Idioms are useful. They are made up of simple words, mostly, but make you sound much more like a native speaker.

I learned 2 Chinese idioms and drew gasps of admiration when I used them.

So learn a few, and use them liberally.

Note that with many idioms you only need to say the beginning - they are normally so well known that native speakers don’t actually say the whole phrase. I’ve included some examples of that below.

#1: 'A Stitch in Time Saves Nine'

First, let’s look at the vocabulary of the idiom.

When you sew clothes you stitch them.

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You can also use the word stitch about someone who had an accident and went to hospital.

I hit my head and needed 5 stitches!

Even for people who understand every word, ‘a stitch in time saves nine’ is a strange one, but it’s quite simple when you know it.

Imagine a pair of trousers with a little hole in them. If you do nothing, the hole will get bigger. And bigger.

Now that you’ve waited, the hole is so big it would take NINE stitches to fix it.

If you fix the hole as soon as you notice it, you only need ONE stitch.

  • ‘A stitch in time’ means - if you stitch the hole at the right time - and the right time is NOW.

  • ‘saves nine’ means - you won’t have to do nine stitches later on.

This Idiom in Real Life

1.

- This sink is leaking. There’s a bit of water coming out. Look.
- Oh, we should get a plumber.
- It’s too expensive. Just leave it.
- A stitch in time saves nine.
- You’re right. It will be cheaper to repair the leak now than wait for it to get bigger.

It seems expensive to call a plumber for a small job, but it’s cheaper than repairing a flooded bathroom!

2.

- I had a big fight with Jack last night.
- Oh?
- Yeah we both said some bad things.
- You should call him now and talk about it. If you leave it too long the problem will get worse.
- You’re right. A stitch in time saves nine. I’ll call him now.

If she doesn’t call Jack, their conflict might get bigger and harder to fix later.

#2: ‘You Can Lead a Horse to Water But You Can’t Make It Drink’

Background

Have you ever put milk in a saucer for a cat, who sniffed it and just walked away? Or tried to feed a dog with the biscuits it doesn’t like? That’s what this idiom is based on.

It’s easy to bring a horse to a stream and say ‘okay now drink!’ The horse might drink some of the water, or it might not. There’s nothing you can do about it.

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How to Use It

This idiom is used for situations where you can only solve part of a problem, and somebody else must take the final step.

For example, if you have a friend who is single and lonely, you can arrange a blind date for her. Arranging the blind date is ‘leading a horse to water’ - but it’s your friend who has to do up her hair, get dressed, and go and meet the guy - you can’t make her ‘drink’.

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This Idiom in Real Life

1.

- Did you hear Jack wants to become a dentist?
- Yes, I bought him a book about dentistry and signed him up for an online course.
- Oh, so it’s all arranged then.
- Not really. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.
- You think he won’t read the book or finish the online course?
- He might but I can’t do it for him. We’ll see if he’s really motivated.

2.

- Where’s Jill?
- She’s in her bedroom, crying.
- Why?
- I told her she has to finish her homework before playing video games.
- You shouldn’t push her so hard.
- But she has to get good grades if she wants to go to a top school.
- She knows that. Maybe she doesn’t really want to go. Anyway, you can’t live her life for her. She has to make her own decisions, right? You can lead a horse to water…
- Don’t tell me how to raise my children! Get out of my house!
- Fine. Be like that. Jesus.

#3: 'Least Said, Soonest Mended'

Background

As you know, ‘least’ is the superlative form of ‘less’, and you can guess that soonest comes from ‘soon’. To mend something is to repair it.

Another way to say this idiom would be ‘the less you say the sooner you will fix the problem’. Another way to say it is ‘stop talking’.

Use

Imagine you have a big fight with your best friend. You’ve known her for 20 years but now she has a new boyfriend who is THE WORST and you hate him. You told your friend what you think, and she got angry and defensive.

