Idioms (K)

kangaroo court

meaning: an unfair ‘court’ that makes decisions on what it wants, not justice, and knows what it will decide before the trial starts

1. “That trial was a disgrace! I expected a fair and honest trial, and instead we have a kangaroo court who chose not to listen, but to convict to ‘send a message’.”

2. The lesson here is to not commit a crime in a foreign country: one kangaroo court is all that is needed to ruin you, and appealing is almost impossible.
keep abreast

meaning: keep up-to-date on events

1. The manager asked them to keep him abreast of any developments in the merger talks.

2. “I find that if I do not keep abreast of the news, I feel I am getting stupider.”
keep at bay

meaning: keep a problem away; keep a problem from hurting you

1. By working two jobs and borrowing from friends he has managed to keep the debt collectors at bay, but this can’t last forever.

2. So far United have managed to keep City at bay, but there are still thirty minutes to go. I’m not sure they will manage to the end of the game.
keep it under your hat

meaning: keep it a secret; don’t tell others

1. “We got married last week, but keep it under your hat for now: I want to make an official announcement at the party this week.”
keep mum

meaning: don’t say anything about this to anyone

1. “I’m sorry, I can’t keep mum about this any longer. She is ruining your life!”
keep (me) posted

meaning: keep me informed of any changes and progress

1. The boss asked Anna to keep him posted of any changes in the negotiations; so far, however, there has been no movement.
keep (someone) at arm's length

meaning: keep something at a safe distance, where it won’t trouble you

1. “She seems nice, but I would keep her at arm’s length until you have you have decided what you want to do: you shouldn’t start a relationship if you have no interest in keeping it.”
keep (you) on (your) toes

meaning: keep you alert and ready for action; don’t let you get lazy

1. The key to being a good badminton player is to keep on your toes, even after you think you have hit a winning shot.

2. “I like the new boss: he keeps the staff on their toes, which has made the company far more profitable, and as a result everyone is happier.”

3. Some people become slow and not very fun after they get into a relationship, but Anna keeps Dave on his toes. He seems more active than before, as if he is scared of losing her.
keep (your) cool

meaning: keep calm; don’t get angry

1. To be a good paramedic you need to know how to keep your cool in an emergency.

2. Anna can never keep her cool when he says nice things about his ex-wife.
keep (your) chin up

meaning: don’t get disheartend; keep believing you can do it

1. “I know breaking up with her has been hard, but keep your chin up. Things will be better in the future.”
keep the wolf from the door

meaning: keep major problems away (usually money problems)

1. Times are tough, and the only way they have been able to keep the wolf from the door is by borrowing money from her parents.
keep up with the Joneses

menaing: to try to live as well as your neighbour; to spend money to look like you live as well as your neighbour

1. He is terrible at saving money; it seems each week he spends a small fortune trying to keep up with the Joneses, which is a shame. He needs to accept he isn’t a rich man.

2. “You bought a new sofa? Why, so your friends will think we’re rich? Look, if we waste all our money trying to keep up with the Joneses then we will never have enough to go on the round-the-world trip we want to.”
keep (your) ear to the ground

meaning: keep listening for news about this

1. Dave always keeps his ear to the ground for new job opportunities and customers. This is why his business has done so well.

2. “Keep your ear to the ground for any news about redundancies. I’ve heard the new management are planning to cut costs.”
keep (your) eyes peeled

meaning: keep looking for something, because you don’t want to miss it

1. The station was very crowded. Their dad told the kids to keep their eyes peeled for their mother.

2. “Alright, keep your eyes peeled for the sign for exit 10. I don’t want to miss it.”
keep (your) shirt on

meaning: don’t get angry (spoken)

1. “Ok, ok, keep your shirt on! I’ll bring your book back later today.”
keep (your) head above water

meaning: just surviving (usually money)

1. Since losing his job, Philip has found it difficult to keep his head above water.

2. The company has only just managed to keep its head above water this year. Next year, hopefully, things will improve.
keep (your) head

meaning: keep calm, especially in a difficult situation

1. It is important that a police officer can keep his head in a difficult situation, especially if they are carrying guns: we don’t want cops shooting people.

2. “They are going to try to annoy you, so just keep your head and keep playing.”
a different kettle of fish

meaning: doing x is totally different from doing y

1. “Going with you to the basketball was one thing, but the ballet? That’s a different kettle of fish. I’m afraid you’re on your own.”

2. Beating City was a good result, but United are a different kettle of fish; I think they will be lucky to get a draw.
a kick in the teeth

meaning: a bad or hurtful event

1. Being dumped was bad, but her taking the dog too was a real kick in the teeth.
kick the bucket

meaning: to die

1. He has been a lot happier since his father kicked the bucket; they never liked each other.

2. I would like to visit Brazil before I kick the bucket.
kick (something) into touch

meaning: to decide an idea is not worth continuing

1. Dave proposed a few changes, but his boss quickly kicked them into touch. Dave thinks it is because his boss doesn’t like him.
handle/treat with kid gloves

meaning: to deal with very softly so it doesn’t get hurt or broken

1. “This project is very important to us, so treat the clients with kid gloves. Keep them happy until they sign.”

2. The principal said young students need to be handled with kid gloves: even if they are misbehaving, a teacher can’t get too angry with them. Anna, however, disagrees. She thinks discipline should be done early.
kill two birds with one stone

meaning: one action solves two problems

1. Dave thought that he would hire a person who could speak French as well as run the office, therefore killing two birds with one stone.

2. “I’ll bring you your money tomorrow.”
“How about you bring that fan over at the same time; that way we can kill two birds with one stone.”