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Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms

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Source: Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms: More Than 600 Phrases, Sayings & Expressions by Marvin Terban Cat got your tongue? Penny for your thoughts? Come again? Every day, idioms bring color to our speech. Since they don't really mean what they say, idioms can stump even the native English-speaker. Marvin Terban makes understanding idioms "as easy as pie" with the Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms. Explanations for, and origins of, more than 600 everyday American idioms, complete with kid-friendly sample sentences. The entries are amusing as well as educational. MY OTHER ANKI DECKS For more information, please see the Essential Idioms in English page. Nickolay Nonard <kelciour@gmail.com>

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Idiom Mad as a Hatter
Example Sean is as mad as a hatter, but he's my most interesting friend.
Meaning completely crazy, strange, eccentric
Origin Lewis Carroll created the character of the Mad Hatter in his classic book Alice in Wonderland. The expression "mad as a hatter" comes from the early 1800s. One possible origin is a snake called an adder. People in England thought that if you were bitten by an adder, its poison would make you insane. Some people pronounced "adder" as "atter," so if you acted crazy, you were as "mad as an atter," which later became "hatter." Another explanation of the expression's origin is that people who worked in felt-hat factories in the 1800s inhaled fumes of mercuric nitrate, and, as a result, developed twitches, jumbled their speech, and grew confused. The condition was sometimes mistaken for madness and may have given birth to the saying "mad as a hatter."
Idiom Grasp at Straws
Example I guessed at half the answers on the biology test. I was just grasping at straws.
Meaning to depend on something useless in a time of trouble; to make a hopeless effort to save yourself; to try something with little hope of succeeding
Origin Ancient people made up this expression. They thought of a drowning person. He clutched frantically at reeds (hollow, strawlike grass) that grew on the banks of the river in a desperate, futile attempt to save himself. By the 1600s "clutching (or grasping) at straws" had become a popular proverb to express the idea of depending on something useless to help when there is trouble or danger.
Idiom That's the Way the Ball Bounces
Example You promised to baby-sit on the night of Dana's party? Oh, well, that's the way the ball bounces.
Meaning that's the way life is; that's fate; things sometimes turn out a certain way and you can't do anything about it
Origin This American idiom dates back to the 1950s. A similar idiom is "that's the way the cookie crumbles." The alliteration in both sayings (ball bounces, cookie crumbles) contributed to the word choices. This saying makes clear that unpredictable things often happen in life, and you have to learn to live with and accept them. The French have a similar saying, C'est la vie ("That's life.") We also say, "That's the way it goes."

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