Is English Stuck In The Past Time To Learn Idioms That Matter Ep 690

An African elephant in a room. Confused about English idioms? Let’s solve it! Tune into our podcast and say goodbye to awkward conversations. Simple, fun, and ultra-effective!

📝 Author: Hilary

📅 Published:

💬 3920 words ▪️ ⏳ Reading Time 20 min

📥 Download MP3 & PDF 12.9 Mb ▪️ 👓 Read Transcript ▪️ 🎧 Listen to Lesson

Confused by English idioms? Learn what they REALLY mean—Today!

Have you ever puzzled over phrases like "going cold turkey" or "the elephant in the room"? Curious how they can transform your English from textbook bland to rich everyday conversation? Hilary’s got you covered in our latest Adept English lesson, where we're not just teaching idioms, we're bringing them to life!

What You'll Learn:

  • How to "go cold turkey" and not just during Thanksgiving!
  • What it really means to "let the cat out of the bag" 🐱
  • Crack "the elephant in the room" 🐘 and make your conversations intriguing.

Lesson Highlights:

  • Real-World Examples: Idioms plucked straight from everyday conversations.
  • Active Listening Skills: Sharpen your ears with our exclusive 'Activate Your Listening' course.
  • Engaging Quizzes: Put your new idiom knowledge to the test.
  • Vocabulary & Pronunciation: Step up your game from beginner to advanced.

✔Lesson transcript:

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.
⭐ Peter Drucker

But hang on, there's more. Stick around until the end for a quiz that could change the way you grasp these quirky English sayings forever. Unlock the mystery. Speak like a native. Are you ready?

🎧 Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube and a lot of other podcast platforms, and don't forget to share it to help Adept English reach more avid language learners like you.

Language exerts hidden power, like the moon on the tides.
⭐ Rita Mae Brown

💡 Pro tip: So you want to excel in spoken English? Our 'Activate Your Listening' Course is a game-changer.

More About This Lesson

Welcome to an exciting Adept English lesson that will turn you into a pro at British animal idioms. Ever wondered what "going cold turkey" or "the elephant in the room" means? Get ready to unlock these mysteries! This lesson offers real-world examples, fascinating facts, and a fun quiz at the end. Transform your English from basic to brilliant!

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
⭐ Martin Luther King Jr.

Things you will learn listening to this English idioms and phrases lesson:

  1. Idiom Learning: You get to learn British English idioms, boosting your ability to understand native speakers.
  2. Vocabulary Expansion: The lesson provides clear explanations, helping you add new words to your vocabulary.
  3. Real-world Examples: You get examples of how idioms work in everyday conversations, making it easier to use them yourself.
  4. Active Listening: The lesson structure promotes active listening, a crucial skill for language acquisition.
  5. British Cultural Insights: Understanding idioms also helps you grasp British culture, enhancing your language learning journey.
  6. Quiz Inclusion: A quiz at the end lets you test your understanding, reinforcing what you've learned.
  7. Encouragement: The lesson's friendly tone keeps you engaged, motivating you to keep learning.
  8. Immediate Application: The lesson encourages you to use the idioms right away, giving you confidence in real-world situations.

Benefits of our listen & learn approach to learning

  • Speak Fluent English: Master idioms and become part of the global English-speaking community.
  • Get the Full Picture: Idioms are not just words; they show how people think and what they find funny.
  • Boost Confidence: Know not just the words but the deeper meaning behind them.
  • Stay Engaged: Quizzes and real-world examples keep learning fun and effective.

Key Points to Remember:

  • Idioms are Culture: Learn how idioms like "going cold turkey" reveal British culture and history.
  • Context is Key: Idioms can have different meanings based on the situation.
  • Practice Makes Perfect: Use new idioms in safe places first, like with friends.
  • Regular Review: Quizzes help to make sure you remember what you learn.
The secret of getting ahead is getting started.
⭐ Sally Berger

Why You Should Dive In:

  • Conquer Fears: Don't worry about making mistakes or feeling left out. Each idiom you learn makes you more fluent.
  • Real-world Use: Idioms make you not just understand, but also take part in, natural talks.
  • Cultural Insights: Pick up on the British way of thinking and humour through idioms.

