The Quiz for People Who Want a Common Phrases Challenge!


By: Olivia Cantor

7 Min Quiz

Image: abzee/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Are you a common phrases fan? Do you know the meaning of many "flowery words" or phrases, even statements? Do you like how words could symbolize other things aside from their literal meanings? Then this quiz is definitely for you!

Humans have a way with words, and one good way of enhancing language is to be symbolic and figurative. This means we can substitute one way of saying things for another way, one that is more poetic-sounding, more moving, more inspirational, or even more humorous.

One might ask, though, why humans need to do that with language. Isn't it easier to just communicate directly what you mean? Why the need to say it in another way when you can clearly say it as is?

One of the reasons for this kind of innovation is born out of humankind's penchant for "beautification," in a way. Aesthetically speaking, words could sounds nicer if they are spoken in a specific manner, and the thoughts they convey could also get enhanced that way. Soon enough, as these improvements get passed on from generation to generation, they become part of everyday lexicon until they become common in usage. But still, their original wit or poetics remain preserved, no matter how regular we use these phrases now.

Can you guess the meanings of some of these creative common phrases? Open the quiz and discover!

When you "compare apples and oranges," what are you doing?

To "compare apples and oranges" is an impossible feat since the two fruits are obviously different from each other. Thus, this common phrase means to make a futile comparison of two totally different things.


If they say that "a picture paints a thousand words," what do they mean?

When "a picture paints a thousand words," it means that one singular visual alone, such as a painting or a photograph, can say much more than mere words convey. That's because the visual can prompt more thoughts, therefore more words, so it can "say" or state many more things.


To "break even" is to be in what kind of status?

To "break even" means that you didn't earn any money in a financial process or transaction, but you also didn't lose any. So in a way, that's not such a bad thing. But on the other hand, it's also not a good thing!


When someone "spilled the beans," what exactly happened?

When you "spill the beans," that means you accidentally just shared some kind of information that should have remained private. It's also one way of goading someone to talk, to spill the beans, meaning you want them to share a secret or information you don't know yet.


The phrase, "curiosity killed the cat," leads someone to what kind of situation?

"Curiosity killed the cat" implies that any kind of deeply inquisitive move or gesture could lead someone to a very unpleasant, often tricky situation. The trickiness could lead one intro deep trouble, or even dangerous circumstances. It's actually a form of discouragement for very curious people.


Finding yourself "in hot water" means you are what?

To be "in hot water" means you are currently in some kind of problematic situation, so much so that it could lead to disastrous consequences. It's like imitating boiling water, and getting in contact with this liquid in this state is not ideal, ever, for any human, at any time.


It's hard to be "living hand to mouth." Why is that?

When someone is living a "hand to mouth" kind of existence, this implies that they only have sufficient money to buy very specific and immediate needs, and once spent, they don't have anything in excess. There's a form of financial insecurity going on there.


If you get the advise saying "cross the bridge when you get there," what should you do?

Unnecessary worrying causes stress as we all know, especially if one is fretting about a situation that hasn't really arrived, or a about problem that has not yet manifested. The common phrase, "cross that bridge when you get there," means don't worry about it yet.


Your boss always says "the devil is in the details." What does that imply?

When you get a bit sloppy or careless in preparing something, you may tend to overlook some small matter that could cause you big headaches to repair later on. This is essentially what "the devil is in the details" means and pertains to being thorough so as to avoid bigger headaches later on.


When you "bite off more than you can chew," what did you just do?

To "bite off more than you can chew" implies that you overcommitted to a task, job or duty that you thought was manageable at the beginning, only to discover later on that it's a rather daunting task. It's a tricky situation to be in.


Just "go with the flow." How can you do that?

When someone advises you to just "go with the flow," it means relax and let the current take you wherever it will lead. The current is not literally pertaining to a body of water, but it's about circumstances, opportunities, or something similar that is yet to unfold, so just go with it.


Couples can "spice things up" in what way?

"To spice things up" means to make something more interesting, more exciting, or more vibrant. It's like when one is cooking a dish, it could be more flavorful by adding spices for extra seasoning, making it more delicious. Life can get spiced up, too, in this sense.


Someone who gets "stabbed in the back" just felt what?

"To stab someone in the back" essentially means to betray them, big time. It's irritating if you find yourself being betrayed by your peers or colleagues, but it's even more painful if you get stabbed by someone you truly care for, like a friend or relative.


Having some "food for thought" means what?

"Food for thought" is a common phrase we often use, and it pertains to something that we are deeply thinking about, or something we're seriously considering. This usually means a major game changer in life is making you decide on something huge.


If someone tells you to "cut to the chase," what do you need to do?

To "cut right to the chase," a person needs to stop meandering and talking endlessly without reaching any point or conclusion. This common phrase suggests that the speaker should just get straight to the point of what they're trying to say.


When they say "keep your chin up," what do they mean?

