20 Idioms About Reptiles
The phrases and expressions listed in this post pertain to lizards and other reptiles, usually with a pejorative or otherwise negative allusion that reflects the dim view many people have of such animals.
1. After a while, crocodile: A lighthearted response to the rhyming slang “See you later, alligator”
2. Crocodile tears: Hypocritical or insincere expression of remorse or sadness, from the traditional belief that alligators shed tears to lure prey or when they are eating prey
3. If it was a snake it would have bit you: A hyperbolic observation that an object one seeks is nearby and obviously visible
4. Lot lizard: Derogatory slang for prostitutes who solicit in parking lots frequented by truck drivers
5. Lounge lizard: The male equivalent of a gold digger, a man who frequently visits bars and clubs in order to meet women, especially wealthy older women, to sexually or financially exploit them; the phrase alludes to such a man’s primitive impulses
6–9. Nurse/nurture a snake/viper in (one’s) bosom: To harbor someone that turns on his or her benefactor; a reference to one of Aesop’s fables, in which a snake bites a person who had taken care of it when it was injured
10. See you later, alligator: A humorous rhyming farewell, the traditional response to which is “After a while, crocodile” (sometimes abridged to “Later, alligator”)
11. Seeing snakes: Drunk to the point of hallucinating that one sees snakes where they are not (compare “pink elephants”)
12. Snake eyes: A slang reference to a roll of two dice in which only one spot shows on each, suggestive of the eyes of a snake
13. Snake in the grass: A deceitful person who pretends to befriend one for his or her own benefit
14–15. Snake oil/snake oil salesman: A fake remedy or solution, from the tradition of purveyors of such products offering them to gullible would-be customers; a snake oil salesman (traditionally, generally only men engaged in this practice, so the term is gender specific) is a person offering fake remedies or solutions
16. Snakes and ladders: A board game for children involving beneficial ladders and snakes that function as obstacles
17. Tortoise and the hare: An allusion to the wisdom of steady perseverance, from the characters in one of Aesop’s fables, about a plodding, methodical tortoise that wins a race against a fast but overconfident hare
18. Turn turtle: Turn upside down, from the notion of a turtle being overturned, unable to right itself
19. Turtle heading: The act, imitative of a turtle’s head extending from its shell, of looking over the top of an office cubicle wall to satisfy one’s curiosity about a stimulus (also called prairie dogging)
20. Up to (one’s) neck in alligators: A metaphorical reference to losing sight of one’s goal when overcome or preoccupied by pressures, from the expression “When you are up to your neck in alligators, it’s easy to forget that the goal was to drain the swamp”
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