This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.
Search BBC
BBC World Service
BBC BBC News BBC Sport BBC Weather BBC World Service Worldservice languages
spacer gif
You are in: Learning English > Grammar and Vocabulary > Learn It!
Learning English
spacer gif
neck and nose idioms
Model with interesting neck wear

Eakchai Olarikded from Thailand writes:

I don't understand this idiom:

the neck of the woods

I looked it up in the Oxford Dictionary of Current Idiomatic English and still am not clear about its meaning.

 

Roger Woodham replies:

the (same) neck of the woods

The expression is quite often the same neck of the woods. It means literally: the same area, the same community or neighbourhood:

  • I see we're in the same neck of the woods. I'm studying social anthropology and you're studying ethnography.
  • There is never any racial tension in our neck of the woods. It's all quite civilised in our part of town.
  • I didn't expect to see you here, Charles. What brings you to this neck of the woods?

Originally the neck of the woods was a narrow strip of woodland connecting a larger area of woodland.

There are many idiomatic expressions which refer to parts of the body. In earlier replies we have looked at skin and bone, legs and feet, head, brain and mind idioms. If you want to revise these, look them up under the confusing words and expressions part of the archive. Press the button which says 'more questions' at the bottom of this page.

Let's spend a little time today on neck and nose idioms, of which there are many.


 

Neck idioms include the following:

1. neck and neck
2. breathe down someone's neck
3. stick your neck out
4. save someone's neck
5. be up to your neck
6. break your neck
7. a pain in the neck

See if you can work out what they mean by studying these examples of use:

  • The three horses were neck and neck and it was hard to see which would win.
  • She was breathing down my neck and I couldn't concentrate on the work I was doing.
  • I decided I would stick my neck out and try to answer the question even though I knew little about it.
  • The politician tried to save his neck by telling the truth.
  • So will you get a holiday this year?
    ~ I doubt it. I've no spare cash and I'm up to my neck in debt.
  • Those roller skates are not safe. You'll break your neck one of these days.
  • He's a real pain in the neck. His only topic of conversation is fast cars. So boring!

Now check your understanding of the examples against these explanations:

1. neck and neck - competitors who are level, each with an equal chance of winning.

2. breathe down someone's neck - stand over somebody and watch them very closely.

3. stick your neck out - bravely say or do something which may turn out to be wrong.

4. save someone's neck - prevent someone losing their job or reputation.

5. be up to your neck - be exceptionally busy or deeply involved in something.

6. break your neck - kill or injure yourself badly by doing something dangerous.

7. a pain in the neck - an irritating, annoying or boring person.

 

Nose idioms include the following:

1. under your nose
2. keep your nose clean
3. get up someone's nose
4. poke your nose into something
5. pay through the nose
6. powder your nose
7. turn up your nose at something

See if you can work out what they mean by studying these examples of use:

  • Have you seen my keys?
    ~ They're on the coffee table - right under your nose.
  • Now that you're finally out of prison, just try to keep your nose clean.
  • He's a real pain in the neck. He really gets up my nose.
  • Don't go poking your nose into her financial affairs and offering to lend her money.
  • If you buy it in Britain, you'll be paying through the nose for that car.
  • Excuse me for a minute. There's a ladies over there and I must powder my nose.
  • I offered him a share in the business, but he just turned up his nose.

Now check your understanding of the examples against these explanations:

1. under your nose - right in front of you.

2. keep your nose clean - stay out of trouble and behave well.

3. get up someone's nose - annoy or irritate someone.

4. poke your nose into something - interfere in something which does not concern you.

5. pay through the nose - pay too high a price for something.

6. powder your nose - a euphemism for go to the toilet (ladies only).

7. turn up your nose at something - reject something because you think it is not good enough.

   

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


     
     
more questions
l

BBC copyright
 
Learning English | News English | Business English | Watch and Listen
 
Grammar and Vocabulary | Communicate | Quizzes | For teachers
 
Downloads | FAQ | Contact us