14 ENGLISH IDIOMS & SAYINGS from food & drink


Hello. I’m Gill at engVid, and today’s lesson is
on idioms and sayings which are based on references to food and drink. Okay? So, these are sayings that are sort of metaphorical,
meaning they’re not literally true, but they mean something in a different kind of context. So, you’ll see what I mean when we look at
the examples. Okay? So, the first one is this, which is actually
true literally, as well as metaphorically perhaps, but it’s: “There’s no point crying
over spilt milk.” So, if you spill… “To spill”. If you drop the milk and it goes all over
the floor, you’ve lost it; you can’t use it, and milk is… Well, milk costs money; it’s inconvenient
to lose some milk when you need it for your… To put in your coffee or whatever. So, if you spill some milk, it’s… You know, I… if it happens to me, I feel
annoyed and upset because I’ve wasted some milk which I needed, really, and you have
to then go out and buy some more. And it makes a mess; you have to clean it
up. If you don’t clean it up properly, it goes
bad and it starts to smell. So, there are all those things to think about. So… But then this saying is: “There’s no point
crying over spilt milk.” The idea is once it’s spilt, you can’t do
anything about it – that’s it, you just have to get on, clean it up, carry on, go and buy
some more or do without it; don’t bother getting any more, have your… Drink your tea without any milk in it – whatever
it is. So, this is what people say sometimes if someone’s
complaining and they’re upset about something, people say that just to say: “Well, there’s
no point being upset about it. That doesn’t achieve anything. You’ve just got to move on and be positive;
carry on and don’t just be negative all the time, saying: ‘Oh, dear. Oh, dear, isn’t this terrible?'” The main thing is to do something positive
about it, and not just cry… Crying when you spill the milk. There’s no point. Okay, that’s that one. Then the next one, if you say: “That’s not
my cup of tea” or “That’s not really my cup of tea”, it doesn’t mean literally: “That’s
not my cup of tea; that’s somebody else’s cup of tea.” What it means is that’s not my taste. Okay. If somebody invites you to go to a film at
the cinema, and maybe it’s a horror film, and if you don’t really like horror films,
you probably don’t want to go. So, you say: “Oh, that’s a horror film, isn’t
it? That’s not really my cup of tea. I don’t think so. Tell me when there’s a different kind of film
on, and I might go to that with you, but horror film – no, not my cup of tea.” So it’s just a saying that we have. “It’s not my cup of tea. It’s not my taste; I don’t enjoy that sort
of thing.” Okay. Right. So, next one, if someone is on the gravy train… If someone said: “Oh, she’s on the gravy train”,
it may be that someone has got a job, or maybe it’s like a politician sometimes – they get
the kind of job where they earn a lot of money, they have the opportunity to go out for meals
in restaurants quite a lot, and it’s all paid for on their work expenses and so on. So, if you’re on the gravy train… The “gravy” is the kind of sauce that you
put on your food. In English cooking, it’s a kind of brown sauce;
it could have beef flavour in it or chicken flavour, but it’s hot liquid, quite thick. It’s a bit like a soup, and you pour it on
your meal with… If you have a meat and vegetable meal, you
can pour gravy onto it to give you a kind of sauce to add to your food. So, it’s the idea of sort of rich food and
something nice to eat. So, if someone is on the gravy train, it means
they’re in a position where they can have a really nice time and lots of nice things
to eat, and generally not have to worry about money and so on. So, that’s that one. Okay, next one: “He knows which side his bread
is buttered.” Okay. So, if you think of a slice of bread… There’s a slice of bread. And if you put butter on your bread… You… I think you only put it on one side usually,
don’t you? If you put butter on both sides, it would
get very messy because you’d be putting the butter down onto the plate, it would stick
to the plate – you know, not a good idea. So, usually you put butter on one side of
your bread, there. Okay? So, one side is buttered; has butter on it,
and the other side is not buttered. So, I think we all know if we have butter
on our bread, we can see which side is buttered; there’s no difficulty there. But this is not literal; this is metaphorical. So, if somebody knows which side his bread
is buttered, that means he knows… If he has a job in an organization, he knows
who the important people are, and he knows who the less important people are, and he
won’t waste any time with the less important people. He just wants to spend time with the more
important people because they have more power and influence, so this is someone who is rather
calculating, you could call it. If someone is calculating, they work out in
an organization: “Who is the best person to socialize with?” for example. And who… who… “Some people I wouldn’t waste my time with
because they don’t have any power in the organization.” It’s not a very nice attitude, but there are
people like that. So, that kind of person who is calculating
about who they’re nice to and who they don’t have time for – they are the people who know
which side their bread is buttered. They know who to, you know… who to talk
to, who to spend time with for their advantage. Okay. Right. So, and then another bread and butter one,
but this is quite different. If you say: “This job is my bread and butter”,
