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Your English: Idioms: crime and the law

Type: Article

It's been murder waiting for Tim Bowen's latest instalment of idioms, but it's here now!

A radio reporter recently described her car journey on the notorious M25 (Britain's busiest motorway) as 'murder'. If you say something is murder, it is very difficult, unpleasant or uncomfortable, as in 'The traffic out there is murder' and ' All this gardening is murder on my back'. A person who is very angry and shouting might also be described as screaming blue murder.

If you get away with murder, you do whatever you want without being stopped or punished, as in ‘Young people get away with murder these days’. If you are feeling particularly thirsty, you might say ‘I could murder a cold drink’, meaning that you want one very much. Murder can be used with food in the same way, e.g. ‘I could murder a hamburger right now’. If somebody is extremely angry, they might also use the expression could murder someone (hopefully somewhat in exaggeration!), as in: 'I couldn't believe the mess he had made of my house.  I could murder him!'

If you steal someone’s thunder, you get attention and praise instead of them, as in ‘Mr Sarkozy was asked if he was worried that his wife was stealing his thunder’. If something is described as a steal, it is very cheap, e.g. ‘Those shoes are a steal at that price’. Originally from cockney rhyming slang, a thief is also known as a tea leaf.

Of course, if you commit a real crime, you have to make sure that you keep well away from the long arm of the law (the police), otherwise known as the boys in blue or the Old Bill, or you might end up up before the beak (in court) and banged up (imprisoned) behind bars (in jail).

Some people are a law unto themselves (refusing to behave like everyone else or believing they can do whatever they want to do), while others take the law into their own hands (punish someone in their own way without involving the police or the courts), perhaps because they feel that they are above the law (not affected by it or subject to it).

Someone who you feel has charged you over the odds for something can be described as having robbed you blind, as in, 'I can't believe how much he charged me for those curtains. He robbed me blind.'

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