Speak better English with Harry - Episode 347
Secrets and Gossip idioms
English idioms about secrets
Hi there, this is Harry and welcome to my podcast where I try to help you to get a better understanding of the English language. If you want to have better conversations when you travel abroad, or with your friends and colleagues. I help you with the grammar, pronunciation, phrasal verbs, expressions, everything connected with English.
What are we going to talk about today? Well, in this particular lesson, we’re going to look at something really interesting because everybody likes to talk about this. Everybody likes secrets, and everybody likes a little bit of gossip.
So we’re going to look at English idioms about secrets and gossip.
People like secrets, they like to share them with someone, even though they are secret, they feel they have to share them.
Gossip is something we have in the office, in the bar, in the football club, or tennis club.
We’re going to go through them. Hopefully, I’ll be able to give you an explanation, an example. And then you’ll be able to practise.
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The first one
my lips are sealed
Meaning: use it when you want to promise someone not to tell their secret
Of course, when our lips are sealed, it’s tight shut. So if you put some glue between your lips, so you’re not able to speak.
You can tell me but my lips are sealed, I won’t tell a soul, I promise.
And of course, as soon as you find out the information, you run home and you tell your wife or your partner, and you’ve broken the promise already.
to dish the dirt
Meaning: reveal or spread some details, usually unpleasant and negative information
When we talk about dishing, for example, when we are serving a meal, the food in which we serve can be a dish. When when we actually serve the food or take it out of the pan and put it on individual plates, this is what we call ‘to dish’ or to serve.
🧒 I’ve just met with John and he had really lots of interesting things to tell me about what’s happening in the office.
👱🏻 Oh, come on, dish the dirt. We’re all ears.
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to keep something under your hat
Meaning: keep something a secret
Of course, when you put something under your hat, literally, it means nobody can see it. It’s hidden from view. In the old old days of the 1950s and 60s and even 70s people used to wear hats on quite a regular basis. They would have been part of their day to day attire. Today, people don’t really wear hats anymore, but we still use this expression.
I want to tell you something, but it’s really, really important. If anybody hears about it, I get into trouble. You have to keep it under your hat.
to sweep something under the carpet/rug
Meaning: to try to hide some problem hoping that nobody will notice and it will disappear
When we use this expression, we want to forget about something. Or we know it’s a problem, but we’re not going to deal with it.
The expression comes from the fact that when people are hoovering or vacuuming their homes, they rarely pick up a rug or carpet and sweep under it. There’s always a lot of dirt hidden under the carpet. And you’d be surprised when you lifted it how much dust and dirt is there. So when we sweep something under the carpet, we put it there out of view, and nobody will see it.
The conflict came to the attention of their line manager, but he chose to sweep it under the carpet and forgot about it.
English idioms about secrets
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on the sly
Meaning: when we do something on the sly, we try to do it without anybody knowing about it; we try to do it secretly
On the sly, she put a bottle of champagne in her bag so she could enjoy it later.
a little bird told me
Meaning: we use this expression, when we’ve heard a rumour, or we’ve heard some gossip, we might know the source of it, or we might not.
👱🏻♀️ Oh, I hear you’re going to get that promotion, you’re going to become the new manager?
👩🏻🦱 Who told you? That’s a secret!
👱🏻♀️ A little birdie told me.
So these are references to rumours, gossip or secrets that are not really secret because many people are talking about them.
English idioms related to secrets
to spill the beans
Meaning: to reveal information or disclose a secret
If you accidentally knock a can of bins over, they go everywhere. So when you spill the beans, they’re all out. It’s impossible to get them back into the tin without a lot of effort.
Come on, spill the beans, how’s the new romance? How’s it going? What’s happening? What’s he like?
So you spill the beans, you give them all the details, okay.
I had everything organised for Sarah’s surprise 40th birthday party, but Tara accidentally spilt the beans to her.
to be a fly on the wall
Meaning: to be in a place where something important is happening (negotiation, discussion, row) so you could hear the conversations without anybody knowing that you’re there
I’d give anything to be a fly on the wall in that office to hear exactly what happened.
to cover your tracks
Meaning: to do something to hide your activities from someone
You might delete a few emails that would indicate that you know what’s happening.
Or you might delete some text messages on WhatsApp.
So you want to wipe out any sign that you’ve been somewhere or you’ve gone somewhere so that you don’t have to admit that something has happened.
All three of them tried to cover their tracks, deleting incriminating messages and photos.
to bite your tongue
Meaning: make an effort not to say something that you really want to say or disclose some information or gossip that you’ve heard
At that moment, I had to bite my tongue to stop myself from answering her question.
So these are English idioms about secrets and gossip. I’ll give them to you one more time:
- my lips are sealed
- to dish the dirt
- to keep something under your hat
- to sweep something under the rug/carpet
- on the sly
- a little birdie told me
- to spill the beans
- to be a fly on the wall
- to cover your tracks
- to bite your tongue
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