opening a can of worms there.”
out of the woods

meaning: out of trouble

1. The dogs retreated, but the escapees were not out of the woods yet: above them a helicopter ran a light over the ground. They kept hidden.
out of this world

meaning: brilliant; amazing

1. “Have you tried these pizza rolls? They are out of this world.”
(have someone) over a barrel

meaning: have someone in a position in which they cannot refuse or say no

1. “You say that if you don’t do this, they will fire you for not following orders? It sounds like they have you over a barrel, I’m afraid.”
over the hill

meaning: too old; best years are finished

1. The reason why this team failed was that too many of its players are over the hill. It needs some new blood.

2. “Playing with the young kids made me feel just how over the hill I am. I used to be young once; now I can’t run for 5 minutes.”
over the top (OTT)

meaning: excessive; more than is needed

1. Phil always dresses over the top for these parties, and tonight was no different: everyone else was in a shirt, but he came in a tuxedo.

2. “I know you wanted to punish her, but not letting her see her friends for six months seems a little over the top.”
over (your) head

meaning: don’t understand; you are not clever enough to understand

1. Dave came home from the maths class feeling disheartened. When he went in he thought he was smart, but most of the class went over his head.

2. “I would say something funny, but I think it might go over your head.”
(get in) on the act

meaning: want to start doing something that is currently popular or successful

1. After seeing his friends all have great success with online dating, Dave decided he too should get in the act. Unfortunately it seemed all the good ones had gone, and Dave was left with the bottom of the barrel.

2. “Have you seen how much money there is to be made in Homes for the Elderly? I need to get in on that act.”