Idioms in News

Bad news travels fast. Good news takes the scenic route.”

Doug Larson, an American columnist

News we read in newspapers, listen to on the radio, or watch on TV is usually not rich in idioms. That’s because idioms convey certain emotions, while news is supposed to be delivered without emotional cues. News also should be clearly understood by as many people as possible, but idioms sometimes add ambiguity, which can mislead readers or listeners. But still, there is room for idioms even in the most respectable newspapers and news bulletins. Here is our list of such idiomatic expressions used in BBC news:

  1. To turn a blind eye to something – to pretend you do not notice something, because you should do something about it but you do not want to: 1) Mr.Duda said “turning a blind eye” to this amounts to “consent to further attacks.” 2) Is the heroin trade in West Yorkshire the best-kept secret, or is his community simply turning a blind eye to what’s happening? 3) We could not turn a blind eye to the situation or ignore requests from the public to take action.
  2. To bear the brunt – to suffer the worst part of an unpleasant or problematic situation: 1) It’s the American consumer who will bear the brunt of these fresh tariffs. 2) In a week when the Amazon continues to burn and a report warns that all of Ireland and other parts of north-western Europe will bear the brunt of increasingly severe flooding, presenter Audrey Carville asks if the “wealthy west” is guilty of believing the climate crisis is someone else’s problem. 3) The Afghan people continue to bear the brunt of the long and bloody conflict.
  3. To bridge the gap – to reduce the differences that separate two things or groups: 1) The Beatles bridged the gap between the classic song writers of the Great American Songbook and the hit singles of pop radio. 2) Chirac was seen as a leader who could bridge the gap between left and right. 3) Virtual reality has helped bridge the generation gap between a tech-savvy schoolboy and a care home resident.
  4. Close calla dangerous or unpleasant situation that you have just succeeded in avoiding: 1) Mr Johnson’s survival was a close call: the two-thirds majority was missed by just one vote, thanks to a number of Republicans. 2) Minutes from last month’s US Federal Reserve meeting have shown its decision to keep interest rates unchanged was a “close call” for some officials. 3) A report into a near miss between two aircraft over Lincolnshire has described it as a “close call“.
  5. Too close to call – if the result of a competition or election is too close to call, it is not clear who the winner is until the competition has ended or until all the votes have been counted: 1) The Israeli election result is too close to call. 2) Unofficial results suggest the polls are too close to call. 3) The result of the Scottish referendum is too close to call.
  6. Witch-hunt – an attempt to find all the people in a particular group in order to punish them or treat them unfairly: 1) Chinese internet users began scouring websites in an online witch-hunt for any international fashion companies active in mainland China which did not list Hong Kong, Taiwan, or Macau as being part of China. 2) The prime minister himself will not be present for the hearings, but he has categorically denied any wrongdoing and said he is the victim of a “witch-hunt” by his left-wing opponents and the media. 3) Mr Trump faces impeachment proceedings for urging Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, his main rival for the presidency. The president has dismissed them as a “witch-hunt“.
  7. To come to light – if facts come to light, people discover them: 1) No evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens has come to light. 2) The thefts, which occurred between 4 and 9 September, came to light as President Donald Trump was expected to stay at the building. 3) The details of the case have only now come to light.
  8. To stop short – to suddenly stop what you are doing or saying: 1) Other Maori rights advocates have been critical of the low-key ceremony, which stopped short of an apology. 2) He also lays out his views on foreign policy but stops short of presenting himself as a potential presidential candidate. 3) President Evo Morales has welcomed international aid but has stopped short of declaring a national emergency.
  9. To set one’s sights on something – to decide to achieve something: 1) Cyber-thieves set their sights on hijacking payment data. 2) An 11-year-old BMX racer has set her sights on winning an Olympic gold medal. 3) A boy who was so badly burned when a camping kettle exploded that he became terrified of touching pot handles has set his sights on becoming a chef.
  10. The bottom line – the most basic fact or issue in a situation: 1) The bottom line is, a man of previous good character has been caught breaking the law in a very serious way. 2) The bottom line is that Europe’s leaders are unsure whether Boris Johnson would be willing to make Brexit compromises anyway.
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The bottom line, to put it mildly, is that an awful lot is hanging on what the judges decide on Tuesday.

Note that many idioms used in news articles are part of quotes, so it’s necessary to keep them. Generally speaking, formal language is encouraged in journalistic style. But most idioms in the English language are informal.

If you are interested in the language used in news, check out our “English in News” and “Phrasal Verbs in News.”

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