Explanation of Idiom Quiz Answers

1. Curiosity killed the cat.

"Curiosity" means a strong desire to know or learn something. To be curious is not a bad thing. However, being curious about other people's affairs may get you into trouble. Cats are naturally curious. They may climb high into a tree chasing a squirrel and not be able to come back down.

2. to pass the buck

A buck is a dollar bill. To "pass the buck" means to blame someone or make him or her responsible for a problem that you should deal with.

3. the best thing since sliced bread

This idiom means means that something is the best and most useful innovation or development invented for a long time. Sliced bread was first introduced in 1928

4. not a spark of decency

A spark is a shred, just a small amount. Decent behavior is good, moral, and acceptable in society. One who lacks decency is rude and has no consideration for others. Example: "He is two hours late for dinner. That boy doesn't have a spark of decency in him!"

5. a Monday morning quarterback

Someone who criticizes another's decision after it has already been made and cannot be changed. A quarterback is an American football player who directs a team's offensive play. Since most profession football games are played on Sunday, the quarterback is likely to be criticized on Monday by those whose teams lost the game.

6. to go back to the drawing board

When a plan or project fails, one must start over (go back to the drawing board) and create an alternate plan. A similar expression is "to go back to square one."

7. to beat around the bush

Beating around the bush means speaking vaguely about a difficult or sensitive topic without mentioning it directly. One might be told "Don't beat around the bush - just tell me the truth." The origin of this idiom is believed to be from hunters seeking animals hiding in the bushes. The hunters would beat the bushes with sticks, hoping to scare out their prey.

8. to bite off more than you can chew

This phrase means to undertake a task that you probably are not capable of completing. Example sentence: "Don't bite off more than you can chew by taking an overload of difficult classes."

9. to burn the midnight oil

To burn the midnight oil is to study or work late into the night. Originally this was done by the light of an oil lamp or candle. More recently, the phrase is used figuratively, alluding back its use before electric lighting.

10. Someone bought the farm.

To "buy the farm" means to die, particularly during military action. The origins of this phrase are unclear. One theory is that the death benefits paid to the beneficiaries of soldiers who died in battle were often enough to pay off the mortgage on the family home or farm, hence the deceased was said to have “bought the farm.”

11. Drastic times call for drastic measures.

This idiom means that when you face extreme and undesirable (drastic) situations, it is sometimes necessary to take extreme actions.

12. Every cloud has a silver lining.

Every negative situation, or cloud in your life, has the potential to result in or produce something positive or beneficial. A silver lining on a cloud is an indication that the sun is behind it.

13. to fall off the wagon

This phrase usually describes a return to drinking alcohol after a period of abstinence. It can also refer to returning to any discontinued behavior, usually one that is detrimental in some way. An example: "I gave up smoking for nearly a year, but I fell off the wagon at Jeff's bachelor party."

14. to hit the nail on the head

This expression literally means to strike a nail precisely on the head with a hammer. Figuratively, it means to get something exactly right.

15. Let sleeping dogs lie.

Do not make trouble by mentioning something that is best left in the past; rather, ignore a past unpleasant incident or situation. After all, if you awaken sleeping dogs, they will probably be upset.

16. There is method to the madness.

Using an unorthodox or seemingly illogical method which, nevertheless, achieves the desired result. In Shakespeare's Hamlet the character Polonious, observing Hamlet rave on in what appears to be senseless sentences, makes a comment that turns out to be true: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in't.”

17. Don't give up your day job.

This idiom is used as a humorous way to advise someone not to pursue a task or career at which they are unlikely to be successful. Example: "How do you like my painting? Um, don't give up your day job." A "day job" brings in money. So don't give up a paying job to spend time on something you are not very good at.

18. not playing with a full deck

"Deck" refers to a set of cards; there are 52 cards in a standard deck. When someone is not playing with a full deck, he or she is either mentally, psychologically or intellectually deficient.

19. to jump on the bandwagon

To "jump on the bandwagon" is to follow the crowd and do what everybody else is doing, to join or follow something once it is successful or popular. The word "bandwagon" was as the name for the wagon that carried a circus band.

20. to let the cat out of the bag

A common saying that means to reveal a secret or surprise, usually by accident. Many years ago merchants often sold live piglets to customers. After putting a piglet in a bag so the customer could transport it easily, dishonest merchants sometimes swapped the piglet for a cat when the customer looked away. Buyers often didn’t discover the trick until they got home and really let the cat out of the bag, revealing the merchant’s secret.

21. to pull wool over people's eyes

To deceive, fool, or misdirect someone, especially to gain an advantage. Example: "I know you copied my paper. You can't pull the wool over my eyes." Back in the 17th century, people used to wear elaborate wigs, which looked woolly. If a wig were put on wrong, it might obscure the vision of the person wearing it.

22. Take it with a grain of salt.

To take a statement, especially advice, with "a grain of salt" means to accept it while maintaining a degree of skepticism about its truth. Example: "Before elections politicians make a lot of promises. These promises are best taken with a grain of salt." This idiom assumes that food is tastier and therefore easier to swallow with a grain of salt. So if someone is telling you something that may not be entirely true or correct, it is easier to swallow it with a grain of salt than to argue against it.

23. driving me up the wall

If something is driving you up the wall, it is making you crazy, and you are going bananas. Example: "Her constantly checking her phone when we're on a date is driving me up the wall!" This saying evokes someone trying desperately to escape something by climbing up a wall.

24. to plead the fifth

The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees citizens specific rights, including not having to testify in court against yourself if you're accused of committing a crime. You have the right to not incriminate yourself.


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