Colloquial expressions

Colloquialisms are words and expressions that become commonplace within a specific language, geographic region, or historical era. Authors use colloquial expressions to give personality and authenticity to their characters. The sooner you learn them the better.

Common forms of colloquialism include: proverbs and aphorisms (“You only live once.”), profanities (“Damn!””Jesus H. Christ”), idiomatic expressions (“You’ve hit the nail on the head.” “She chickened out.”), regional terms or phrases (“Bless your heart.”), nonstandard grammar or syntax (“I ain’t done nothing!”)

Scottish groom and best man in kilts - Colloquial expressions - Haste Ye Back! – Return back with speed – said as a farewell. Scottish Saying
Haste Ye Back! – Return back with speed – said as a farewell. Scottish Saying

Colloquial Words:

  •  “Wicked” (Northeast U.S.) = “very” or “really” (intensifier) Ex: “This soup is wicked good!”
  • Contractions like “ain’t,” “gonna,” and “y’all”
  • Profanity that’s specific to a country or region: “bloody” is profanity in the UK – but just an adjective in the U.S.

Colloquial Expressions / Phrases / Idioms:

  • “Hard to swallow” = difficult to believe
  • “Kick the bucket” = to die
  • “Stir up a hornet’s nest” = provoke a strong negative reaction
  • “Up for grabs” = available to anyone
  • “Knee jerk reaction” = a quick or automatic response
  • “Head over heels” = in love
  • “Elbow grease” = hard work
  • “It takes two to tango.” = both parties involved in a situation or argument are responsible for it.
  • Bob’s your uncle! = nepotism (UK)

Aphorisms: a pithy observation that contains a general truth, such as, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”. Proverbs and Sayings also apply.

  • “When it rains, it pours.”
  • “Brevity is the soul of wit.” (Polonius)
  • “All that glitters isn’t gold.”
  • “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”
  • “From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.”
  • Spill the Beans – Reveal secret information unintentionally or indiscreetly.
    • Gilbert accidentally spilled the beans to Maria about her surprise birthday party.
  • To Each his Own – One has a right to one’s personal preferences.
    • A: Who’s your favorite singer?
    • B: Adele, she has a phenomenal voice. How about you?
    • A: I’m a huge fan of Justin Bieber, he is a very talented artist!
    • B: No way! Well, to each his own.
  • The Daily Grind – Someone’s everyday work routine.
    • Winter break is already over and we’re now back to the daily grind!
  • Bite the Bullet – When you decide to do something difficult or unpleasant that one has been putting off or hesitating over.
    • A: I’m really nervous about asking my boss for a raise.
    • B: Don’t be. Just bite the bullet and ask your boss. The worst response you could get is no.
  • Break the Ice – To initiate social interchanges and conversation; to get something started.
    • It’s hard to break the ice at formal events, that’s why ISSS organizes special events for students, scholars, and family members to mingle in casual settings.
  • Wake up on the Wrong Side of the Bed – To feel grumpy; irritable; to be easily annoyed.
    • Why are you in such a grumpy mood today? Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed?
  • Take a Rain Check – Something you say when you cannot accept someone’s invitation to do something but you would like to do it at another time.
    • I have to take a rain check on happy hour this evening, if that’s alright with you.
  • Take with a Grain of Salt – To consider something to not be completely true or right.
    • Listen, he likes to exaggerate. You have to take everything he says with a grain of salt.