Idioms Exercise (254)

Sometimes literal statements are used figuratively. For example, the expression "to beat one's drum" can be used literally of someone playing a drum; figuratively, "to beat one's drum" is to praise oneself. The phrases in boldface in the following sentences are being used figuratively. Choose the answer that best restates the meaning in the context.

  • My uncle tries to remember to space only once after a period, but old habits die hard.

  • Everyone was surprised to see how the office manager let her hair down at the office party.

  • The boss told me on the QT that we’ll be letting three more people go next month.

  • The boys had fun wrapping the neighbor’s car in plastic sheeting, but they had to face the music when Dad found out.

  • Sorry, Mr. Simpson, but this job isn’t for a jack of all trades.

Answers and Explanations

1. My uncle tries to remember to space only once after a period, but old habits die hard.

Correct: he finds it difficult to alter his accustomed behavior
"Old habits die hard" means that behavior that has become habitual is very difficult to alter.

2. Everyone was surprised to see how the office manager let her hair down at the office party.

Correct: behaved informally
"To let one’s hair down" is to loosen one’s usual inhibitions.

3. The boss told me on the QT that we’ll be letting three more people go next month.

Correct: in confidence
"On the QT" means "in secrecy." The initials may be a shortened form of "on the quiet."

4. The boys had fun wrapping the neighbor’s car in plastic sheeting, but they had to face the music when Dad found out.

Correct: suffer consequences
"To face the music is "to accept the consequences of one’s injudicious behavior."

5. Sorry, Mr. Simpson, but this job isn’t for a jack of all trades.

Correct: an amateur
Although the expression is defined on some web sites as "a man skilled in various jobs," the compound noun jack of all trades is the first half of a proverb: "Jack of all trades; master of none." The meaning of the proverb is that someone who follows a variety of occupations is a dabbler and cannot be a skilled craftsman or an expert.

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