Now you’re on the train going home and you open Whatsapp on your phone.

Do you:

a) try again to explain why that boyfriend is bad

b) apologise for starting the fight

c) do nothing

If you believe the idiom ‘least said, soonest mended’ you should choose C. Talking about a problem often just makes that problem worse. Choose C, do nothing, and the next time you see each other just act like you didn’t have a fight.

More Examples

1.

- I think I made a mistake.
- Oh?
- Yes, I was calling the new employee ‘Bob’ the whole morning. But he’s called Rob. Do you think I should say something to him?
- No, least said, soonest mended. Just call him Rob from now on.

2.

- I think Jackie is mad at me.
- Why?
- Well, I kind of slept with her boyfriend. A couple of times.
- Not good.
- How am I going to apologise?
- You're not. Least said...
- ...soonest mended. You're right! We'll be best friends again in no time!

#4: 'When the Cat’s Away, the Mice Will Play'

Background

Mice is the plural form of mouse. In the Tom and Jerry cartoons the mouse is able to defeat the cat, but in real life a cat will normally catch and kill a mouse.

But when the cat is asleep in front of the fire (=away), it’s safe for the mice in the field to run around and have fun (=play).

How to Use It

It’s often used in a situation where a boss is not in the office, or parents are out of the house. During those times, the workers/children will relax, play games, or do things they shouldn’t do.

* office chair racing

 
 

* children misbehaving

cats-away-kids-will-play.jpg

Real Life Examples

1.

- Hey, why are you looking on Facebook?
- Why not?
- You’re at work.
- Oh, well Jack is on holiday this week. When the cat’s away…
- I thought Facebook was blocked. Show me how to get on it.

2.

- We need to get a babysitter for Thursday night.
- Why?
- We’re going to that dinner party.
- The kids will be fine. They’re old enough to look after themselves.
- That’s what I’m worried about.
- Huh?
- When the cat’s away, the mice will play.
- Let them have some fun.
- Maybe you’re right. They can invite their friends and drink all that expensive beer you bought.
- What’s the babysitter’s phone number?

#5: 'Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining’

Background

The clouds in this idiom are the dark ones that bring rain. A lining goes at the edge of something. For example, you might buy a woolly coat with a cotton lining.

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A cloud with a silver lining is a dark cloud that has a light-coloured edge - a hint that though it is dark now, it will be sunny soon. The meaning is ‘even bad things have good consequences.’

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How to Use It

When you get some bad news, think about what good might come. For exam, you fail your English exam. That’s the cloud. But your company pays for more online English lessons for you. That’s the silver lining.

Your football team loses. That’s the cloud. But the manager realises he needs to buy a new striker. That’s the silver lining. (The team will be stronger in the future.)

You break up with your girlfriend and you’re sad about it. That’s the cloud. But now you’re free to move to Argentina and live on the beach like you always wanted. That’s the silver lining.

Real Life Examples

1.

- Oh, no!
- What?
- They don’t have any tomato sauce. I can’t make pizza tonight! We’ll have to eat lentils.
- At least we won’t get fat! Every cloud…

2.

- Why are you sad?
- I’m not.
- You are.
- Well, maybe a little. My girlfriend left me.
- Oh… Well, you know what they say: Every cloud has a silver lining.
- Huh? What do you mean by that?
- At least you won’t have to go to her father’s house for Christmas dinner.
- Oh, yeah!

#6: 'Measure Twice, Cut Once’

Have you ever tried to make a poster and when you got to the right-hand side of the page realised you were running out of space and had to use smaller letters? Of course you have. Everyone has.

That’s because you didn’t plan what you wanted to write and you didn’t think about the size of the page or how big your letters should be. If you measure something twice it means you are very careful and you have a plan before starting a project.

Imagine you are going to cut a piece of wood to go under a wobbly kitchen table. You can cut the wood, see if it fits, and then cut it again. And again and again until it is right. OR you can measure the legs of the table, calculate how long the piece of wood needs to be, and then cut it to the correct amount.

