Animal Idioms

Raining cats and dogs, 1817 caricatureI love idioms; they bring abstract concepts to life with vivid imagery, and range from the practical to the hilarious.  If I said someone was clumsy, that’s all clear and well enough; but if I said they were as clumsy as a cow on rollerskates?  I think you know where that one’s going…  Here are a just few of my favourite animal idioms:

“to be as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs” – very nervous

“to bark up the wrong tree” – to be mistaken in one’s goals or focus

“to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” – to be eager, lively (especially at unexpected times, e.g. morning)

“to have ants in the pants” – to be jittery, excited, animated, hyper

“to cry wolf” – to rouse others to action when it is not necessary

“to be raining cats and dogs” – to be raining hard

“in two shakes of a lamb’s tail” – very quickly

“to look a gift horse in the mouth” – to scrutinize or criticize a gift or an offer to help, etc.

“to look like something the cat dragged in” – to be very ill, to look ill

“not enough room to swing a cat” – a tight space, a small room

“to buy a pig in a poke” – to buy something without having seen its quality first (German:  “die Katze im Sack kaufen”, or “to buy a cat in a sack”)

“to cast pearls before swines” – to waste one’s efforts or investments on worthless schemes or people

“to fight like cats and dogs” – to fight with someone (regularly, or vehemently)

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