Welcome to American English Idioms: Lesson 10. In this lesson you have 3 American English idioms to read, listen to, translate, and pronounce in English. Please focus and do your best so that you can learn and improve your knowledge of American English idioms. Don’t forget to use the comments section below to share your thoughts and what you’ve learned today.
Directions 1: Watch the video 2 or more times, and pay close attention to the audio and text.
Directions 2: Read the following text in English, then translate it using the translator on this page into your language if needed. When you finish, feel free to write a comment in the comments section below and let us know how you feel about what you’ve learned, as well as what you’ve learned.
BEAT A DEAD HORSE
To beat a dead horse is to argue or pursue a point or topic without the possibility of success. This phrase, often used in the business world, has many meanings; however, it can be used as an insult or to say that someone should stop talking about something. Some people think that this phrase may come from the idea that after the horse is beaten to death, it stops moving and can’t do anything else.
BEAT A DEAD HORSE is a idiom meaning to argue or pursue a point or topic without the possibility of success. This term can be used in many different situations, such as when one is too stubborn to stop arguing about a topic, even though they know that their argument has been disproven.
A dead horse is a metaphor for a topic that has been exhausted or beaten to death. To “beat a dead horse” means to pursue a point or topic without any chance of success. This phrase originated with the Old West tradition of grabbing the tail of a freshly killed horse and beating its body against the ground in order to dislodge any remaining strands of meat, which would otherwise spoil.
The phrase “beat a dead horse” can be used to refer to the act of pursuing an argument or point, esp. after it has been made clear that it will not succeed. The phrase is often used by those who are skeptical about the merits of continuing discussions, especially when they feel that it is time to move on.
BEAT A HASTY RETREAT
To beat a hasty retreat is when one leaves a place quickly after something unexpected happened. For example, when the power goes out in an office building and everyone scrambles to get out before it’s too hard to find their way out. Another example is when someone gets into an argument with someone and they want nothing more than to leave right away.
To beat a hasty retreat means to withdraw from a situation hastily. In the military, this would happen when an enemy has been seen coming towards them and they believe they can no longer hold their ground. This term is usually used in more figurative situations, such as when someone realizes they have been caught in a lie and feels shame about it.
The meaning of this expression is to quickly leave a place in fear, to avoid danger. This expression is often seen in military contexts when one side is fleeing from another.
— I’m afraid that my job won’t be safe until I retire. But I don’t know how I can do that, because I can’t beat a hasty retreat.
— The kids chased the dog. But he beat a hasty retreat and didn’t get hurt.
— She beat a hasty retreat from the party because she was afraid of her husband.
— The police arrived in time to beat a hasty retreat before the thief left with the loot.
— The boy came in late for school, and the teacher gave him a very short beating.
— He ran to the door, but he beat a hasty retreat when he realized that there were other people around.
— It was too dangerous to stay any longer, so he beat a hasty retreat from the house.
BEAT ABOUT/AROUND THE BUSH
The phrase “beat about the bush” is used when someone avoids talking about a topic in order to avoid offending someone. For example, if someone discusses an embarrassing moment in their life, but does not want to upset the person they are telling it to, they would “beat around the bush.” The phrase can be used when someone changes the subject or pretends that there is nothing wrong in order not to offend.
The phrase originates from a hunting practice dating to the 15th century, in which hunters hired ‘beaters’ to drive small animals out of bushes where the hunters could more easily get to them. The beaters would lightly beat around the edges of the bushes to lure the animals out without completely frightening them away.
This term is now used in a much broader sense, as it has evolved into a way of evading responsibility. We beat around the bush because we don’t want to come right out and say what we are thinking or doing. If we disagree with your opinion, we try to explain why we think differently. This is a common tactic in diplomacy, but we also use it when we are not being diplomatic. We beat around the bush in order to avoid taking a strong stand on an issue or saying something that may cause trouble for us.
Obviously, this is not exactly the same as “talking around an issue”, but the term was used by British writer P.G. Wodehouse as early as 1926. Wodehouse used it in a sentence: “He would never ‘beat about the bush’”. (In the same book he also used the American spelling of “bush”, “bushy”.) The phrase spread to the United States after Wodehouse. The expression came to be widely used in the 1940s and 1950s, and began to appear frequently in American literature.