Phrases :

A left-handed compliment = a compliment which though flattering in tone is really disparaging

He paid him a left-handed compliment when he said that he was suitable to serve in the Government. (He thought the Government a bad one.)

The lion's share = a disproportionately large share

The phrase comes from Aesop's fable of the animals hunting, in which, when the prey comes to be divided, the lion gets the largest share for himself, while the ass and the stag get little or nothing.

When the profits came to be divided, the lion's share went to the man who had supplied the capital.

The long and short of a thing = the whole outcome of it briefly stated

The long and short of it is that we have been swindled.

A maiden speech = the first speech of a new member of a public body

His maiden speech in Parliament was a great success.

A mare's nest = illusory discovery

When anyone thinks he has made an important discovery which afterwards turns out to be nothing, we say he has found a mare’s nest.

Out-and-out = thorough or thoroughly

He is an out-and-out reactionary.

Pros and cons = arguments for and against

Have you weighed the pros and cons of the scheme?

A rainy day = a time of adversity

A prudent man does not spend all he earns, but lays up something for a rainy day.

A red-letter day = an auspicious or fortunate day

August 15 - 1947 is a red-letter day in the history of our country.

From the red marking of Church festivals in the calendar

Red tape = unnecessary official formality

Because of the red tape prevalent in government offices, you will not receive a reply for several weeks.

A broken reed = a weak, unreliable person

Don't rely upon him. He is a broken reed.

Between Scylla and Charybdis = between two menacing dangers, so that if you avoid one, you run the risk of falling into the other

Scylla was a rock and Charybdis a dangerous whirlpool off the coast of Sicily. In avoiding Scylla mariners ran the risk of falling into Charybdis.

A sleeping partner = one who has invested money in the business, but takes no active part in the management of it

He will remain only as a sleeping partner.

Sour grapes = an expression that comes from Aesop's fable in which the fox, seeing grapes on a vine beyond his reach, makes many attempts to reach them, but in vain and then goes away, saying, They are sour. Hence the expression means a thing which is really desired but disparaged because it is not attainable.

A Utopian scheme = Utopia was the name given by Sir Thomas More to an imaginary island which had an ideal form of government. Hence a Utopian scheme means an admirable scheme that is fanciful or impracticable.

A wild-goose chase = a foolish, unprofitable venture

He has gone off on a wild-goose chase in search of buried treasure.

Ups and downs = prosperity and adversity = rise and fall of fortune

He is an experienced man of the world, for he has seen the ups and downs of life.

Yeoman Service = help in need, long and loyal service

When an epidemic broke out, the Red Cross Society rendered yeoman service.


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