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Learn English > English lessons and exercises > English test #112053: Idioms and animals
Idioms and animals
English has lots of animal idioms . Here are a few of them.
-A wolf in a sheep's clothing : someone who hides his/her wickedness under a pleasant and friendly appearance.
The idiom probably originates from the Old Testament .
-A white elephant: something ( a present) you don't like, but which is difficult to give away .
The idiom probably comes from the Indian world where a white elephant was considered as sacred and therefore very expensive to keep.
-A leopard can't change its spots : a person's character (especially if it's bad) will not change .
The idiom originates from a Greek proverb .
-Cash cow : a stable, reliable source of income .
A cow that produces milk every day was a reliable source of income especially in the past.
-Rat race : today's living in modern society with people fighting for power and money.
Probably referring to a rat's efforts to survive or shun a trap.
-A fish out of water: someone who feels uncomfortable in a particular situation.
It seems to go back to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales .
-A paper tiger : something that appears dangerous but is in fact harmless .
It originates from Mao's Little Red Book , referring to the USA Government.
-When pigs fly : something that will never happen.
Dating back to the XVIIth century when several writers used it to refer to something impossible to do.
-(have) a bee in one's bonnet : be much worried about or obsessed with a thought or idea .
Probably coming from the Scottish use of bonnets ( sort of headgear). Imagine having a bee in it.
-A bull in a china shop. Move awkwardly / be tactless.
Referring to cattle left to wander freely at markets.
-A cock-and-bull story : a story which is not true, told to impress people.
The idiom comes from the names of two English pubs in Buckinghamshire where travellers stopped on their way .
-(to have) a whale of a time : to enjoy oneself , have a great time.
Probably coming from students' jargon in the early XXth century ( whales are very big).
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