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Your English: Idioms: war and peace

Type: Article

Tim Bowen isn’t starting a war of words; he’s come in peace with some very useful idioms.

During a recent conflict, it was reported that a war of words had broken out between the two sides, meaning that they were publicly criticizing each other because of a serious disagreement. A war of nerves, on the other hand, is a situation, often, but not exclusively, in sport, where both sides try to gain a psychological advantage over their opponents by making them worried or afraid.

If you are in the wars, you have injuries from being in an accident or a fight, as in ‘Good heavens. You’ve been in the wars. Where did you get that bruise?’ While a turf war is a violent dispute between criminal gangs over who controls the territory on which they operate.

If someone is on the warpath, they are angry about something and looking for someone to punish for it, as in ‘You’d better watch out. Your mother’s on the warpath over that broken window’. On the other hand, if you are at peace with the world, you do not feel angry or unhappy about anything, as in ‘At the age of 70, she’s at peace with herself and with the world’. To be at peace can also be used as a euphemism for dead, as in ‘Uncle Arthur is finally at peace now’.

If you come in peace, you arrive somewhere with friendly intentions but if you disturb the peace, you behave in a noisy or violent way in public. Sometimes you might find that you have to avoid or prevent an argument and, in this case, you need to keep the peace, as in ‘It was my job to keep the peace between my younger sisters’.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Good, Tim. I'll use this at some stage as idioms do come up regularly in my ESP classes (private tutoring). Thanks, Murray

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