Idioms (G)

gallows humour

meaning: making jokes about your dire or hopeless situation

1. “Are you sure it’s safe?”
(William Palmer when asked to stand on the trapdoor before being hanged)

2. “My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death; one or the other of us has got to go.”
(Oscar Wilde, commenting on the ugly room as he lay on his deathbed)
game plan

meaning: a planned strategy to win or bring success

1. The team didn’t panic; they just stuck to their game plan and waited for the other team to tire.

2. The reason the company failed was, simply, they had an unrealistic game plan going into the market.
gather pace/speed

meaning: for progress to start gaining speed after a slow start

1. His Presidential bid began to gather pace after a brilliant speech on live TV; within 5 months he was the favourite to win.

2. At first the project didn’t seem to be going anywhere, but they kept working and soon it began to gather speed.
get a grip (on something)

meaning: to gain control of something that was getting out of control, especially emotions or a problem

1. The boss told the team they had to get a grip on the situation before things got out of control.

2. The only way they are going to win this competition is if they can get a grip of their emotions, because right now they look very nervous.

3. “Get a grip, man!” (told to someone acting hysterically)
get away with murder

meaning: to do something really bad, and then receive no punishment despite people knowing what you did

1. When he was a child he used to get away with murder – the punishments his mother handed out were absolutely useless.

2. United are getting away with murder out there: they are fouling everyone, but the referee isn’t doing anything.
get your hands dirty

meaning: to do dirty work (either physical or moral) that others avoid

1. Dave, despite being the boss, isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and help the staff out, a fact that they really appreciate.

2. Anne decided there was no other choice: she had to forget about her ideals and get her hands dirty. That was the only way she would get out of there.

3. The gang leader didn’t get to his position by accident: he spent years selling drugs and fighting rivals out on the street. It was this time getting his hands dirty and struggling for some control that paved the way for future riches.
get (your) teeth into (something)

meaning: to eagerly start doing a challenging task

1. As soon as he gave out the homework, the professor could see which students would pass: there were some who tried to ignore it, and others who chose to get their teeth into it straight away.

2. I can’t wait to get my teeth into this new project.
give and take

meaning: the compromise and exchange of ideas that is needed in order for something to happen

1. The debate was quite interesting, with a good amount of give and take.

2. When negotiating a deal, there has to be some give and take; consider what you want, and what you are prepared to lose in order to get it.
give (somebody) a leg up

meaning: to use your power to help someone get to a better position

1. Anne knows that she could do a better job than most of the leaders, if only someone would give her a leg up to help her get noticed.

2. Now that he is a millionaire, it would be easy to forget how it all began; but Dave is still friends with Mr Hughes, the man who gave him a leg up into a management position 20 years ago.
glass ceiling

meaning: an unfair limit, usually in the workplace or authority, that stops a type of person achieving more. Usually describes how women can see better jobs but are not given them

1. For years women in this company were met with a glass ceiling, through which they could not pass. Finally, however, in 2001, Anne became the first female member of the board, and things began to change.

2. It is definitely true that a glass ceiling is in place for foreigners working in this country: sure, they are allowed to work and have fancy job titles, but the positions don’t hold power and it is always a local who holds the money.
go over somebody's) head

meaning: talk to a person’s boss (usually business)

1. Anne found that the management was not taking her idea seriously, so she went over their heads and found the CEO.

2. “I don’t need you to support me on this, Dave. I’ll go over your head. Your boss and I are good friends.”