Do You Know What These Phrases Mean?

By: Annette

Do You Know What These Phrases Mean?
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Funny phrases and sayings have a long history in our verbal heritage. In this quiz, we're going to explore some of the most popular sayings, and​ we'll see which ones you know and which you don't!
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
It's better to have less than more.
It's better to have a sure thing that is okay, than a not-so-sure thing that is extraordinary.
This famous saying means that it's better to have a lesser, but sure, advantage. That way, that at least you have something!
It's always smart to only own one bird.

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Not for all the tea in China.
Not for a large price.
Not for any price.
When you won't do something for all the tea in China, you're basically saying that you'll do it at no price! There must be a lot of tea in China.
For a small fee.

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Labor of love.
Something you don't want to do
Something you do out of spite
Something you do for the pleasure of it
A labor of love is something that you do for pleasure. It can also be something you do for the benefit of a loved one.

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Let the cat out of the bag.
To share concealed information
When you let the cat out of the bag, you're sharing information that was previously concealed. This happens when someone comes out of the closet.
To set your emotions free
To conceal your thoughts

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As mad as a hatter.
Incredibly angry
On drugs
Crazy
This means someone is completely crazy. it comes from Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," and perhaps from harmful chemicals once used in hatmaking.

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Let sleeping dogs lie.
Let things be
When you let a sleeping dog lie, you're not disturbing a situation. For that matter, you want to let a sleeping baby lie, too.
Take good care of animals
Ignore the situation

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Barking up the wrong tree.
Making a false assumption about something
When you're barking up the wrong tree, you're making a false assumption about something. Imagine a hunting dog barking at a tree when the intended prey has already escaped.
Being disorderly
Having too much time

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The person who sees beauty is beautiful.
Beauty is everywhere.
Beauty is evaluated by the person who is looking upon it.
"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" means that the perception of beauty is subjective. Someone can appear either ugly or beautiful, depending on who is looking.

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Bite the bullet.
Face your fears.
Jump into danger.
Accept the inevitable difficulty.
When you bite the bullet, you're accepting impending hardship or difficulty. You bite the bullet when you go to the dentist.

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Booby trap.
A trap with breasts in it
A bra
A concealed trap
A booby trap is a concealed or lethal trap. It can also be a practical joke.

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Bury your head in the sand.
Dig a hole for yourself.
Be ashamed.
Ignore a problem.
When you bury your head in the sand, you're not acknowledging a problem. You're refusing to confront something.

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Put the cart before the horse.
To get ahead of yourself
To reverse the order of things
When you put the cart before the horse, you're reversing the order of things - in other words, the logical order.
To be rushing too fast

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Catch-22.
A double standard
A paradox you can't escape
A catch-22 is a kind of paradox. The more you try to escape, the harder it is to escape. It comes from a novel by Joseph Heller.
A backhanded compliment

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Chickens come home to roost.
The children have returned home.
The travelers return after a long journey.
Bad deeds return to the person who did them.
When the chickens come home to roost, it's a kind of karma. Bad deeds and words return to their perpetrator.

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Cloud nine.
Hell
Purgatory
Blissful happiness
When you're on cloud nine, you're in a state of blissful happiness. It's a kind of heaven.

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What is a hot potato?
A baked jacket potato
A warm tea kettle
A hot topic
A hot potato is a current issue that people are talking about. Politics is always a hot potato.

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A picture paints a thousand words.
A visual depiction is more descriptive.
When a picture paints a thousand words, it means that a visual depiction is more efficiently descriptive than language.
A painting tells a story.
Pictures can literally speak to you.

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Piece of cake.
A difficult task
A confusing task
A simple task
When something is a piece of cake, then it's a simple task. Usually it's something incredibly easy.

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Al fresco.
In the sun
Outside
When you're dining al fresco, you're dining outside. This comes from the Italian, "in the fresh."
In a tree

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The whole nine yards.
Only half of something
A very small portion of something
All of something
The whole nine yards is all of something. When you buy a cookie, you want the whole nine yards.

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A penny for your thoughts.
Don't tell me what you're thinking.
Tell me what you're thinking.
When you offer someone a penny for their thoughts, you're asking what they're thinking about. Made famous in "Waiting for Guffman."
Your thoughts mean nothing.

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Beat around the bush.
Avoid a main topic
When you're beating around the bush, you're avoiding a main topic. This means there is an issue you're not speaking directly about.
Go out of your way
Put in a lot of effort

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Last straw.
The worst option
The final problem
The last straw is the final problem. This problem usually comes at the end of a series of problems, finally pushing someone's patience beyond their limit.
The leftovers

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Don't have a clue.
Don't know
When you don't have a clue, you're oblivious. It means you have no knowledge or understanding.
Not quite sure
Be forceful

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Double whammy.
An extra advantage
Another gift
An extra blow
A double whammy is an extra blow or setback. When you get sick, then your spouse leaves you, it's a double whammy.

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At one fell swoop.
Very slowly
With gusto
Suddenly
To do something with one fell swoop means to do it suddenly. It is done in a single action.

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A frog in the throat.
Difficulty articulating
At a loss for words
Temporary hoarseness
When you have a frog in your throat, you're experiencing temporary hoarseness, usually due to phlegm.

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Go postal.
To go to the post office
To hurry
To be incensed
When you go postal, you fly into a violent rage. This is often caused by workplace stress.

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Hit the hay.
Go to work
Go to sleep
When you hit the hay, you go to bed. The phrase has been used in the USA since the early 20th century.
Go to the bathroom

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Not a spark of decency.
To lack manners
When you haven't a spark of decency, then you have absolutely no manners. No one wants to encounter someone without a spark of decency.
To lack intelligence
To lack money

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If the shoe fits, wear it.
If the description applies to you, accept it.
If a description applies to you, then you must accept it. So when someone says, "if the shoe fits," or "if the shoe fits, wear it," they're telling you to accept something about yourself.
If you think something is true, then it is.
If you want it, you'll have it.

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Just deserts.
A prize
A punishment
To receive your just deserts is to receive a punishment that you deserve. If you killed someone, you receive your just deserts by going to jail.
A vision of the future

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Take a back seat.
Subordinate yourself
When you take a back seat, you are subordinating yourself. You're being a follower, not a leader.
Be at the forefront
Relinquish money

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Rack and ruin.
Destruction
Your rack and ruin is your total destruction. Booze is the rack and ruin of an alcoholic.
Infamy
Justice

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Mind your Ps and Qs.
Be on your best behavior
When you are minding your Ps and Qs, you're being on your best behavior. You're also careful with your words.
Belittle someone
Change your thoughts

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