Today, March 22, 2021 is the International Day of Water, our most treasured, and essential, natural resource.
To commemorate this wonderful liquid, here are some idioms with water:
LIKE WATER OFF A DUCK’S BACK
A duck’s feathers are impermeable, so that it can float better on the water. The position of the feathers also means that water can’t penetrate them, and it slides off them.
When somebody says or does something that another person doesn’t want to ‘absorb’, or pay attention to, we say that the effect is ‘like water off a duck’s back’ .That means that these words or actions just slide off, without being taken on board.
YOU CAN LEAD A HORSE TO WATER, BUT YOU CAN’T MAKE IT DRINK
This means that you can give somebody the opportunity and means to do something that would be of benefit to them, but you can’t make them do it if they don’t want to. It implies a mild sense of frustration.The image of somebody leading a horse to water, making an effort to ensure the horse’s well-being and the horse stands for a long time looking at the water without drinking any.
-Our daughter is a naturally good singer. We offered to take her to proper singing lessons, but she refused. She said she didn’t fancy it. Can you believe it?
-Ah! Well, you know the old saying, ‘You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink’.
WATER UNDER THE BRIDGE
We say this when we refer to a past bad experience, meaning that it happened a long time ago, that it no longer has any relevance on the present situation. It implies that we have moved on and put the bad experience behind us. The image of a stretch of water that has flowed away from the bridge, and is no longer the water around us now.
-Last Christmas I had a really big fight with my sister, but we’re OK now. We’ve made up.
-Yes, I’m glad that’s all water under the bridge now.
TO BE IN HOT WATER
To be in big trouble. The image is cooking and spilling hot water on you. A situation you don’t want to be in.
-When Mum see’s you’ve broken her favourite ornament by playing ball in the living-room, you’re going to be in really hot water!
-You’ll get into really hot water if you take your brother’s bike without asking him first
TO BE IN DEEP WATER
To be in serious difficulties, or to be in trouble. To be in a problematic situation which is difficult to get out of easily. If the problems are specifically financial, we only use ‘deep water’. The image is of somebody in water and that is too deep for them to swim in. They’re in very serious trouble.
-John’s business is in deep water. They haven’t made any sales this month.
TO TEST THE WATER(S)
When we don’t know if a project or a plan is going to be successful, we carry out a small test first. This image is similar to getting into water to swim or bathe. We don’t know the temperature of the water, whether it’s going to be too hot or too cold, so we put just a small part of our body in first, like our toe. If the temperature’s OK, we then put our whole body in. So, ‘to test the water’ is to make a trial run.
-We’re not sure this product’s going to be successful, so let’s test the waters with a small group of clients first.
TO BE / FEEL LIKE A FISH OUT OF WATER
To be or feel uncomfortable in a certain social situation, which you may find embarrassing or distressing. You’re not ‘in your element’. The image is that of a fish that is on land, flapping and gasping in the wrong natural environment.
-When Sarah took us to dinner at that posh restaurant. We were like fish out of water. We didn’t know which cutlery to use with each dish. It was really embarrassing!
TO THROW / POUR COLD WATER ON SOMETHING
To dissuade somebody from their plan or idea by criticizing it. To make somebody lose enthusiasm or excitement for a plan or project. The image is that of pouring water onto a fire, to douse the flames.
-We were getting really excited discussing our road trip around France when Phillip interrupted us. He reminded us that our old car would probably break down before we got to the end of the road. He really threw cold water on our holiday plans!