English speakers must love anything to do with water, because there are so many water-based idioms in everyday language that some people use them without even knowing what they are. And what is an idiom, anyway?
It’s hard to describe but once you see it in action you know what it is. Essentially, it is a mixture of words where their meaning is often completely contradictory to the meanings of the individual words. Let’s look at some water-based examples.
Like a fish out of water
This expression is used when you feel particularly awkward or quite uncomfortable because you’ve been placed in a situation which you haven’t experienced before. For example, you might use this expression to describe someone who lived early life in a big city and then moved out into the countryside. Unlike the fish out of the water, you can survive these unusual circumstances.
Being in deep water
Most people prefer to swim where they know they can touch the bottom of the pool or the ocean because they know that even if you get into trouble you can still swim to shore or to the side of the pool. Being in deep water is like swimming in the middle of an ocean, where you know you have to stay afloat to stay alive because you can’t swim to safety. If you are due to start a job that requires you to drive a vehicle, but you need to pass an exam to be able to drive with the proper license, you’ll be in deep water if you don’t pass the test, because you won’t be able to take up the employment.
Pour cold water on it
This phrase, used universally in the English language, simply means that somebody doesn’t believe that what you’re suggesting can really happen. To pour cold water on it means to dampen your enthusiasm. Just after you spent half an hour showing your boss how your business can be improved, if they say they want to pour cold water on to your ideas, it means they don’t think there’s a chance of it working out.
Water under the bridge
Here’s a great English language phrase that native speakers understand in an instant. When you consider water that goes under a bridge, it simply moves out the other side with the tide with no further implications. Using the phrase water under the bridge means that something happened in the past that is no longer important and is no longer upsetting to the people involved.
These are just a few examples of water idioms in the English language. If you’re going to help someone learn English then don’t forget to explain a few others like how you blow something out of the water, how a particular concept does not hold water, when something is dead in the water and when something is just a drop in the ocean.
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Damien Higgins writes for Eden Springs. Eden office water coolers provide a refreshing drink all year round