Planning and measuring before you start might seem like too much work, but in most cases it saves time.

That’s why a skilled workman says ‘measure twice, cut once’.

How to Use It

Maybe you have been told to write an essay in class, and your friend starts writing straight away. Meanwhile, you spend the first 5 or 10 minutes planning what you want to write, thinking about your structure, and thinking about which words you will use and how you will finish.

Your friend will probably laugh at you and say you’re wasting your time.

‘Measure twice, cut once,’ you say, and she shakes her head because you seem so old-fashioned.

But halfway through the time, you notice your friend screw up her piece of paper and take out a new one. She has to start again because she realises her writing isn’t good enough. Meanwhile yours is built on a good foundation and you finish in time and get a good grade.

Real Life Examples

1.

- You haven’t finished making that IKEA table yet? It’s been two hours!
- Well, I don’t have all the screws.
- Why didn’t you check they were there before you started?
- What person checks all the screws are in the box?
- A sensible person. An intelligent person. Measure twice, cut once.
- I hate people like that.
- Those people don’t waste two hours making a table they can’t finish.

2.

- Are you doing more research about lawnmowers? I thought you already chose one.
- I did but it’s a lot of money so I thought I’d double-check. My grandfather used to say ‘measure twice, cut once’. Better to spend a bit more time just being really sure than to buy something I don’t really like.
- Didn’t your grandfather lose all his money gambling on high-school basketball games?
- Yes but that doesn’t mean everything he said was wrong.

3.

- What are you doing?
- I'm planning where to put my new chest of drawers.
- You don't need a tape measure for that. Just estimate it!
- No, it needs to be exact because Samantha's wheelchair has to be able to get past.
- Oh, good point.
- Yeah, and I don't want to have to go back to the store and change it. Measure twice, cut once.

#7: 'Don’t Count Your Chickens Until They’re Hatched’

What It Means

You are a farmer. You have some chickens. They lay some eggs. You think ‘Hmm… I have 20 chickens and 20 eggs… so now I have 40 chickens.’ You decide to sell 30 chickens to a friend.

Then it’s the day when the chickens should hatch (= come out of their shell). Only 5 of the 20 chickens made it!

So now you have 20 chickens and 5 chicks (= baby chickens). But you sold 30 to your friend! You have minus 5 chickens! You idiot!

How to Use It

If you’re in a situation where you expect something in the future, but it’s not certain. You might work at a bank and think you should get a bonus.

Or you might support a football team who are winning the league by 5 points with 3 games left. (Liverpool fans, my condolences. Not really, lol.) Or you might build a helpful website that explains English to people and think you will get a million visitors a day.

But of course, you might not get that bonus, your team might slip up (lol), or your website might be a total disaster.

Real Life Examples

1.

- When we move to our new flat, what are we going to do with the deposit?
- You mean the money we paid to move into this flat?
- Yes.
- I hadn’t thought about it.
- We should book a holiday to somewhere sexy and exotic. How about Inverness?
- Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. We might not get the deposit back.
- Why not?
- Because you broke the bathroom sink, the floors are covered in scratches from where you practiced walking in high heels, and all the doors are off the hinges because you slam them all the time.

2.

- When Liverpool win the league this year Suarez will want to stay, we’ll get more star players from across the world, and we’ll probably win the Champions League next year. It’ll be a new era of dominance, just like the good old days.
- Don’t count your chickens.
- What?
- You have to beat Crystal Palace first, before you start planning world domination.
- Ptsch! Crystal Palace? Easy! Anyway, we are winning 3-0. What could go wrong?

3.

