English Cold Idioms Used Everyday
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Hi I’m Hilary and this is the latest podcast from Adept English. Welcome to anyone who is trying to learn English and who wants to improve their understanding of spoken English. Listen to this podcast a number of times, to improve your understanding and vocabulary. And if you find any of the words too difficult, there is a transcript, a written version on our website – and listening several times to the same podcast will mean that any new words or phrases become familiar to you – you’ll recognise them when you hear them being used somewhere else.
So let’s do some idioms today – we haven’t done any of these for a while. Given that it’s been quite cold in the UK this week, I thought it might be quite seasonal, quite topical to do some idioms around the word ‘cold’. This week, we’ve been having our winds coming down from the Arctic, so it meant that some parts of the UK have been covered in snow – while other parts, like where I live, have hardly had any at all – much to the complaint of children all across the south of England. People from other parts of the world that see Britain in the grip of cold weather – or in a cold snap, as we say – are amazed how everything stops if there are just a few flakes of snow. We’re very bad at handling snow and ice – which is silly, because some countries have it for much of the winter and they manage OK. Anyway cold weather is here, so words that you might have heard would be chilly, freezing or nippy. They’re all weather words. But cold is the main word in English – so you can also have ‘a cold drink’ or ‘a cold shower’ if you want to or a cold person. So a cold person might mean someone who is feeling cold at that moment and needs to put on a jacket. Or a ‘cold person’, could mean someone who doesn’t have much warmth, isn’t very emotional, doesn’t show many feelings.
So the idioms today are:-
to catch a cold
to be left out in the cold or to leave someone out in the cold
to blow hot and cold
to go cold turkey
to give someone the cold shoulder
Now, we’ve talked before about a cold meaning an illness, something that makes you unwell – in a previous podcast, called Atishoo (which is the noise you make when you sneeze). So if you ‘catch a cold’, this means that you get a virus, you catch a virus from someone else who was ill with the same thing. The verb to catch is usually used to mean that you catch a bus or you catch a train, or sometimes you catch a ball – all of which are intentional. All things you want to do. But the verb to catch is used with illnesses too – so when the illness is passed from one person to another. So a cold here is used to mean when you have a runny nose, you need to use tissues, like Kleenex. You may have a sore throat. Your throat is where you cough – like this. [Cough…cough – that’s coughing]. So first idiom – ‘to catch a cold’.
The next idiom is ‘to be left out in the cold’ or ‘to leave someone out in the cold’ and the meaning of this is probably obvious. If you were left outside in the cold and the rest of your family were inside the house – you might feel excluded, left out of what was going on. So that’s a very literal meaning – but we also use it as an idiom too. Theresa May might be said to be ‘left out in the cold’, when the other EU leaders meet and have dinner together and she’s not invited. Or if a number of friends were meeting, but one friend didn’t get invited, you might say that they’d been ‘left out in the cold’.
Another expression we use is ‘blowing hot and cold’ – so you might say it of a person that they’re ‘blowing hot and cold’. This means that the person seems to be keen, full of enthusiasm one minute and then not keen, not having any enthusiasm or interest in the next minute. It might be that you’re trying to organise something – a meeting, a holiday, a trip with your friends. And it’s difficult to organise because people seem really keen, really enthusiastic for the idea one minute, then they can’t be persuaded to do it the next minute, so they’re blowing hot and cold. In a relationship, if you’re dating somebody – they might blow hot and cold. They might be full of enthusiasm one minute and then unavailable, just not there the next minute. Your boss might say ‘Oh yes, you’ll be in line for promotion, you’re going to get that new job’ one minute and then at other times ‘No, you’re not ready for that better job, yet’. So he or she is ‘blowing hot and cold’. So it means going between two very different feelings – quite quickly.
If you ‘go cold turkey’ – well, this has a very different meaning. A turkey is a bird, quite a big bird and it’s a farmed bird. In many countries, it’s the bird eaten for Christmas Dinner. It’s basically like a big chicken, but is different from a chicken. And to ‘go cold turkey’ means that you suddenly stop doing something that’s a habit, something that you like doing. Perhaps you like it a bit too much. So in its original meaning ‘going cold turkey’ is to do with coming off illegal drugs. So another example is if you stop smoking cigarettes. If you are someone who always smokes cigarettes and then suddenly you stop and you stay stopped, we might say that you’ve ‘gone cold turkey’ – you’re just learning to do without them. I didn’t know the origin of this saying – and having looked online, I’m….I still don’t know. None of the explanations suggested sounded very plausible or very realistic, but this is a phrase that every English speaking person would know. You might decide that you’re using your phone too much or that you’re on social media too much – so WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook etc. You might decide to stop doing it for a weekend – and then you’d find you were ‘going cold turkey on social media’.
Finally, last idiom for today ‘to give someone the cold shoulder’. So first of all ‘shoulder’ – your shoulder is part of your body. Where your arm joins your body, there’s a joint and that joint is called your shoulder joint, but whole area is your shoulder. Your shoulder joins your neck – and your neck is the part between your body and your head. So to give someone the cold shoulder means that you are intentionally unfriendly to someone, you ignore that person. So if you ignore someone – it means that you’re pretending that they are not there, you choose not to notice them or speak to them. So you could say ‘I went to the party and I was going to speak to her, but she gave me the cold shoulder’. So she ignored me, she pretended that I wasn’t there.
So that’s it for cold idioms. Wherever you are in the world, I hope that you’re warm enough – even if you’ve got snow and ice where you live. I hope that you aren’t being left out in the cold by anyone, I hope that you haven’t caught a cold – and I sincerely hope you’re not going cold turkey. I also hope that noone is giving you the cold shoulder.
So….enough for now. As ever, check out our website for all the goodies that we offer. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.