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Food Idioms

clotilde's zucchini and chocolate food blog covers translations of french food idioms. now, i'm interested in compiling a list of english ones. If you have any idea how it originated, that would be awesome, too.

My list -

cool as a cucumber
the whole enchilada
apple of my eye
cream of the crop

Ready, go!

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    1. re: Gio

      Flat as a pancake
      A spoonful of honey makes the medicine go down

      1. re: Gio


        jfood thinks its a spoonful of "sugar", must be the honey bee lobby is alive in your home town. :-))

        1. re: jfood

          Thanks Jf. You're correct, of course.
          Yesterday was topsy turvy day for me.....(p_q)

          1. re: Gio

            You should watch your P's and Q's.

            1. re: Paulustrious

              This idiom comes from the old days of manual typesetting. The lower case "p" and "q" were right next to each other in the California job case.
              They were mirrored and easy to confuse.

            2. re: Gio

              you realize your avatar is the cartoon version of the (p_q)

              1. re: jfood

                Sheesh guys..... Ganging up on me?
                I smell something fishy.

      2. The proof is in the pudding
        To have your cake and eat it
        There's plenty of fish in the sea
        Wake up and smell the coffee
        Out of the frying pan and into the fire
        Like butter wouldn't melt

        1 Reply
        1. re: Paula76

          I think it's "the proof of the pudding is in the eating"

        2. I have more that are more eating/cooking related.

          To eat one's heart out.
          Everything bu the kitchen sink.
          Eating out of one's hands.
          With a grain of salt.
          to Leave a bad taste in one's mouth.

          1. It seems we are mixing metaphors and similes with idioms.
            Sam liked my simile when I said I was smiling like a jackass eating cactus. That was a couple years ago, and you can imagine his nickname for me almost to this day.
            As for a true idiom, and I think this one has crossed the Rio Grande into the American lexicon, how did a salsa comprising diced tomato, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, with lime juice, come to be named "pico de gallo"? Beak of the chicken.

            10 Replies
            1. re: Veggo

              You're absolutely correct. I didn't look before I leaped and went off half-cocked. It should have been a piece of cake....but, I'm not going to cry over split milk.

              1. re: Gio

                Why buy a cow when milk is so cheap?

                1. re: sumdumgoy

                  Well....sumdumgoy, You are what you eat.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      Apples and oranges
                      Bread winner
                      All your eggs in one basket

                  1. re: sumdumgoy

                    Why buy a whole pig when all I want is a little sausage! LOL!

                    1. re: spazita

                      Sometimes you don't want to go whole hog.

                2. Bad egg
                  Bear fruit
                  Curry favor
                  Egg on your face
                  From soup to nuts
                  Salad days
                  Bring home the bacon
                  Salt of the earth
                  Tall drink of water
                  How do you like them apples?
                  In a nutshell
                  Sow your wild oats

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    I think curry favor is not a term that began with food but, rather, from the equestrian world. There is a brush used when finishing grooming a horse called a curry brush (and that the horses love). Hence, to curry favor would be to brush someone the right way.

                    1. re: weezycom

                      Hadn't thought of that, but it makes sense! Currycombs were well used by my sister when she was young and leased a horse for show riding.

                      1. re: weezycom

                        And if they weren't making things up in music history classes, I recall: the particular equus in question is Fauvel, as in Roman de Fauvel...a 14th century allegorical poem about a horse or donkey who becomes his master's master. Many people from all walks of life curry him, and voila-to curry Fauvel (favor) came into being. It was a poem that was set by de Vitry that is typifies the Ars Nova style. This is a horse of a different color...I'll not flog it since it ain't dead, but I gotta go because I could really eat a horse right now. Cheers!

                    2. All peaches and cream, or, if you are on a diet, just peachy.
                      If you want a bun in the oven then you need a little dough.
                      Hard cheese, as in "Who gives a Damme?".
                      Butterfingers (see drop scones)

                      1. that's another kettle of fish
                        smells fishy
                        skin like peaches
                        got a plum in his mouth
                        that's the best thing since sliced bread
                        takes the biscuit (English version of the cake!)

