Idioms with People’s Names. Part 1

Idioms with People’s Names. Part 1

Are you sometimes a nervous Nellie, or a moaning Minnie, perhaps? Do you ever try to keep up with the Joneses or be a Johny-on-the-spot? If you don’t really understand the questions, read on…

  1. Smart aleck / smart-aleck / smart alec (British English spelling) – someone who behaves in an annoying way by trying to show how clever they are

Example: That guy is always trying impress everyone with his clever remarks. He’s nothing but a smart aleck.

In British English, the idiom “clever Dick” means the same thing – someone who is irritatingly knowledgeable: She’s such a clever Dick!

2. Jack-of-all-trades (and master of none) – a person who can do many different types of work but who is not necessarily very competent at any of them

Example: I’d rather get good at one thing than become a Jack-of-all-trades.

3. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Meaning: Without time off from work, a person becomes both bored and boring.

Example: You can’t study all the time, you know. You need to go out. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

4. Johnny-on-the-spot – a person who is on hand and ready to perform a service or respond to an emergency

Example: You can always count on Tom. He’s what you’d call a Johny-on-the-spot.

5. Jack the Lad (British English) – a young man who behaves in a very confident way

Example: That boy is a cocky Jack the Lad who completely neglects study.

6. Moaning Minnie – someone who annoys other people by complaining all the time

Example: People don’t like to be around a moaning Minnie. You’d better change your attitude.

7. Before you can say Jack Robinson – very quickly or suddenly

Example: Your kids will be all grown up before you can say Jack Robinson.

8. Benjamin of the family – the youngest child of the family

Example: When I was a kid, I hated being the Benjamin of the family, but it’s not that bad now.

9. And Bob’s your uncle (British English) – everything is or will turn out all right; something is easy to do or use (= and there you have it)

Example: Just complete the form, pay the fee, and Bob’s your uncle!

10. Every Tom, Dick and Harry – anyone

Example: Jack is a real celebrity around here. Every Tom, Dick and Harry knows his name.

11. For Pete’s sake (British English) = for God’s sake (used to express annoyance or frustration)

Example: For Pete’s sake, can you just clean up your room now?

12. Jekyll And Hyde – someone having a dual personality, one side of which is good and the other evil

Example: I’ve turned into a Jekyll and Hyde. My mood is totally unpredictable.

13. Joe Bloggs (British English) / Joe Blow (American English) – a name for a hypothetical average man

Example: This stereo system is the most expensive in the range and is not the sort of thing that Joe Bloggs/Blow would buy.

14. John Doe (or Jane Doe for women) (American English) – 1) a name used in a law court for a person whose real name is kept secret or is not known 2) an average/typical person (=Joe Blow)

Examples: 1) Most U.S. jurisdictions continue to use John Doe and his female counterpart, Jane, as placeholder names. 2) “I’ll be crazy to let my man go and let some other Jane Doe come and try to steal him…” (from “Jane Doe” by Alicia Keys)

15. To keep up with the Joneses – to show that one is as good as other people by getting what they have and doing what they do

Example: I promised myself that I would never try to keep up with the Joneses, and I’m happy I’ve lived up to the promise.

16. John Hancock (American English) / John Henry (British English) – a person’s signature

Example: Put your John Hancock at the bottom of the page.

17. Walter Mitty – a person who fantasizes about a life much more exciting and glamorous than their own

Example: It’s OK to be a Walter Mitty, just do something to make your dreams come true.

18. Curious George – a person who is too curious about things they are not involved in

Example: Don’t be such a curious George. Curiosity killed the cat!

19. Nervous Nellie – a timid or worrisome person

Example: Parents must be confident to help their children grow and develop as nature intended. They can never be nervous Nellies.

20. To not know Jack – to know nothing

Example: She says she’s an expert in child psychology but I have a feeling she doesn’t know Jack about it.


Click the link here and complete the sentences with people’s names.

Did you like the post? Check out “Bricks, Wallflowers & Doormats: Fun Words to Describe Personality” for more idioms about people’s character and of course “Idioms with People’s Names. Part 2”. Thank you for reading and take care! 😉

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