- I hear you had a baby. Congratulations!
- Thanks!
- Have you chosen a name?
- We’re calling him President.
- Um.
- He’s so talented already. We’re sure he’ll be president one day.
- So then people will call him President President?
- That’s right! And having the name President will help him to become President. People are more likely to vote for someone called President. Not that he needs any help! He’s so so talented.
- Maybe you shouldn’t count your chickens before they’re hatched.
- Why do you say that?
- He looks more like a future Sumo wrestler to me.
- Get out before I call the Secret Service.

#8: 'Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket’

Vocabulary

What’s a basket? Picture the Easter Bunny, if you have that in your culture. He’s probably running around with a basket full of chocolate eggs. Baskets are typically made of wicker, a light wood.

Don’t-Put-All-Your-Eggs-in-One-Basket.jpg

What It Means

You are a rich person. At a luxurious party full of wine and Ferrero Rocher chocolates, someone whispers in your ear ‘buy plastic’. A business tip! You rush home (or open a smartphone app) and voila - you just invested all your money in companies that make plastic.

Was that a good idea? If the companies do well, you will make lots of money. But if people stop buying plastic, you just lost your whole fortune.

That’s why people say ‘don’t put all your eggs (money) in one basket (investment)’. Better to invest in a variety of companies. One might go bankrupt, but not 100.

Examples

1.

- I’m sorry that your aunt died.
- Me too. But she left me lots of money. So that’s good.
- Cool! What are you going to do with it?
- I’m going to buy 20,000 dollars of lottery tickets.
- Oh.
- Yeah! I’m sure to win the jackpot if I buy so many tickets.
- Riiiiiiiiiiiight. Well, you know they say ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’.
- I’m not buying eggs. I’m buying lottery tickets. Weren’t you listening?
- Eggs are a metaphor for lottery tickets.
- Then why don’t you just say lottery tickets? Why do you keep banging on about eggs?
- Sigh. Okay, you know the old saying, ‘Don’t put all your money in lottery tickets?’
- Oh, really?
- Yes. Why don’t you buy some nice dividend stocks, and use the income from the dividends to pay for lottery tickets. At least then you’ll retain your starting capital.
- I didn’t understand a single word of that, but let’s do it!

2.

- Yes!
- What happened?
- I just got a text from Umberto.
- The semiologist?
- The sexy semiologist. He wants to meet on Friday evening. ‘For coffee.’
- Great. But don’t you have a lunch date with Davide? Davide the Dishy Dane?
- Oh, that’s right. I should cancel that.
- Whoa, slow down. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Go on both the dates and see what happens.

#9: 'A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush’

Vocabulary

When you hear ’a bird in the hand’ you should think that you are literally holding a bird - let’s say a chicken - in your hand. Like, you’ve got the bird. It’s yours.

Birds that are ‘in the bush’ are some distance away, sitting on a bush or maybe the branches of some trees, and they are free.

birdhand.jpg

What it Means

This idiom has the meaning, ‘it is better to have one thing in your possession than to maybe be able to get two things later’. The bird in your hand is IN YOUR HAND. Let’s say the cash value of that bird is a hundred dollars.

You might think ‘if I drop this bird I could walk over to the bush and collect those two birds and have 200 dollars’. The problem is, those birds might fly away before you get there.

So is it better to definitely have 100 dollars or maayyyyybe have 200 dollars?

When to Use It

Your friend is going for a job interview - the new job would be better and pay more. But if her current boss finds out about it, she’ll be fired. You might give her the advice that it’s better to stay in her current job instead of taking a risk with the new job.

There’s a phone that you want, and you have enough money to buy it. The only problem is that you think there will be a new version released in a couple of months.

The new version would probably have better specifications, better battery life, and so on. So should you wait for the new one?

This idiom says no - just buy the one that is available, because the future model may never be released, might not be as good as the current one, and you’d lose months of pleasure from not buying.