Unearth the mysteries of British idioms! Master popular phrases, improve your conversations, and test your new knowledge with a fun quiz. Don't miss this chance to up your English game. Follow and subscribe to the Adept English podcast today!

Questions You Might Have...

Imagine this British English lesson is your safari through the wild terrain of animal-themed idioms. Picture Hilary as your seasoned guide, steering you through the twisting trails of phrases like "going cold turkey" and "the elephant in the room." Armed with real-world examples and a quiz that's as exciting as spotting a rare animal in the wild, you'll go from a mere spectator to a full-fledged explorer in the kingdom of English idioms. Uncover the hidden secrets, navigate the complex undergrowth, and emerge fluent and fearless. Get ready; this isn't just a lesson. It's an expedition into the heart of the English language!

  1. What is the main aim of this English lesson about animal-themed idioms? The primary objective is to decode the mysteries behind animal-themed British idioms. By the end of this session, you won't just recognize these idioms in conversations with native speakers; you'll be using them yourself! The lesson employs real-world examples and includes a quiz to reinforce your understanding.
  2. How does Adept English's listen & learn approach help me understand idioms? Listening is key to language acquisition. Adept English emphasizes a listen & learn methodology, which means you absorb the idioms contextually. You hear them used in sentences, understand their meanings, and even get to practice via a quiz. This approach elevates your fluency in spoken English, especially with idioms that are part of everyday British lingo.
  3. What are some of the idioms covered in this lesson? The lesson dives into idioms like "to go cold turkey," "to let the cat out of the bag," "the elephant in the room," "to get someone's goat," and "hold your horses." Each idiom is elaborated upon with real-world examples, making it easier for you to grasp and use them in your own conversations.
  4. How does the lesson help me understand the idioms when I encounter them in real life? The lesson does more than just explain the idioms. It walks you through practical, everyday examples where these idioms can pop up. Plus, there's a quiz at the end! This helps consolidate your skills, ensuring you not only understand these idioms but are also confident enough to use them.
  5. How can I further enhance my spoken English skills with Adept English? Adept English offers an ‘Activate Your Listening’ Course. It focuses on common conversation topics and incorporates interactive speaking exercises to boost your listening skills. You'll find it on the Courses page at This course complements the listen & learn approach, making you more adept in spoken English.

Most Unusual Words:

  • Baffled: Confused or puzzled.
  • Idiom: A phrase where the meaning isn't clear from the individual words. Often cultural.
  • Consolidate: To combine or bring together, like skills or knowledge.
  • Spotify: A popular service for listening to music online.
  • Enhance: To improve or make better.
  • Irritable: Easily annoyed or bothered.
  • Reins: Leather straps used to control a horse.
  • Gallop: A fast running speed for a horse.
  • Zodiac: A system that connects your birthdate to your personality, often using animal symbols.
  • Nicotine: A substance found in cigarettes that is addictive.

Most Frequently Used Words:


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Transcript: Is English Stuck In The Past Time To Learn Idioms That Matter

Can mastering idioms make you more British than a cup of tea?

Hi there. Are you baffled by British English idioms? Have you ever wondered why someone is "going cold turkey" or what "the elephant in the room" is? Well, you're not alone. Stay with us because we're diving into the world of English idioms which involve animals today. But guess what? By the end of this lesson, you'll not only understand these idioms when native speakers use them, but you may be able to use them yourself too. I’ll explain each idiom, giving you the vocabulary and real world examples and then if you stay until the end; we have a special quiz to help you consolidate your skills in these English idioms.

Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.

Don’t forget to share on Spotify

Before we jump in, make sure to share this podcast if you're on Spotify. Sharing on Spotify helps us at Adept English reach more learners like you. And if you want to enhance your spoken English, check out our ‘Activate Your Listening’ Course at, on the Courses page. It's packed with common conversation topics and interactive speaking to boost your listening skills.

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So, do you recognise any of these idioms that I’m about to cover? They are:-

  • To go cold turkey
  • To let the cat out of the bag
  • The elephant in the room
  • To get someone’s goat and
  • Hold your horses.

Did you know ‘to go cold turkey’ is nothing to do with Christmas Dinner?