If someone tells you to "keep your chin up," it's meant to be a cheerful and positive encouragement. This is usually uttered whenever someone looks downtrodden, sad or defeated, like their head is always bowed down in shame. So keeping the chin up means overcoming that negative feeling.


A person "born with a silver spoon in their mouth" signifies what kind of status?

To be "born with a silver spoon in your mouth" means that you come from a very rich and affluent family background. It probably alludes to the fact that expensive cutlery is used by upperclass people, and perhaps they were made of expensive silver back in the day.


Someone who's "barking at the wrong tree" is doing what?

For someone to be "barking at the wrong tree" means they are being hugely mistaken about something yet they still go on with the wrong lead. It can also pertain to accusing someone of wrongdoing, even if all evidence points to someone else.


Someone who has a "sweet tooth" likes what kind of things?

Someone who has a "sweet tooth" will always be looking for something sweet to eat. It doesn't matter if it's a dessert, snack, or just some small candies people bring with them; they just have to have some sweets sometimes. These are the people who eat desserts first before meals.


If you want to "hear it straight from the horse's mouth," which entity do you need to approach?

If you want to verify a piece of information, or if you want to hear something that needs to be confirmed, then you are advised to hear it "straight from the horse's mouth." This means you have to hear it uttered or have it verified directly by the main source of the information, and no one else.


When you "bury your head in the sand," what are you doing?

To "bury your head in the sand" implies that there is something you're not trying to address, but it needs to be addressed. It could be that you're avoiding to face the situation or evading a particular issue. It also shows how you're going about and pretending that the issue doesn't exist for you.


To "let the dust settle" means you need to do what?

When something big or exciting just happened, or if you received some big news, the first instinct is to do something in reaction to that big stimulus. But you should first "let the dust settle," meaning give things time to calm down for a bit, before taking the next step or before making decisions.


"Drastic times call for drastic measures" signify that it's time to do what?

"Drastic times call for drastic measures" means you have run out of options available for you in a certain situation, and there is no other recourse left but to take some desperate actions that have heavier, bigger or more serious moves. Even careful planning is thrown out during such times.


What's the status of a business that's "in the red"?

To be "in the red" signifies that one is losing money, to the point that there is no money being earned while there are expenses being paid at the same time. This could also mean that the money coming in is less than what's going out.


You "twist someone's arm" if you need what kind of thing?

If you are good at convincing people to do something, whether it's for your benefit or not, then you are essentially "twisting their arm," so to speak. It's a bit like forcing someone to do a specific task, and you're really good at persuading them to agree with you.


When someone says you're "losing your touch," what does that mean?

When you used to be really good at doing something or making something work, then you find yourself failing at it lately, that means you're "losing your touch." It could be applied to the lost ability to do some small, mundane things, or the bigger life-affecting ones.


"To pony up" is to do what kind of action?

You need "to pony up" when someone is already asking back for the money you owe them. This common phrase could also be applied to other things that one needs to settle, not just strictly debts. It could pertain to paying someone's share of things, like bills or rent.


"Don't give up your day job" is advice you give to someone who is doing what?

When someone advises you "don't give up the day job," that means you somehow lack talent or skill in doing something, so you should not pursue that thing professionally, since you won't earn a living from it. It's actually meant as an insult, but it could also be meant as a half-joke.


"Rain or shine," things will push through. What does this signify?

When you're planning something, like a meet-up with a friend, and they say that it will happen "rain or shine," that means no disturbance will ruin the plan. Therefore, there will be no cancellations, no matter whatr happens.


If you need to "butter up" someone, what do you need to do?

If you need to win someone's favor, then you can "butter up" this person. This means you will do your best to get them to your side. You also butter up someone if you want them to give you access to where you want to go, or if you want them to afford you some special treatment.


Someone who "chases rainbows" is doing what?

When someone is "chasing rainbows," that means they are trying to do things that really lead them nowhere. It is often applied to pursuing things in line with a personal dream or goal, but the efforts are just futile for some reason.


A person who's currently "making waves" is doing what?

For someone who's currently "making waves," that could be interpreted in two ways. The negative aspect is when you're making waves by causing trouble or being disruptive in a bad way. The positive aspect is when you seem to be doing such a good job that you're making a big impression in the industry.


If someone says you're the "best thing since sliced bread," what does that imply?

If someone or something is referred to as being "the best thing since sliced bread," then that someone or something must be truly awesome and great. This phrase might be referring to how slicers "refined" our way of consuming bread.


A person who's a "smart cookie" is what type of person?

When someone tells you that you're a "smart cookie," that means you are intelligent. But this common phrase could also be uttered as a sarcastic comment, which can also border on insult. It's best to see what the real intention is within the entire conversation.


When the host says "Elvis has left the building," what does it mean?

Whenever a show or event is over, the host sometimes says "Elvis has left the building" to signify its end. Elvis here refers to Elvis Presley, of course, since people used to shout for an encore after his performances. An announcer would say this phrase to make Elvis fans leave the venue.


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