Idioms with People’s Names. Part 2

Idioms with People’s Names. Part 2

Who’s a Typhoid Mary and an Old Bill? Do you agree a good Jack makes a good Jill? Did you do fine in your job when you were a Johny-come-lately? Read on to know exactly what the questions mean…

  1. The real McCoy – the original or best example of something

Example: The caviar was the real McCoy too – not the stuff we buy in the supermarket at home.

2. Johny-come-lately – a late or recent arrival; newcomer

Example: In the eyes of his colleagues, he is something of a Johnny-come-lately.

3. To rob Peter to pay Paul – to pay a debt, obligation, etc. by creating or leaving unpaid another

Example: Sometimes he was moving money from one account to another, robbing Peter to pay Paul.

4. A peeping Tom – a person who derives sexual pleasure from secretly watching people undressing or engaging in sexual activity

Example: She helped the police to catch a peeping Tom.

5. To live the life of Riley – to lead a life of great ease, comfort, or luxury

Example: Even those who live the life of Riley are not always happy.

6. To take the mickey (out of someone) (British English) – to make fun of someone, usually in an unkind way

Example: He started taking the mickey out of this poor man just because he is bald. 

7. Even-steven – 1) having an equal chance/score; 2) having no balance of debt on either side

Examples: 1) The race was an even-steven affair. 2) Just buy me a drink and we’re even-steven.

8. Uncle Sam – a personification of the federal government or citizens of the US

Example: Most Americans easily recognize Uncle Sam as a symbol of the United States or a national nickname. 

9. John Bull – a personification of England or the typical Englishman

Example: John Bull is traditionally depicted as a fat man wearing a waistcoat with the British flag on it.

10. Holy Joe – 1) a clergyman (priest, minister, etc.); 2) a pious (religious) person

Examples: 1) Her father is a Holy Joe working at a local church. 2) She is a Holy Joe and wouldn’t hurt a fly.

11. A good Jack makes a good Jill. Meaning: If a husband treats his wife well, she will treat him well in return.

Example: Express love and care for your wife. A good Jack makes a good Jill.

12. Plain Jane (derogatory) – an unattractive girl or woman

Example: What are these plain-jane looks about?

13. Full of Old Nick – apt to get into trouble (Old Nick is an old-fashioned name for the devil in Christianity)

Example: Of course the kids got into the paint – they were full of Old Nick today.

14. Old Bill (British English) – 1) a police officer; 2) law enforcement

Examples: 1) I’ve been an old Bill for decades – don’t think such things can surprise me. 2) You can’t hide from the Old Bill.

15. To open Pandora’s box – to uncover a lot of unsuspected problems

Example: You should be cautious with people who are upset. You don’t want to open Pandora’s box.

16. Queen Anne is dead! Meaning: a response made to someone who has relayed stale news or stated the obvious

Example: 1) Guess what! Mike has lost his job! – Queen Anne is dead! Everyone knows that already. 2) That Johny-come-lately could work a bit harder, I think. – Queen Anne is dead! I’ve been redoing his work for a month now.

17. A Jezebel – an evil, scheming (making secret plans), shameless or immoral woman, especially one who uses physical attractiveness to evil ends

Example: What a Jezebel! Poor John fell in love with her and she used that to her advantage!

18. Typhoid /’tʌɪfɔɪd/ Mary – a transmitter of undesirable opinions or attitudes

Example: You treat me like I’m some kind of Typhoid Mary, but it’s your own mismanagement that has brought ruin to this farm.

19. All my eye (and Betty Martin) – nonsense

Example: He pretends to have great plans, but they’re all my eye and Betty Martin.

20. No way Jose! Meaning: 1) absolutely not; 2) used to express disbelief

Example: 1) Can I play with your toys? – No way Jose! 2) I can stand on my head. – No way Jose.


Click the link here and choose the right word to complete each sentence.

Did you like the article? Check out “Origin of Idioms with People’s Names”, where we tell the story behind the idioms Typhoid Mary, Uncle Sam, John Bull and 7 others.

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