Example

- Joe, my man! What are you doing?
- I'm wondering if I should call this girl. I met her last night and got her number. She's cute.
- So what's the problem?
- Well... I kinda like Stacey.
- Stacey doesn't even know you exist.
- Right.
- And you'll never work up the courage to talk to her.
- True.
- So a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush! This girl is the one for you. I can feel it. Don't worry about some relationship that will never, ever happen. Okay? So what's this new girl's name?
- Trish.
- Wait - not Trish who works at the coffee shop? I've had a crush on her for so long. Nooooo!

#10: 'Don’t Cut Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face’

Vocabulary

To cut something off means to remove it. You might cut off the edge of an old cheese. You can cut someone off on the telephone (= end the call).

Or if you are Vincent van Gogh, you can cut off your ear.

Don’t-Cut-Off-Your-Nose-to-Spite-Your-Face.jpg

Spite is the desire to hurt someone. It’s when you have a bad feeling about a person.

For example, if someone parks in your parking space you might scratch their car - that’s spite. Or if you are getting divorced you might give away all your money to charity - not because you are a good person but out of spite (because you don’t want your wife to get that money).

Meaning

If you are angry at your face (yes, it’s a strange idiom) you might feel so angry that you want to slice off your nose. That would cause pain to the face. The problem is, now you made the situation even worse. Your face doesn’t even have a nose now!

So the idiom means ‘don’t make a bad situation worse by doing something when you are angry’, or ‘if you plan to do something to hurt someone, be careful that you don’t hurt yourself even more than you hurt your enemy’.

For example, if you are the boss of Apple and you are angry at the boss of Samsung. One way you could hurt him would be to pay President Donald Trump to ban the sale of smartphones.

Samsung will lose billions of dollars! The only problem is: so will you. So by hurting Samsung, you also hurt yourself.

Or if you are babysitting two children. One of them tells you that his sister ate half of the cookies. You ask where the other half are, and the child says that he ate half. Now he is in trouble, as well as his sister.

Examples

1.

- Oh! I’m so mad at Jack. I can’t believe he drank the last beer.
- That’s not very nice of him.
- I’m going to throw his car keys down the drain into the sewers.
- Um… but you want him to take you to the shops this afternoon.
- So? I’m mad at him.
- Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. If you do that, you’re just hurting yourself.

2.

- Did you notice that Carolyn got fat recently?
- I didn’t want to mention it… but yes.
- That’s because I started putting full-fat milk in the coffee machine, and those aren’t the Weight Watchers biscuits, they’re the unhealthy ones!
- Why did you do that?
- I’m mad at her because she keeps making grammar mistakes.
- Well you drink that milk and eat those bickies too, don’t you?
- Yes. Why?
- Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face… You’ve added a few kilos yourself…

#11: 'Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth’

Vocabulary

‘A gift horse’ is an old phrase that means a horse you got as a present.

To look in its mouth means to check its teeth. Horse experts can judge the health of a horse from its teeth.

Gift-Horse.jpg

Meaning

This idiom says ‘if someone gives you a horse for free, don’t check its teeth to see if it’s a good horse. Especially not in front of the person who gave you the horse.’

So we use this idiom for occasions when someone is being ungrateful.

Imagine you buy your sister a used car. She needs a car, and you have some spare money, so why not?

But when you give her the keys, instead of being happy and jumping around and hugging you, she slowly walks around the car with a stern look on her face.

“These tyres are a bit worn,” she says. “And it smells of coconuts.” That might be true, but she shouldn’t act like this. Why is your sister such an ungrateful idiot? I hate your sister!

You can also use this idiom to talk about taking opportunities.

You know that your boss hates you (because he met your sister one day) so when he chooses you to go on the business trip to Madrid - flying first class, staying in a nice hotel, eating tapas and drinking cervezas all week - you are surprised. “Why did he choose me? What does it mean?”

Don’t worry about it! It’s a nice thing and you will have a great time. So don’t think too much about why he chose you. All that matters is you have a great time and don’t fall in love with any Spanish women because they are trouble.

Real Life Examples

1.