                        1. big cheese
                          eat humble pie
                          go pear-shaped
                          feel your oats
                          [to be] chicken
                          neither fish nor fowl
                          In French:
                          "La moutarde me monte au nez" "The mustard's going to my nose" -- "I'm getting mad."
                          "Faire le poireau" -- "to do the leek" -- "to wait"
                          "Se demander si c'est du lard ou du chochon" -- wondering whether it's lard or pork, not knowing what to believe
                          "menager le chevre et le chou" -- to accommodate the goat and the cabbage, to try to please everyone
                          "retomber comme un souffle" -- to collapse like a souffle, lose energy all at once
                          "parler comme une casserole" or "parler [francais] comme une vache espagnole" To speak French like a pot. Or a Spanish cow. That is, badly.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Whippet

                            "C'est comme un péché dans la bouche" - It's like a sin in the mouth.

                          2. Through the teeth and over the tongue, look out stomach here it comes.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: jfood

                              Rub-a-dub-dub. Thanks for the grub. Yeah Jesus!

                              1. re: souschef

                                Wow, a Family Guy reference in the middle of a Chowhound thread; it might just be a good day after all!

                                1. re: tonina_mdc

                                  Pretty sure this pre-dates Family Guy.

                                  1. re: enbell

                                    Yup, that pre-dates the Family Guy... my brother and I used that one plus "Bless the food, bless the meat, let's eat!"

                              2. re: jfood

                                Through the teeth and past the gums rhymes betterer... adam

                                1. re: adamshoe

                                  Over the lips and past the gums, look out stomach, here she comes (with self-congratulatory look) - my father.

                              3. To be in a pickle
                                It's not my cup of tea
                                To have a chip on your shoulder
                                To spill the beans
                                It's a piece of cake

                                1. comparing apples with oranges
                                  know which way your bread is buttered

                                  1. A hot tamale (eg The spice girls)
                                    Pie in the sky, a form of whopper
                                    The sauce for the goose is on the gravy train
                                    I buttered her up and chewed the fat.
                                    It was in apple pie order till it all went pear shaped
                                    Sprout wings
                                    Sign seen in UK pubs with low doors: Duck or Grouse.
                                    Meat and two veg, or carrot and onions?

                                    1. Stick a fork in me, I'm done
                                      toss your cookies
                                      (and the other toss I won't mention, but we've all heard)

                                      1. life's a bowl of cherries
                                        Sprinkle some sugar on it
                                        half baked
                                        hot pink center (okay I better stop now!)

                                        1. Champagne taste on a beer budget

                                          1. to be sweet on someone
                                            egg someone on
                                            to have finger in many pies
                                            sell like hotcakes
                                            old chestnut
                                            nutty as a fruitcake
                                            stew in your own juice
                                            simmer down
                                            upset the applecart
                                            couch potato
                                            eat crow
                                            alike as two peas
                                            for all the tea in China
                                            Banana Republic
                                            forbidden fruit
                                            eat [someone] alive
                                            jam tomorrow
                                            like nailing jello to a wall
                                            packed like sardines
                                            white bread
                                            vanilla (this one's weird, because vanilla is actually a very distinctive flavor, despite its reputation)

                                            :) I LOVE words.

                                                1. re: nofunlatte

                                                  What the heck does that mean -- I've been wondering for years!?

                                                  1. re: Sarah

                                                    I have no idea, but I actually saw it on a CH post today. Got me thinking about perhaps starting a thread on food phrases and, low and behold*, I see this thread!

                                                    *I don't know what "low and behold" means either!

                                                    1. re: nofunlatte

                                                      I think the term is "Lo and behold", "lo" being akin to "there" -as in pointing out something (check the Bible for examples), and "behold" as in "see" (comprehend and/or take in).

                                                      Make no bones about it, just chewing the fat.

                                                    2. re: Sarah

                                                      From Wikipedia:

                                                      "Dollars to donuts is a faux bet in which one person agrees to put up the same amount of dollars to another person's donuts in a bet. The person uttering the phrase intends to escape paying for a real bet by showing mock support for the likelihood of a specific future event. Betting someone dollars to donuts is a rhetorical device that indicates that the person is confident but unlikely to care enough about the future event to put their money where their mouth is."

                                                      1. re: blue bike

                                                        Becoming archaic because some donuts cost a dollar, no longer valid as in the days when a donut was very very inexpensive.

