In the July issue of Read On we wrote about boxing idioms like 'below the belt' and to 'throw in the towel'. Other sports have also given us lots of idioms. Here are some common sports idioms and an exercise to practise using them.

 

front runner This expression comes from athletics. If someone is a front runner, you expect them to win a race, an election or any other kind of competition.

to jump the gun This is another athletics expression. A gun is fired to start the race, so if you jump the gun, you do something too soon.

to be neck and neck This one is from horse racing. If two horses are both very close to winning, you say they are neck and neck.

to get a head start Another horse racing idiom. It means to start before the other people in a competition or similar situation.

a level playing field This comes from all kinds of sports that are played on a field, such as football or rugby.  If you have a level playing field, you have equal chances for everyone.

to move the goalposts This one is from football and means to make unfair changes during a process.

the ball is in your court Tennis gave us this idiom. It means it’s your responsibility or decision to do something.

it’s not cricket! This idiom is a bit old-fashioned and obviously comes from cricket, a sport which is supposed to be very gentlemanly. So if you say something is not cricket, you mean it is not honest or fair.

to learn the ropes If you learn the ropes, you learn something new – this idiom is from sailing.

There are plenty more fish in the sea. This one is from fishing, which can be a sport or a way of earning your living. So perhaps it doesn’t count as a sports idiom, but it’s really nice to know. It is what you say when someone has broken up with a partner.

 

Now see if you can complete these sentences with the idioms.

1. The roads are going to be very busy tomorrow, but if we leave before 7 o’clock, we can get a __________

2. We had almost reached an agreement on a new wage deal, but the unions __________ and made new demands.

3. I gave the boss all the details of the offer, and told him we need to accept by the end of the week. The _________________now.

4. Hillary Clinton was a ________________ in the 2016 US election campaign, but in the end, she lost to Donald Trump.

5. The neighbours have told me they are moving, but they haven’t told anyone else. I don’t want to _______________ and tell anyone before they tell them themselves.

6. It’s hard starting a new job, and it’s nice if a friendly colleague helps you to: _____________.

7. Better education means more equality, so the government is investing in schools to __________________ for all children.

8, I know how sad you are about breaking up with Lucy, but ___________________________!

9. When John and Sarah split up she was really angry so she posted a lot of terrible photos on Facebook. It just __________________.

10. The Daily Sun and the Evening Mirror dominate the newspaper market. The Sun has a few thousand readers more, but you could say that they are ____________________.

 

Answers

  1. The roads are going to be very busy tomorrow, but if we leave before 7 o’clock, we can get a head start.
  2. We had almost reached an agreement on a new wage deal, but the unions moved the goalposts and made new demands.
  3. I gave the boss all the details of the offer, and told him we need to accept by the end of the week. The ball is in his court now.
  4. Hillary Clinton was a front runner in the 2016 US election campaign, but in the end, she lost to Donald Trump.
  5. The neighbours have told me they are moving, but they haven’t told anyone else. I don’t want to jump the gun and tell anyone before they tell them themselves.
  6. It’s hard starting a new job, and it’s nice if a friendly colleague helps you to learn the ropes.
  7. Better education means more equality, so the government is investing in schools to create a level playing field for all children.
  8. I know how sad you are about breaking up with Lucy, but there are plenty more fish in the sea!
  9. When John and Sarah split up she was really angry so she posted a lot of terrible photos on Facebook. It’s just not cricket!
  10. The Daily Sun and the Evening Mirror dominate the newspaper market. The Sun has a few thousand readers more, but you could say that they are neck and neck.