Can You Figure Out These Mixed-Up Common Phrases?

EDUCATION

Zoe Samuel

7 Min Quiz

Which of these mixed-up common phrases means, "We were just talking about you"?

Speak of the devil! This is a way of saying, "We were just talking about you" when someone shows up. It's not a way of calling them the devil.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means, "Make an allowance for me"?

Cut me some slack! This means, "Give me a break." As with so many English sayings, the origins of this one are in sailing.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means people who are really insecure are the loudest?

Empty vessels make the most noise! That's because when things rattle around inside them, the sound is louder than when they're too full to do so.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means you should not gamble what you've got for what you might get, even if it might be better?

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. This is similar to "the grass is always greener." It means don't risk what you have to get something that looks better, but might not be.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means money that you don't spend is just as valuable as money you later get by working?

A penny saved is a penny earned! That's because with compound interest, if you save a penny now, it'll turn into more pennies later without you doing more work.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means if you're mean to people they'll be mean back in the same way?

Get a taste of your own medicine! If you go around being a bully, someone might bully you back, and then how will you like it?

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means too many people on a project will compromise the quality of the results?

Too many cooks spoil the broth. This is similar to the old saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee. If everyone has an opinion, then often, no decisions get made.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means someone has precisely pinpointed the issue at hand?

Youve hit the nail on the head! That means you've said it so well that nobody could possibly say it any better. Just as many sayings come from sailing, so many come from carpentry, like this one.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means only very rarely?

Once in a blue moon! The moon is only rarely blue, hence why this means rarely. Some say it means never, because the moon is ever blue, but actually certain types of smoke particles can cause a blue moon.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means it's not OK to be negative about someone else's happy moment?

Don't rain on their parade! When someone is having a moment, don't be negative about it. Let them have their parade.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means, "Tell us the gossip"?

Spill the beans! Tell us what's up! We need to know all the secrets!

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means, "Can we postpone our plans"?

Take a rain check? A rain check is a ticket given for a sporting event that is rained out. If you take one, it means you get in for free when the game is finally played.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means, "Don't worry about your concerns, just do it"?

Throw caution to the wind! This one is sort of about sailing. You just throw yourself on the mercy of the wind and let it blow you where it wants to go.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases describes the Dunning-Kruger effect?

A little learning is a dangerous thing. This quote is from Alexander Pope's "An Essay on Criticism" in which he made fun of lesser writers of his day.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means, "A small action can have huge consequences"?

The snowball effect! This is about how when a little thing gets started, like one flake of snow rolling down a hill, it can get bigger and bigger, and become a snowball.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means to give a person false hope or lead them astray?

Leading him up the garden path! This is what you do when you plant or play a mean trick or corrupt him in some way.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means something very surprising?

It's a bolt from the blue! The blue sky doesn't usually produce lightning bolts, hence they're very surprising when they happen.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means that eventually the overlooked people will get to be noticed?

Every dog has his day! Even the little and overlooked people get their 15 minutes of fame. So don't be mean to them, because they might come after you.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means that an account is firsthand?

I heard it straight from the horse's mouth! That means it wasn't filtered through a second or third party. Horses tell it straight, you know!

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means two people are simpatico?

Two peas in a pod! If you and your friend often dress the same or say the same thing, then you are like two peas in a pod.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means you should enjoy something good because it might not last?

Make hay while the sun shines! This is because when the weather gets rainy in the fall, you can't make hay as it will be too wet.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means that you might cause some damage or fail a lot en route to success?

You can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs. Some say that this is attributable to Robespierre, others to Napoleon. Either puts rather a different spin on it!

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means that if you don't finish, it doesn't matter that you started strong?

Half begun is well done. Mary Poppins reminds Jane and Michael of this in the movie. After all, if you start well, it doesn't matter unless you continue.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means you can give someone good advice but cannot make them follow it?

You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink. You may tell your friend to dump her bad boyfriend but you can't make her do it, sadly. 'Twas ever thus.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means getting through a rough patch?

Weather the storm! Sometimes you see a storm coming and you just have to grit your teeth and hang on, because you can't get into a safe harbor in time. This is another sailing saying.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means getting out of one bad situation only to wind up in another?

Out of the frying pan and into the fire! This is what happens when you run away from a mugger only to fall off a cliff.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means doing something just because everyone else is doing it?

Jump on the bandwagon! This saying is about how once one person does something, everyone does it - that is, they've joined the proverbial band and now they're on the wagon playing the same tune as everyone else.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means taking responsibility for your mistakes?

A good workman never blames his tools! For example, if smart people don't like your idea, you can't blame them; you have to blame yourself for not putting it across well.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means don't begrudge someone a good thing when you wouldn't even want it?

Dog in the manger! This is from Aesop's fables. The dog lies in the manger to prevent the other animals eating the hay. It doesn't want the hay, but it doesn't want them to have it.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means not to be prejudiced by appearances, when they may not tell the full story?

Don't judge a book by its cover! This is about not assuming that because someone is ugly, that they are stupid; or that because food doesn't look elegant, that it doesn't taste good.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means that it's up to you to make a decision?

The ball is in your court! That means it's your turn to hit it, otherwise it'll just roll to a dead stop and the game will end.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means that a given problem isn't worth current consideration in light of the big picture?

He has bigger fish to fry! This is about worrying about the most important thing. For example, when your car's wheel has come off, you don't worry about the scratch on the paint.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means that people who lob accusations willy-nilly are often guilty of the thing they go around accusing others of doing?

It takes one to know one. People often cover up what they're doing wrong by throwing accusations about doing the same thing as their opponents. Sometimes, of course, they used to do that thing wrong, and even though they are reformed now, that's why they can spot it in others.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means you shouldn't bank all your hopes on a single project, person, or opportunity?

Don't put your eggs in one basket! If you do, you might drop that basket, and then you will have no eggs. This is why you back up your files to the cloud and onto a hard drive.

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Which of these mixed-up common phrases means you should be patient?

Good things come to those who wait! For example, if you take your food out of the oven before it is cooked, you will get bad food. Patience is essential.

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About This Quiz

There are all sorts of aphorisms that you've heard so many times that you often can't remember where you heard them. They were just always there. Indeed, sometimes you've heard them so many times that the words have lost all meaning - and sometimes you know them so well that you can see them all mangled up or misapplied, and still know which one someone meant to use.

Indeed, it is a curious quirk of the human brain that it is very good at unscrambling things once it knows what the pattern is supposed to be. Tests have been run whereby people were able to read sentences in which only the first and last letters of each word were in the correct locations, while every other letter in the word was jumbled up. This is the same part of the brain that can nail the Times crossword or always find the Scrabble bingo that others might find so elusive.

Of course, things get a lot more confusing when the entire sentence has been tossed around like a wanton salad. However, some people can just see what's really being said, while others can puzzle it out. Are you one of them? Let's find out!



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