                                                        Cut the Cheese

                                                  2. Use your Noodle

                                                    Big Cheese

                                                    Out to Lunch

                                                    Slow as Molasses

                                                    1. This reminds me....when my sister and I first learned about idioms in elementary school, we loved the concept and used to make up our own. One of our favorites was "a pie in the face", which described when people were surprised or caught off guard (e.g. "That pop quiz was a real pie in the face!").

                                                      Welcome to my world of family weirdness. :)

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: 4Snisl

                                                        I get this way more than the dollars to donuts thing, even (or especially) after the wiki definition...

                                                      2. I don't have any new one's to put forth, or answer's to any other's. Still, I find it humorous that there are so many asked, and so few answered!

                                                          1. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

                                                            Can of corn.

                                                            Beet red.

                                                            Pie in the sky.

                                                            Strawberry fields.

                                                            Tough tomatoes

                                                            Going/went bananas

                                                            You can tune a piano but you can't tuna fish??


                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: Davwud

                                                              Love that last one! REO Speedwagon? But I've never heard of "can of corn" used idiomatically. What does it mean?

                                                              1. re: nofunlatte

                                                                In baseball, a "Can of corn" is an easy fly ball. The story, to the best of my knowledge is that in the old days before supermarkets, you'd have a store clerk pick your products for you. Some items were on high shelves and would be knocked off with a stick and caught. Corn, starting with a "C" would be on a higher shelf (Alphabetical). It would have to be knocked off and then easily caught.


                                                            2. Red Herring
                                                              Complexion like Peaches and Cream
                                                              Piehole (thank you homer j. simpson)
                                                              Qu'ils mangent de la brioche or Let them eat cake
                                                              money - dough, cheddar, clams, bread, etc...

                                                              1. In certain countries/cultures...
                                                                It's raining cats and dogs
                                                                Hold your horses

                                                                1. pot calling the kettle black
                                                                  putting lipstick on a pig

                                                                  1. You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: phantomdoc

                                                                      Oil & water don't mix
                                                                      Doesn't sound Kosher to me

                                                                      1. re: souschef

                                                                        How about "Let's strap on our steel beaks and peck with the big chickens"?

                                                                        1. re: grayelf

                                                                          Hmm... never heard that one, but I like it.
                                                                          Nuttier than a fruitcake.....adam

                                                                          1. re: adamshoe

                                                                            It is used by the founder of a local company to describe the behaviour he expects when his staff are interacting with the "players" in their industry, so not food related but fun. I think he actually made it up as he is noted for his work aphorisms.

                                                                      2. "Sweet as a nut" (nothing to do with almonds or the like: this is about dough-nuts)
                                                                        "That just doesn't cut the mustard"
                                                                        "Its easier than shooting fish in a barrel"
                                                                        "She/he is full of beans"
                                                                        "He/she is full of baloney" (these latter two mean quite different things)
                                                                        "That and a nickle/dime/fiver will get you a cup of coffee"

                                                                        And, finally, my all-time favourite not-for-prime-time saying:
                                                                        "Why, she's so sweet, she don't ___ : she just squats and sugars a little!"

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette
                                                                          you aren't so sweet that you'll melt in the rain (that's a bit of a stretch)
                                                                          a baker's dozen
                                                                          you're the cream in my coffee
                                                                          what a hotdog!

                                                                          1. How about inventing a few...?

                                                                            She had the personality of a wonderloaf.
                                                                            You can't make an omelette if you don't have a pan
                                                                            It smelled like a durian's armpit.
                                                                            Holy mole (Spanish variant)
                                                                            Which came first, the chicken or the duck?
                                                                            Out of the frying pan and onto a plate.
                                                                            He left his weetabix in the milk too long.
                                                                            Drop dead gorging.
                                                                            Like two apples in a pod.

                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                              "Which came first, the chicken or the duck?"
                                                                              In the case of turducken, I suppose it is a matter of perspective.

                                                                              1. re: enbell

                                                                                The chicken is just the duck's way of making turducken.

                                                                              2. re: Paulustrious

                                                                                "He left his weetabix in the milk too long."

                                                                                For that one you most certainly deserve ten lashes with a wet noodle !

