15Mins Live Podcast - 常見的慣用語的背景故事 Common idioms and their backstory


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主題: 常見的慣用語的背景故事 Common idioms and their backstory

1. Spill the beans (揭露秘密)

Meaning: To leak a secret

Origin: The consensus is that it is most likely derived from an ancient Greek voting process, which involved beans. People would vote by placing one of two colored beans in a vase, white typically meaning yes and black or brown meaning no. This meant that should someone spill the beans, the secret results of the election would be revealed before intended. Hence, spilling the beans is related to revealing secret information.

Example: I heard that you are dating someone. Spill the beans!

2. Give the cold shoulder (無視/不理會一個人)


Ignoring someone or making it clear that they aren’t welcome.


In medieval England, it was customary for the dinner host to give his guests a cold piece of shoulder meat (from whatever dish they were eating) as a polite way of saying it was time to leave.

Example: I was angry at the clerk, so I gave him the cold shoulder.

3. The cat is out of the bag (秘密已皆知)


The secret has been revealed.


So, it turns out people actually did put cats in bags. Centuries ago it was common for street vendors to sell piglets in bags. Sometimes these vendors were deceitful and put a cat in the bag hoping the buyer wouldn’t notice. If the cat got out of the bag before the purchase was complete, the secret was out.

Example: Everybody heard about the merger. The cat is out of the bag.

4. An arm and a leg (非常高價)


A large expense or amount of money.


There’s some disagreement about whether this originated around the time soldiers were losing limbs fighting for their country in WWI and WWII, or if it dates back to the time when oil painting portraits were a popular thing. Since oil painters would charge based on the size of the painting, it was more expensive to have your arms and legs included in the painting, compared to just your head and shoulders.

Example: I don’t want to buy something that is going to cost an arm and a leg.