- Wow! I’ve just won two tickets to ride on a blimp!
- A what?
- A blimp! An airship!
- Oh, you mean a zeppelin. I love zeppelins. I always wondered what it feels like to travel like that. So elegant. There was a computer game I played when I was a kid. That was all about zeppelins. I've had a lifelong obsession with zeppelins.
- Do you want to come with me? It’s two tickets.
- You know I have a boyfriend right? I have a boyfriend. My boyfriend and I are in a relationship. It’s me and my boyfriend who live and sleep together.
- Um… I just thought you might like to go on the blimp.
- I would like to go on the ZEPPELIN but not with you! I’d like to go with my boyfriend who is not you.
- Wow. You shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, you know. Things aren't always perfect. I’ll go with someone else. Maybe I’ll invite your boyfriend, since he’s such a perfect guy.

blimp-zeppelin.jpg

2.

- Hey, Jack!
- Hey? Who are you?
- I’m Bobby. I was just talking with Sam.
- Sam? She’s my girlfriend.
- Yes, I know. I was telling her I won two tickets for a blimp ride and wondered if you wanted to come with me.
- Blimps! Wow. Sure I’ll go with you.
- Great.
- Where’s it going from?
- From London to Norwich and back.
- Norwich? Why would I want to go to Norwich? There’s nothing there.
- We aren’t getting out and doing a ghost walk - we’re just floating above it, looking down on the glorious English countryside.
- I think we should go to Cambridge or somewhere.
- It’s not a choice. The blimp goes to Norwich.
- Well, I suppose I’ll go… but it would be better if it went to Cambridge.
- Do you know the phrase ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth’? You just talked yourself out of a free blimp ride.

3.

- Hey. Did you hear about Bobby?
- No, what?
- He died in a blimp accident.
- Your older brother? Your only living relative? Shit!
- Yeah. It was on the news.
- What’s going to happen to his house?
- Oh, I guess I’ll inherit it.
- Well, that’s something positive. Every cloud has a silver lining.
- No, it’s in Norwich.
- Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth! It doesn’t matter where it is. You don’t have to live there. You can rent it out. Bit of extra money each month.
- That’s true! Hooray for blimp disasters.

#12: ‘A Hot Potato’

Vocabulary

A hot potato is a potato that is hot. If you try to pick up the potato you will get burned.

There are worse pains than picking up a hot potato. For example, banging your head on a cupboard door is much more painful.

Still, it isn’t pleasant so if there are many potatoes on the table you should choose one that isn’t hot.

rsz_smoking_hot_potato_by_louiseloo-d7lou54.jpg

Origins

There is a game you can play at parties (if you don’t have anything else to do) where you play some music and people throw a potato to one another. When the music stops, the person holding the potato is the loser.

Does it sound fun to you? Yes? Then you’re an idiot.

Meaning

We use this idiom to talk about controversial topics. The big political issue when I wrote this text was immigration. Too many foreign people coming into our country. Too many foreigners taking our jobs. Too many foreign children in our schools.

Which country am I talking about? All of them!

Anyway, immigration is the political hot potato and most politicians don’t want to talk about it.

The truth is that immigration is mostly good for a country, but normal people in the street don’t understand that. Why should they understand it? It’s complicated and while it might be good for the whole country, it can be bad for that person.

So it’s complicated and it makes people angry and the politician doesn’t want to be the only one talking about how wonderful immigration is.

You can use the phrase ‘hot potato’ for anything awkward or delicate. When I was young I had an uncle who had three arms. He had two normal arms like a normal person, but he also had an extra arm that was growing out from one elbow.

Now this uncle REALLY hated immigrants and would always complain about them and make horrible jokes. So I never used to talk about foreigners when he was around.

(He didn’t mind talking about this third arm though. That wasn’t a hot potato topic.)

Real Life Examples

1.

