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Archive Language Point 150

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Animal vocabulary

An angry looking Tim in the cafe
Words we use to talk about animals (chicken, bull, fish etc.) can also have other meanings, either on their own or as part of compound words, phrases or idioms.


run about like a headless chicken
very busy doing lots of things but not in a way that is very effective
There were three people off sick this week, so she's been running around like a headless chicken trying to get everything done.

be chicken / chicken out of something
decide not to do something because you are too frightened
I was going to do a parachute jump, but I chickened out.

be no spring chicken
be no longer young, be older
My dad thinks he wears really fashionable clothes. But he's no spring chicken. I wish he would just wear a suit and tie like everyone else who's 50.


like a bull in a china shop
be clumsy or careless when you should be or behave carefully
I told him it was a very sensitive meeting but he just went in like a bull in a china shop, asking about their prices and how much profit they were going to make.

take the bull by the horns
do something difficult in a brave and determined way
You need to take the bull by the horns and talk to him about his behaviour.

like a red rag to a bull
be certain to make someone angry or react violently to something you say or do
Don't smoke in her house. She hates smoking - it's like a red rag to a bull.

bull market
(business term)
a time when price of stocks and shares are rising
This isn't a good time to invest in stocks and shares. It's a bull market now because unemployment and inflation are high.

a bull's eye
the circular centre of the object which you aim at in games like darts, shooting or archery
She's good at darts. She usually gets a bull's eye in every game she plays.


move along a route or line that includes a lot of twists or bends
Everyone one wanted to be first in the shop when the sale started. The queue snaked all around the building.

snake oil
something worthless or useless that someone tries to sell you
She uses all sorts of lotions and potions on her face. I don't know why she bothers. It's just a load of snake oil.

snakes and ladders
a board game with squares. Some squares have pictures of ladders or snakes. If you come to a square with a ladder, you move up some squares. If you come to a square with a snake, you have to go down some squares.


not completely legal, true or right
I don't know why I don't believe him but there's something fishy about him. I just don't trust him.

fish for compliments
try to make someone say something nice or complimentary about you or your abilities
His paintings were really nothing special. But he kept asking me what I thought of different famous artists. He was really fishing for compliments.

have bigger fish to fry
have more important things to think about or deal with
Now that she's been promoted she doesn't have any time for us. She's got bigger fish to fry.


wild tales
amazing or unbelievable stories

I'm going to have to let you go
I'm going to be forced to sack you (fire you from this job)

remove or dismiss someone from his or her job

a piece of clothing you wear over your clothes to protect them while you are cooking (or doing something that might get your own clothes dirty)

You'll be laughing on the other side of your face
Although you are pleased now, you won't be pleased later when things don't happen as you expect them to


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