If you hear someone say ‘I’m going to go cold turkey’, what do they mean? A ‘turkey’, TURKEY is a bird, a big bird. And some people say it's not the most attractive looking bird! Poor turkeys! Also ‘poor turkeys’ because they are what we like to eat traditionally as our Christmas Dinner in the UK - and what the Americans traditionally eat at Thanksgiving. It’s a bird rather like a chicken, but much bigger. So what does this ‘go cold turkey’ idiom actually mean? Well, surprisingly, it means ‘to withdraw from something’ and in the sense of withdrawing from a drug that you’re addicted to. So someone who has stopped smoking cigarettes might say ‘I tried nicotine patches, but I found for me, the best way to stop smoking was to go cold turkey’. By that, they would mean that they just stopped smoking all together and they didn’t use any substitute like nicotine patches or vapes. They went ‘cold turkey’ - straight off cigarettes to nothing. And ‘cold turkey’ is certainly a thing if you come off certain drugs - heroin comes to mind, though I don’t have any experience of someone doing this.

So why do we say this? Well, like most of our idioms today, It’s one of those ‘lost in time’ origins. Perhaps we say it because if you come off a serious drug like heroin or morphine, you experience feeling cold and perhaps you get ‘goose bumps’. That means when your arm or your skin goes ‘bumpy’ because you’re cold and your arm hairs are trying to stand on end. Possibly that’s the origin. And people use ‘to go cold turkey’ to talk about stopping all kinds of things, not necessarily things that are as addictive as cigarettes or heroin. ‘I had to come off social media. And I just went cold turkey’. Or ‘Boots the Chemist have stopped stocking my favourite lipstick! I’m having to go cold turkey until I can find another shop which sells it!’. So that’s ‘to go cold turkey’. You’d never guess that meaning from the words if you didn’t know, would you?!


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When we say, 'To let the cat out of the bag,' what do you think we mean? And why would you put your cat in a bag anyway? I don’t know the answer to that second question, but ‘to let the cat out of the bag’ means ‘to tell a secret’, to tell something that you shouldn’t be telling. A ‘secret’, SECRET is information that only one or two people know - and which has some impact, some importance. If you tell it, it’s not a secret any more and you’ve ‘let the cat out of the bag’.

Again, I have no idea and nor does anyone else seem to have, how this phrase, this idiom came about . But I guess that if you were to put a cat in a bag - sounds a bit cruel to me - and then you ‘let it out’, it would be pretty impossible to get that cat back into the bag! Any cat would strongly object - and I wouldn’t blame them either. And so a secret once told, cannot be untold. And a ‘cat let out of a bag’ can’t be put back into the bag. There’s a sense with this phrase that the person telling the secret took a chance, took a risk - and perhaps shouldn’t have been telling it. More examples? ‘Her boss let the cat out of the bag that she was leaving the company’. Or ‘She let the cat out of the bag that her mother was getting married’. Secrets that once told cannot be untold - that’s ‘to let the cat out of the bag’.

What does an elephant have to do with awkward silence in British English?

Have you ever heard the phrase 'The elephant in the room'? This is a relatively modern idiom, I think and I’ve mentioned this one before in the podcast. An elephant, ELEPHANT - is one of the biggest animals on earth, They live in Africa mainly - and are grey, roam in herds and have a very long nose called ‘a trunk’. I think probably that lets you know what an elephant is! And when we refer to something as ‘the elephant in the room’ - well, even in the largest room in your house, you would notice the presence of an elephant! So the point of the phrase, ‘the elephant in the room’ - we mean ‘the obvious big thing that no one is talking about.

The thing that you cannot fail to notice - but about which nobody speaks!’ Examples that you might hear? ‘The elephant in the room is that she’s the one doing all the complaining, but he’s the one who pays for everything!’ Or perhaps ‘The elephant in the room is that there’s a general election next year - and the government is motivated to pursue policies which please its supporters’. Or ‘The elephant in the room, is that my cousin is much older than her husband and her health is not good.’ So the ‘elephant in the room’ is the thing that nobody’s talking about, but which is really obvious.

Ever thought getting a goat might mean someone is angry? Let's explore!