                                                                                1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                                  I think I just woke the members of my household laughing at those. Seriously, drop dead gorging? Perfect.She had the personality of a wonderloaf sounds like something Sam Spade would say. I can hear Bogie saying it now.

                                                                                  1. re: tonina_mdc

                                                                                    Thank you - I quite liked DDG as well. And for once a google search showed I wasn't guilty of accidental plagiarism.

                                                                                2. What I really enjoy are the outtakes about restaurants on the Zagat Buzz emails to which I am subscribed.

                                                                                  e.g. "Where tourists come to see tourists."

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. Dadisms:
                                                                                    "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse and chase the driver"
                                                                                    "Wouldn't that jar your mother's preserves"
                                                                                    "Your eyes are bigger than your stomach"

                                                                                    Momisms - in Italian:
                                                                                    "Vai a fartti friggere" - go fry yourself
                                                                                    "Chi lavore manga, chi non lavore si gratta la pancia" - he who works, eats... he who doesn't work, scratches his stomach.
                                                                                    "Cotto o crud' lo fuech l'ha vedut'" - cooked or raw, it has seen the fire (we're eating, whether or not it's ready)

                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Andria

                                                                                      Your mother's first phrase is one of the only bits of Italian I know, along with a few other semi-curses and curses. There's something so much more satisfying about spitting out angry Italian phrases when I'm in a rage!

                                                                                      1. re: tonina_mdc

                                                                                        Made me wonder if it's the source of friggin' as a common (in NY at least) "polite" alternative to another pithy word!

                                                                                        1. re: buttertart

                                                                                          No - it's a word in English that has a specific sexual context that most Americans are unaware of it. It is NOT a polite word.

                                                                                          Google will give the 'real' meaning. I am not going to elucidate in this forum.

                                                                                          1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                                            Umm, I think most Americans *are* exactly aware of what the word means. Granted, neither are polite, but the word (also often "frickin'") is often used as an alternative word for the "other" word, as buttertart noted above.

                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                              I live in Brooklyn and grew up in (at the time, at least), linguistically unfettered southwestern Ontario. I know from the Brooklyn alphabet awreddy...f'n a, f'n b, etc.

                                                                                              1. re: buttertart

                                                                                                LOL! Yes, that sounds like Brooklyn or northern NJ, where I grew up. ;-)

                                                                                            2. re: Paulustrious

                                                                                              Trust me, I'm aware of its foul subtext. Mild sarcasm doesn't always come across well online. I think the point was more whether that Italian curse could have influenced the development of that particular pseudo-polite variation on the extremely foul word. There are so many (fricking, frigging, frakking, flipping, fudging, etc.) that one wonders whether there were other words or phrases that helped the development of the individual variants. Here's hoping I don't get tossed off the site for that additional explanation!

                                                                                      2. Living high on the hog.

                                                                                        1. I love this thread!
                                                                                          Small Fish in a Big pond
                                                                                          Other Fish in the Sea
                                                                                          Going Bananas

                                                                                          1. More Dadisms:
                                                                                            He's a bad apple.
                                                                                            She was cooking the books.
                                                                                            That's the way the cookie crumbles.
                                                                                            That's the way the egg rolls.
                                                                                            Begin building your nest egg.
                                                                                            There's no such thing as a free lunch.
                                                                                            She's one tough (or sharp) cookie.
                                                                                            He's a glutton for punishment.

                                                                                            It was the crème de la crème.
                                                                                            Eat a square meal.
                                                                                            Too many cooks.
                                                                                            Walk on egg shells.
                                                                                            Did he just fall off the turnip truck?

                                                                                              1. Nuttier than a fruitcake (which my grandma always turned into "fruitier than a nutcake")
                                                                                                It's not all beer and skittles
                                                                                                Two sandwiches shy of a picnic
                                                                                                Spam (the computer variety), definition originating from the classic Python sketch:

                                                                                                "I DON'T WANT ANY SPAM. I DON'T LIKE SPAM!"

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. re: coney with everything

                                                                                                  Now a Monty Python reference on top of funny wordplay. I love this thread!

                                                                                                  An old one: Slower than molasses in January (please modify appropriately if you live in the southern hemisphere!)

                                                                                                    1. I had math teacher who used to say, "Getting an answer from you lot is like ploughing through cold porridge".