Tim Bowen bends over backwards to explain idioms that can drive us round the bend.

‘They spent the whole evening bending my ear about problems at work.’ If you bend someone’s ear, you talk to them for a long time, especially in order to complain about something or discuss a problem.

If you bend over backwards to do something, you do everything you can to help, as in ‘We bent over backwards to make it easier for her and she didn’t even say thank you’. But, if you bend the rules, you do something or allow someone to do something that is not usually allowed, especially in order to make things easier on a single occasion, as in ‘Away fans aren’t usually allowed to use the club bar but they bent the rules in my case’.

If you ask for something on bended knee, you ask for it very seriously because you want it very much, as in ‘He went down on bended knee in front of 700 audience members to ask his girlfriend to marry him’.

Something that drives you round the bend annoys you a lot, as in ‘Turn that music down, will you? It’s driving me round the bend!’

If someone is bent double, they are bent over, usually in pain, to the extent that their head almost reaches their knees, ‘He was bent double, holding his stomach in pain and calling for the doctor’.

If a diver has the bends, they are suffering from decompression sickness, a painful and potentially fatal condition caused by coming back to the surface too quickly, in which dissolved gases produce bubbles inside the body.