What about the next idiom ‘To get someone’s goat’? You might hear ‘It really gets my goat that she speaks like that’. Or ‘It really gets my goat when there are lots of adverts on social media’. A goat, GOAT? Well, this is another animal that you can eat - I think they do in other countries, but more commonly you drink its milk and you eat cheese, made from goat’s milk - particularly nice, I think. So a goat is a smaller animal - it still has hooves and horns - and a face a bit like a sheep. And if you think of the zodiac sign ‘Capricorn’ - that’s a goat. So if someone says ‘That really gets my goat’ - the verb I guess being ‘to get someone’s goat’ - it doesn’t mean that you go and fetch a real goat from up the road. No, if something ‘gets your goat’, it means that ‘it makes you angry, makes you irritable and cross’.

Again if you’re curious about the origin - it’s frustrating! We're really not sure! But this saying ‘That really got my goat’ is known to most English speakers and they’ll interpret that as ‘That really annoyed me’. Other words for ‘to annoy’, ANNOY? ‘That really infuriated me’ perhaps. Lots of things might make you grumpy! They ‘get your goat’!

Horses: a symbol of impatience in English?

Last one for today ‘Hold your horses’. A horse, HORSE is of course another animal. Imagine an old fashioned Western movie, with cowboys in it - John Wayne? That’s a really old actor! Or to bring it up slightly more up to date, The Revenant perhaps? Or The Magnificent Seven, though that’s quite old too, isn’t it? What is the animal that they all ride? The horse, of course. It’s an animal, a horse that you put reins on. In my very short time of going horse riding, I learned just what a lot of character horses have and just how difficult they can be to handle. The riding stables I went to with my son just before the pandemic - every horse in there was naughty in a different way. So ‘holding your horse’ means controlling it with its reins, REINS - those are the leather straps used to contain horses, constrain horses, even. And ‘holding your horse’ might mean while you’re sitting on its back - or more likely it means holding the reins while you’re standing next to the horse, especially when the horse is wanting to pull away.

So we use this phrase ‘hold your horses’ meaning ‘Not so quick, slow down’. As though your ‘horses are wanting to gallop away’, but there’s good reason not to be in such a hurry. So although there may be no horses in the situation, we might still say ‘Hold your horses’, ‘slow down! Examples then? ‘Hold your horses. We need to decide on a route before we set off!’. Or ‘Hold your horses! Don’t be in such a rush to spend your money!’

UK Money Talk 🤑 10 Money Idioms Brits Actually Use

Check what you’ve learned with our quiz!

Does that give you a feel for each of these idioms? How about a little quiz to check your understanding? I’ll give you a situation and you need to choose which one of these five idioms you might use in this situation. Again the five idioms are:- To go cold turkey, To let the cat out of the bag, The elephant in the room, To get someone’s goat and Hold your horses.

Ready? Let's see if you can match the right idiom to each situation.

  1. Everyone knows that my auntie has had another relationship while she’s been married to my uncle. But everyone pretends it didn’t happen.
  2. I’ve really got to stop eating so much chocolate. What do you think is the best approach?
  3. I get really cross when other drivers on the road put me in danger with their bad driving.
  4. Don’t be in such a rush to pull all the wallpaper off your wall. We need to decide how we’re going to decorate it first!
  5. Oh my goodness - she told me a big secret yesterday - and I’m not sure she’s meant to have told it!

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Quiz Answers

That’s it! How did you do? If you want to hear those sentences again, pause the podcast here and go back. Otherwise, here are the answers!

  1. Everyone knows that my auntie has had another relationship while she’s been married to my uncle. But everyone pretends it didn’t happen. Well, that’s ‘an elephant in the room’.
  2. I’ve really got to stop eating so much chocolate. What do you think is the best approach? Well, here maybe you could say ‘Go cold turkey!’
  3. I get really cross when other drivers on the road put me in danger with their bad driving. You could say ‘Bad drivers get my goat!’
  4. Don’t be in such a rush to pull all the wallpaper off your wall. We need to decide how we’re going to decorate it first! I might say here ‘Hold your horses!’
  5. Oh my goodness - she told me a big secret yesterday - and I don’t think she’s meant to have told it! Another way of putting this ‘She’s really let the cat out of the bag’!


Hopefully that’s helped you remember these idioms. And don’t forget we love emails from you - so get in touch if you’ve any special requests on topics you’d like me to cover!

Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.

Thank you so much for listening. Please help me tell others about this podcast by reviewing or rating it. And, please share it on social media. You can find more listening lessons and a free English course at



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