- Achilles heel- This expression is used to refer to the sole point of weakness/ singular area of vulnerability, in an otherwise strong person/situation. The weakness so deciphered is fatal in that it is a potential avenue of downfall or destruction.
Background: In the Trojan war, Achilles, the seemingly unvanquished and indefatigable brave warrior who killed the Trojan hero Hector, was overcome by being shot in his heel. According to Greek mythology, Achilles’ mother dipped Achilles’ body in the water of the river Styx (thought to bestow powers of being unconquerable), to overcome the portentous foreboding that Achilles shall die young. Achilles, thereafter, was known as a warrior whose courage and bravery remained unparalleled. However, the fact that Thetis (Achilles’ mother) held him by the heel causing the heel to remain a vulnerable spot resulted in a potent cause for his death.
Usage: She is an extremely gifted writer but her inability to pitch her ideas efficiently to publishers is her Achilles heel.
- Beat a hasty retreat- This expression is used to connote a hurried, rushed escape in order to avoid being trapped in a difficult, perilous or threatening situation.
- Cross swords with- This expression is used to indicate the initiation of a quarrel/brawl/fight, verbatim/ physical or otherwise.
Usage: The inevitability of John crossing swords with Rick was blatant all along.
- Draw in one’s horns- This expression is used to denote a withdrawal. The implication is one that suggests a drastic change in intensity or the force of one’s action/s or behavior.
Usage: The opposition drew in its horns after the new political campaign by the leading party.
- Eat out of someone’s hand- The expression means the unquestioning acceptance of someone’s authority. It suggests an acceptance of the wishes/commands of someone, without as much as questioning their control.
Usage: The ability to make a spoilt brat as Julie eat out of her hand is a blazing testimony of her competence and efficiency as a babysitter.
- Feather one’s own nest- This expression is used to signify the process of adding to one’s own possessions, often at the expense of others. The expression indicates a blatant disregard for the people/institution/entity being taken advantage of, in the selfish attempt to further one’s own ends/greed for materialistic possessions.
Usage: Defending the criminal in court hardly vexed John or disturbed his conscience, as it enabled him to feather his own nest.
- Grin like a Chesire cat- The expression is used to suggest a broad grin, for a long span of time.Background: The origin of the expression is uncertain. But one can definitely find the widespread usage of the expression and its various adapted forms in literature. From occuring in John Wolcot’s Works, published under the pseudonym of Peter Pindar, between 1770 to 1819 to Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, (published 1865) to Thackeray’s witty adaptations of the idiom in his works, the expression has found immense popularity and become commonplace.
Usage: I’d rather that you stop grinning like a Chesire cat and come help me move the boxes.
- Have a good head on one’s shoulders- The expression is used to signify intelligence, sensibility, rationality, practicality and wisdom. To have a good head on one’s shoulders suggests possession of all the aforementioned attributes.
Usage: I knew he’d make it, he has a good head on his shoulders.
- Lead up the garden path- This expression is used to imply a complete deception. To lead up the garden path means to cheat/deceive/inveigle/trick/dupe completely.
Usage: I do not think we should trust him with the contract; he is surely leading us up the garden path.
- Mind one’s P’s and Q’s- The expression is used to suggest being careful/mindful of what one says or does. It is also used to imply being careful to use polite and respectful language.
Usage: There is no escaping the need to mind one’s P’s and Q’s in the corporate world.