- I think we should close the factory and move all the jobs to China.
- Why?
- So I can buy a bigger house!
- Hahahahaha.
- So can we do it?
- I’d like to, but outsourcing is a bit of a hot potato in this company.
- Why?
- Our biggest shareholder is the grandson of the founder and he wants to keep the factory local. When he dies we can do what we want.
- I’ll go and buy some arsenic.
- Oh, you’re too funny.

2.

- Now, before you go in to see your uncle, I have to warn you about something.
- What? Is he going to die?
- Not if we can help it. No, it’s just I’d like it if you didn’t mention Christmas while you’re in there.
- Why on earth not?
- It’s become a bit of a hot potato.
- Christmas?
- Well, Christmas movies actually. The doctor said that the best Christmas movie was Die Hard, and your uncle said it was It’s a Wonderful Life, and they both got quite angry. It’s bad for your uncle’s blood pressure so if you didn’t talk about Christmas, that would be better.

#13: ‘Don’t Overegg the Pudding'

Vocabulary

Overegg is a verb that comes from the word egg. It’s not a very common word. It just means ‘to put too many eggs in’.

The prefix ‘over’ often means ‘do something too much’, like overeat (= eat too much), oversleep (= sleep too much) and so on.

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Puddings are sweet desserts. They are normally soft and made with flour.

However, the most famous pudding isn’t a dessert. The Yorkshire Pudding is a delicious pastry with a hole - you put meat, vegetables, or gravy into the hole. Oh, man, it’s so good.

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Meaning

To overegg the pudding is to put too many eggs into the mixture. If you’ve ever watched The Great British Bake Off - and you should because it’s the best show on television - you’ll know that baking only goes well if you add the right amount of ingredients.

You might think that the eggs are the best part of a cake, so it makes sense to add more. But you’d be wrong to think that. Everything has to be in balance.

When Zinedine Zidane took over as coach of Real Madrid, he tried to play with 6 attacking players. But that wasn’t very successful. It’s almost the definition of overegging the pudding. Too many attackers, not enough balance.

When he added a more defensive player, Casemiro, the team suddenly had a good balance between defence and attack - Real Madrid won so many games in a row that they broke a record.

Or back to the food example. Recently I did a home-made pizza. I love cheese, so I covered the pizza with cheese. SO MUCH CHEESE.

But there was too much cheese and it came out soggy and hard to eat. I learned a lesson - don’t overcheese the pizza.

Real Life Examples

1.

- I had a terrible date last night.
- With that Serbian woman?
- Yep.
- Ugh, she’s so hot.
- Yeah.
- So what went wrong?
- I took her to the most expensive restaurant, the one on the lake, and picked her up in a limousine.
- Um.
- Yeah she freaked out a bit. It was too much.
- Just take your dates to that crappy-looking Indian restaurant. It looks bad but the food is amazing. And it’s cheap and relaxed and there’s lots to talk about there. It’s the perfect first date spot.
- First dates should be like in Hollywood movies. Every single detail perfect and romantic and incredible.
- Don’t overegg the pudding, dude. Keep it simple. You’ll do better.

2.

- So, Simmons, I’ve been looking at these PowerPoint slides you sent me for the Parsons presentation.
- Yes, sir?
- Yes. Now on slide 3, the one about the tax advantages of moving the factory to China. Add an animated Chinese flag in the background. And make it so that a picture of Mao Zedong appears every 22 seconds or so.
- Um.
- And here on slide 5. At the moment it’s just a very simple table with the key information presented clearly. It’s very good.
- Thank you, sir. If you ask me-
- But it could be improved quite simply. Make every cell in the table a different colour and change the font to Comic Sans. That will make the information much more fun. Oh, and make it zoom in from the left.
- Sir, don’t you think you’re overegging the pudding a bit with these changes?
- Nonsense! PowerPoint slides should be colourful, stimulating, and full of attractive animations. Now on slide 8, I thought we could have a talking paper clip.

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