it means this job is what I rely on for my money. My food… bread and butter is sort of basic
food. Well, bread is basic food; butter is a bit
of a luxury, but I suppose it’s meant to mean that. Bread is the basic stuff; butter is a bit
more luxury. If you have a bit of extra money, you will
buy some butter. So, you have your job to earn your money to
buy your food and all your needs; it’s to do with survival. So, survival. Having… Having enough money to live on. So, if you have a job which gives you money
to live on, to survive. So, that’s what people say: “This job is my
bread and butter. I need it.” Okay. Okay, so now we’ve had the bread and the butter,
now we’ve got the jam. So, if someone says, like with a question
mark and with an exclamation mark as well, it looks rather extreme, but this is said
in a sort of sarcastic way. Okay. So, if someone is asking for something and
you give them what they want, and then they want something more and you give them that,
and then they still want more, it’s as if they are never satisfied. Some people are never satisfied, and they… You give them one thing and they want another. Sometimes that’s good; it depends whether
it’s convenient for you or not, but you can say sarcastically to someone like that: “Do
you want jam on it?!” or “Do you want jam on it, too?!” You know, meaning: “You know, how much more
are you going to want? It’s enough to have bread and butter without
adding jam as well.” Jam is sort of a lot extra. You know, so: “Do you want jam on it?!” or
“Do you want jam on it, too?!” said in a sarcastic way. Or you… Or someone might say: “You want jam on it,
too, don’t you!? You want jam on it, too!” You’re the sort of person who always wants
more. Okay, so that’s that one. And then, finally for this first half of the
lesson, if: “They’re cherry picking examples to support their argument”, if people are
cherry picking examples, if they’re trying to argue about maybe climate change or something
to do with finance, banking, any big sort of political issue, really – people have to
use examples to support their argument. But the idea is they should really find a
lot of different examples to get a wide picture of the situation. But sometimes people find an example which
doesn’t fit their argument; it doesn’t fit and it doesn’t support their argument. So, what do they do sometimes? They decide: “I’m not going to use that example
because it doesn’t help; it might go the opposite way.” So… But then they find all the examples they can
to support their argument, but if they find a few that don’t support it, they will leave
those out; not mention them at all. So, that’s called “cherry picking” because
cherries are these little red fruits that grow on trees. Cherries. So, cherry picking is just taking a small
piece of fruit, like that. So, it’s selective. It’s being selective. So, if you want to give a balanced view of
something, you might find examples from both sides to show, you know, for and against climate
change, for example. But if someone wants to really prove their
point, they’re going to leave out the examples that don’t fit that. Okay, so that’s the first half of our lesson,
and let’s move on now to the second part. Okay, so let’s look at the second set of seven
idioms. So, first of all, we have this one: “She wants
her share of the cake.” Okay. And it’s similar to the second one: “He wants
his slice of the pie.” So, in both of these, if you think of a circular
cake or pie, and usually you cut… You cut it up into pieces, like that, and
you share it. You share it among some people, different
people. And you have a slice – that’s a slice; a section
of the pie or the cake. So, this is about people wanting their part
of something. So, it can be literal; it could be literally
true. There is a cake there or there is a pie, and
everybody wants to have a piece of it-okay-which is fine. But also it can be used metaphorically just
to mean that somebody wants part of something that’s going on or they want to benefit in
some way from something. They don’t want to be left out. The idea of being left out. If everybody else is having a piece of pie
or cake, or they’re taking part in a meeting or something at work, people feel that they
should be involved; not be left out. They think: “Well, why are those people in
there having a meeting, and not me? Why not me?” So this is when people feel left out and they
want to make sure that they get their share as well. Okay. Next one, if you say someone was “as nice
as pie”, it’s not the same as having a share or a slice. If someone is as nice as pie… Well, pie is nice, I think. Most people like to eat a piece of pie; it’s
nice, something with a nice pastry on it, and with nice fruit inside or meat or something. Pie is nice to eat. I think most people like it. So, if someone is as nice as pie, it means
that they’re nice, pleasant, polite, and so on. It may be that you were expecting the person
not to be nice, especially if maybe you’re having to apologize to somebody for something
and you think that they’re going to be angry about something. And then when you do go to talk to them and
say: “Oh, I’m sorry about something”, and they’re really nice about it and it’s unexpected,
you think they might tell you, you know, how annoyed they are or something, or they might
be a bit unfriendly. But if they’re really nice about it, you can
say: “Oh, it was all okay. She was as nice as pie about it.” Okay. So it can be in a situation where you were
not expecting the person to be nice, but then they were. Okay. So, then moving on to apples. So, if: “There’s one rotten apple in the barrel”… Okay. So the barrel is a container, like that. It’s often made of wood with sort of metal
