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Idioms derived from kinship terms
  An old man

Abdullahi u Bichi from Nigeria writes:

I have seen your responses on idioms. Would you kindly give me some examples of idioms that involve kinship terms?

Roger Woodham replies:

The family

it runs in the family - an ability or talent that is passed on through the generations
your own flesh and blood - a member of your family, do not forget it!
bad blood - hostility or unfriendliness between two families or family members
blood is thicker than water - family ties are stronger than any others, despite arguments.

  • He has two daughters, both very athletic, just like their mother. It runs in the family.
  • You should take better care of your younger sister. She is your own flesh and blood.
  • There is bad blood between the two brothers. They haven't spoken to each other in two years.
  • His housekeeper had looked after him for many years but he still left all his money to his only son. Blood is thicker than water, you know.
   

Mother

mum's the word - it's a secret, don't tell anyone
mother nature - nature and its benevolence towards human beings

  • Dora doesn't know about Jim's affair with Marion, so mum's the word.
  • It's a nasty sprain but leave it all to mother nature and it will heal naturally.

Father

a sugar daddy - a rich man who is generous to younger women in return for sexual favours
a father figure - someone that you can turn to for advice and support

  • She always liked older men with money and there's no doubt that he was her sugar daddy.
  • In his role as head of personnel, he became a father figure for the whole company.

Sons and daughters

a chip off the old block - a son or daughter who is just like their father in character, looks or temperament
child's play / kids' stuff - an easy task that requires little effort
a confirmed bachelor - a man who has decided on principle never to marry
a blind date - an arranged meeting between two people of the opposite sex who haven't met before
a passing fancy - temporary liking for someone or something

  • He's as stubborn as his father - a chip off the old block in other words.
  • Getting Jack to undertake this difficult assignment should be child's play / kids' stuff. He's already very keen on the idea.
  • David's a confirmed bachelor - lots of girlfriends, but nothing serious.
  • They've been married for fifteen years and, do you know, they first met on a blind date.
    I don't like my daughter's new boyfriend. I just hope he's a passing fancy.

Husband and wife and other relationships

my old man / my old woman - a slightly derogatory term for husband / wife
old wives' tales - traditional beliefs which are proved wrong by science
a bit on the side - a sexual relationship outside marriage
an old flame - someone of the opposite sex you were strongly attracted to in the past

  • My old man spends most afternoons at the bookmakers.
  • If you think this blend of herbs can cure you of this, well, that's an old wives' tale, I'm afraid.
  • They have an open marriage, but I don't believe in that. I don't think you should have a bit on the side.
  • Did you see how his eyes lit up when Claire entered the room. Claire's an old flame of his.

House and home

on the house - provided free to the customer by the hotel, bar or organisation
a home from home - place where one feels very welcome
home truths - honest criticism which is often painful

  • This is a famous victory for our country, so all the drinks this evening will be on the house.
  • The people there were so friendly that staying with them was just like a home from home.
  • He doesn't like to face up to home truths but everybody knows he is a liar.

If you would like more practice more please visit our Message Board in the You, Me and Us part of our website.

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