Can You Complete These Common Phrases in 6 Minutes?


By: Isadora Teich

5 Min Quiz

Image: Astrakan Images/ Cultura/gettyimages

About This Quiz

The English language is unique for so many reasons. It's a mix of Greek, Latin, Germanic languages, and so much more, because it has traveled the world picking up bits and bobs. It has some wacky rules, weird spellings, interesting sounds, and very many colorful sayings. This makes it a lot of fun to play with and explore, but also very tricky to learn for those who did not grow up with it. Many people say the English language has more exceptions than rules, and they just might not be wrong. So much has gone into English becoming what it is that it can be messy, confusing, and more. 

Slang also changes all the time and can vary from country to country, state to state, city to city, and town to town. Slang also comes in and out of fashion, meaning that people of different age groups often have different popular sayings and phrases, though some truly stand the test of time. Every up and coming group of young people wants to distinguish themselves from their parents in many ways, leading to a lot of language innovation. 

If you are an English whiz who knows your phrases, tease your brain with this HowStuffWorks quiz!  

In my mind's _______

This phrase has been around in different versions for centuries. It is thought that it was made popular by Shakespeare's play, "Hamlet."


More ________ for your buck

This phrase means to get more for your money. Many sources credit US Defense Secretary Charles Wilson as the inventor of this phrase.


Know which way the _______ blows

This phrase means to be aware of events around you so you can prepare for the future. It came into popular use in the early 19th century.


__________ as a hatter

This phrase means someone is crazy, but no one is quite sure where it came from. Some think it might have something to do with the fact that hat making used to involve mercury, which can harm people's brains.


Get off your _______ horse

This phrase means that someone should stop acting so snobbish. This sort of language dates back to medieval England.


As _________ as a clam

This phrase likely is a shortened form of the phrase, "as happy as a clam at high water." It originated in the U.S.


___________ in the room

This phrase refer to uncomfortable things left unsaid by people. This phrase originated in the U.S., but no one is exactly sure of its origins.


The early bird catches the _________

This phrase means that success comes to those who put in the necessary effort. It dates back to the 17th century at least, when it was first seen in print.


Dropping like _________

This phrase means that people are falling ill, dead, or quitting in large numbers. It was first seen in print in The Atlanta Constitution Newspaper in 1902.


Between the _______ and the deep blue sea

This phrase means that someone has two dangerous or unfavorable alternatives from which to choose. No one is exactly sure where this phrase comes from.


Hand over ________

This means quickly. It alludes to how sailors would move their hands when pulling rope.


O ye, of little __________

This phrase is used to rebuke somebody who is doubtful. It comes from the Bible, where it was used to scold people who did not believe in Christ and God.


Catch _______

A catch 22 is a paradox where attempting to escape from a situation makes escape impossible. It is now often applied to any difficult situation.


A _________ in the rough

This phrase was first recorded in a 17th century book. It means that someone is good at heart, but rough on the outside.


A ________ for your thoughts

This phrase is an invitation to someone who appears lost in thought to speak. The first known use of it was by Sir Thomas More in "A Treatyce upon the last thynges," around 1535.


Bring home the __________

This is one of the English language's many saying about pigs and pork. It means to provide for your family.


Baptism by __________

This phrase refers to a martyrdom or ordeal. It is more commonly used to refer to a soldier' first experience of battle.


The call of the _______

This phrase refers to the call of raw and wild nature. It was made famous by Jack London's 1903 novel of this name.


Face the ________

To face the music means to face the consequences of your actions. This phrase is thought to have originated in America.


_______ your goat

This phrase means that someone has made you upset or angry. This is because goat is an old English slang term for anger.


I'll be there with _______ on

This phrase means that someone will be eager and ready to participate. The first written record of it is in an early 20th-century U.S. newspaper.


In a _________

This phrase means that something is concisely stated. Versions of this phrase date back to the first century writings of Pliny The Elder.


___________ court

A kangaroo court is a bogus court held up to make something unfair appear legal. No one is sure where the term came from.


Keep up with the _________

This phrase means somebody is trying to keep up appearances with their neighbors. This term originated from a 20th-century American comic strip.


Keep your ________ dry

This phrase means to save your resources until they are needed. It alludes back to the days when gunpowder was commonly used, which would need to be dry to work with a gun.


Laid out in _________

This can mean ready for burial or to show something in the best light. It dates back to the days when sweet smelling flowers were laid around corpses during funerals to mask their smell.


Let 1000 flowers __________

This means to encourage many ideas from many sources. It is actually a misquote taken from a speech by Chairman Mao Zedong.


A little ________ told me

This phrase is thought to be derived from the Bible. It is used to mean that someone was told something by a source which they don't want to reveal.


Name and __________

This was the practice of publishing the name of a person or group responsible for anti-social activities to publicly shame them. Today we do it on the internet and call it doxing.


Dressed to the _________

This phrase means that someone is dressed smartly or in a way that stands out. No one is sure exactly where it comes from, but one theory thinks it might have to do something with tailors needing nine yards of fabric to make a suit.


No more ________ and ale

This phrase means no more good times, as cake used to be used as a synonym for the good life. This exact phrase was first recorded in Shakespeare's play, "Twelfth Night"


Jump the ______________

This phrase refers to stale TV shows stooping to utter ridiculousness to try to keep people watching. This comes from the old popular TV show, "Happy Days," which actually had a character jump over a shark on a water ski when the show was long past its prime.


A man after my own __________

This phrase means someone is a kindred spirit. It comes from the King James version of the Bible.


Let there be _________

This comes from the King James Version of the Bible. Many common everyday sayings and ideas can be traced back to this version of the Bible.


May you live in ______________ times

This phrase is usually said sarcastically, as it is more or less wishing someone struggle in life. Some say this phrase is of ancient Chinese origin, but it is actually modern and American.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!