strips holding it, like that. And you might put apples in it to store them. So, you have a barrel full of apples. But if one of them is rotten… “Rotten” – you can pronounce that either with
the “t” sound or without, by the way. You could say: “Ro’en”, “ro’en” or “rotten”,
“rotten”. I think both are correct. So, if you have an apple… There’s the apple, there. And it’s a nice red apple. And it might have a bit of… A bit of green on it, which is fine as well. But if you have a bit of black, there, and
it’s gone soft… And it’s brown, really, more brown than black,
except I don’t have a brown marker here, so I’m having to improvise with black. That was my fault for not getting a brown
marker. So, if there’s a black bit or a brown bit
on an apple, and it’s soft and you think: “Oh, dear, that’s gone a bit… That’s a bit old, that apple”, you might cut
that piece off and eat the rest, or you may not feel like eating any of it because of
the black bit. So, that is “rotten”. If the food has gone bad it’s rotten. Okay. But the problem is if you have one apple like
that in a barrel down here and it’s got the black bit on it, like that, and then you’ve
got lots of other apples in the barrel which are okay, they’re not going to stay okay for
long because the rotten bit, the bad bit has bacteria in it and that will spread. It will spread right through the barrel. If you don’t notice and take the bad apple
out, it will affect all the others. So, this is the literal meaning of course,
but it can apply metaphorically to… Well, a group of people perhaps. Nice people, but there’s one person who’s
not so nice, and sometimes if that person is not so nice they can influence the other
people to be a bit like them. So, it can spread to other people if you don’t
stop seeing that person or whatever it is. So: “There’s one rotten apple in the barrel.” In a company, for example, there may be one
person who’s a bit problematic; a bit of a problem, and you could say it for that – they’re
marvelous people, but there’s just one person who’s not so… Not so positive, perhaps, who might affect
other people eventually if they stay there. Okay, that’s that one. And then this one: “There’s something fishy
going on”. “Fish”, you know fish? Fish. That’s a fish. So, “fishy”… Well, fish smell, so this is to do with the
smell of fish because if there’s some fish around, you can usually smell it; you notice
it. So, when this is used… Well, this is used metaphorically to say something… There’s something going on. There’s a strange atmosphere – that’s the
smell of the fish. There’s a strange atmosphere. People are planning something and you don’t
know what it is. It may be just that it’s your birthday soon
and they’re planning a surprise party. I mean, that’s great. But something fishy, it makes you suspicious. So, suspicious. And you think: “What’s going on? You know, something fishy. Something a bit unusual, a bit strange. It’s not the normal atmosphere.” Okay. Right. Next one, so: “One man’s meat is another man’s
poison.” That’s the traditional phrase. To make it equal, sometimes people say: “One
person’s meat is another person’s poison” to avoid gender bias. Okay. So, if one person likes meat, but another
person – that meat to them is like poison; something really bad that makes them ill. So, this is just something to do with taste,
again. It’s like when we had earlier: “Not my cup
of tea”, so this is a similar one to that. “That’s not my cup of tea.” So: “One man’s meat”-which is that person
really enjoys and it’s good for them; makes them strong and healthy-“is another man’s
poison” – that person may be allergic to it or they just don’t like the taste, or anything. But it can apply in any… In any context. So, you might say, again, with the horror
film invitation. Some people love horror films, and then other
people don’t like them, so you can apply it to that. “I’m not going to the horror film because
I don’t like them. My friend loves them”, so that just shows
one person’s meat is another person’s poison, so it fits that kind of context. Okay. And then finally, I hope you don’t do this
to me because if you “take what someone says with a pinch of salt” it means you don’t believe
what they tell you. I always try to speak the truth and to give
you as much information as I can; accurate. But if you… If you take what someone says with a pinch
of salt… So, this is a pinch, when you put your fingers
together. So if you take a little bit of salt, the grains
of salt with your fingers – that’s a pinch of salt. People do that when they want to put a little
bit of salt on their food; they might pick it out of a dish and then do that with their
fingers, and sprinkle it over their food. So, that’s a pinch of salt. But that has come to mean not believing what
somebody tells you. So: “I take what he says with a pinch of salt.” If that person has told you something in the
past and you believed him, and then you find out that it wasn’t true or it wasn’t entirely
true, then you’re a little bit more careful next time he tells you something, and you
don’t feel like believing him, so you’re taking what he says with a pinch of salt. Okay. Right, so those are our 14 idioms using food
and drink as a metaphor. So, I hope you found that useful and interesting. Maybe it’s taught you some new vocabulary
as well. So, if you’d like to go to the website: www.engvid.com,
there’s a quiz there on this topic. And thanks for watching, and see you again
soon. Bye for now.

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