Number one for English language teachers

Your English: Idioms: clothes

Type: Article

Tim Bowen has worked his socks off to deliver another spectacular article on idioms.

If you take your hat off to someone, you show your admiration or respect for them, because of something impressive they have done, as in ‘As an Arsenal fan, I have to take my hat off to Chelsea for the way they played in the second half’. Keeping something under your hat, on the other hand, means to keep it secret, as in ‘Keep it under your hat but Debbie and John are thinking of getting married’. If you throw your hat into the ring, you announce publicly that you will take part in something such as a competition or an election.

If someone is beginning to get angry and you want them to calm down and not get annoyed you can say ‘Keep your shirt on’, while if you put your shirt on an investment or a bet, you risk a lot of money on it. Someone who is angry can also be described as shirty, as in, 'Don't get shirty with me, if you didn't want to be late for work you should have got up earlier.'

People who work very hard often work their socks off, whereas someone who is not working hard enough and could do better can be told to pull their socks up. If you want someone who is talking too much to shut up, you can ask them to put a sock in it, especially if they are boring the pants off you (making you feel very, very bored).

If you catch someone with their pants down, you see them doing something they feel embarrassed about. If you then criticize or attack someone like that who is already in a bad position, you are putting the boot in, as in ‘That’s typical of him to put the boot in when I’m down’.

If you feel that somone is charging you too much, the expression take the shirt of my back can be used, often sarcastically, as in: 'The meal costs how much?  Why don't they take the shirt of my back as well?'

If somebody is dressed up or all suited and booted it means they are dressed very smartly in formal clothes.

Someone who needs to tighten their belts isn't wearing overly lose clothes but instead needs to stop spending (so much) money, as in 'in times of economic hardship, people all over the country need to tighten their belts when it comes to spending'.

If something is described as pants it means it is bad, for example, 'I was really disappointed by that movie.  I was expecting it to be good, but it was pants.'

Weather that is very hot can be described as bikini weather.  The phrase is often used ironically, as in, 'It's meant to be summer, but at 10 degrees it's hardly bikini weather, is it?'

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