If you loved our blog on British idioms last week, then you’re in luck, because we’re back with even more! If you understand and know when to use idioms, you’ll sound more like a native English speaker, since we use idioms all the time. British idioms are a bit different from American idioms, so it’s good to be well-versed in (have a deep understanding of) what they mean.
Have a look at some of these British idioms, and make sure to work them into (say them) your speech so that you can practice using them in context!
In a tick (ˈɪn ə ˈtɪk)
There are times when we all need something to get done quickly. For example, if your boss asks you to do something and you want to respond with a British English idiom, then you can say that you will do it in a tick. This idiom means that you will do it very soon or very quickly. It’s a good idiom to know, and I’m sure you’ll get to use it often!
- I’ll get that done in a tick. I just have to send this email, first.
- – Do you have time for a coffee? – In a tick. I’m in a meeting right now, but it’ll be done soon, and then we can go!
On the knock (ˈɔːn ðə ˈnɑːk)
Have you ever wanted to buy something, but it was a little too expensive for you? If so, then maybe you were able to get it on the knock. If you buy something on the knock, it means that you can pay for it in installments (smaller sums of money given over an agreed period of time). Paying for something in this way is usually done when the item is expensive and hard to pay for all at once.
- I bought his birthday gift on the knock. I had to pay for it over a long period of time, but I know it’ll be worth it!
- Can I pay for this in installments? It’ll be easier for me to manage if I can get it on the knock.
Plain as a pikestaff (ˈpleɪn ˈæz ə ˈpaɪkˌstæf)
Sometimes things are really, really obvious to you. This is where this idiom can be useful! As you might have figured out already, if something is plain as a pikestaff, it’s very obvious. A pike is an old type of weapon, like a very long spear. It had a sharp tip on a long pole, and because it was so big, it was hard to miss! Hence (therefore), this idiom being used to talk about obvious, hard to miss things.
- The solution we came to in the meeting was plain as a pikestaff. We just had to call the client and apologize for our mistake.
- It’s plain as a pikestaff that he likes her. He always talks about her and loves having her around.
Sticky wicket (ˈstɪki ˈwɪkət)
This British idiom comes from cricket, a sport that is popular in the UK. If you’re on a sticky wicket, you’re in a difficult situation. In cricket, if a field is damp and difficult to play on, it’s a sticky wicket. This idiom was then brought into everyday speech, and is now said often!
- The police knew that he had committed the crime, but they didn’t have enough evidence to arrest him. It was a bit of a sticky wicket for them.
- I’m on a bit of a sticky wicket with this customer. I’m trying to make them happy, but I don’t have the power to do what they want me to.
Wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole (ˈaɪ ˈwʊdn̩t ˈtʌtʃ ˈɪt ˈwɪθ ə ˈbɑːrdʒˌpoʊl)
Sometimes there are situations that you really don’t want to get involved with. For whatever reason, you just don’t want to be a part of it, and would rather stay out of it. In this case, you can say that you wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole. A barge is a type of flat-bottomed boat which can be steered with a long pole, called a bargepole. Since this pole is very long, it’s great for keeping things away — such as situations that you don’t want to get involved in!
- There’s some drama going on in her team. If I were her, I wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole. Let them sort out their problems by themselves.
- Steve and I don’t agree on politics. He tries to provoke me and get into arguments, but I won’t touch it with a bargepole. It’s better to just ignore him.
Are you familiar with any of these British idioms? Have you used any of them before? Share with us in the comments below!
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Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and can’t wait to use some of these idioms in conversation!