Mixed metaphors (or More bank holiday musings)


Have you ever been bowled over by someone’s kindness or stumped by a difficult question? Have you ever done any blue-skies thinking or been accused of chasing rainbows? The English language is full of idioms that reflect our twin obsessions: sport and the weather. Each English-speaking country has its own variations. In the US you’ll hear more idioms related to baseball, whereas in Britain and Australia there’s a lot of cricket-related language. This is very unfair considering that most of the world doesn’t understand the rules of cricket. Which, as we would say, simply isn’t cricket!

Last weekend was the August bank holiday; so many Brits – me included – had Monday off. Fittingly, the August bank holiday marks the end of the summer in Britain, which it did emphatically last weekend – raining cats and dogs for much of the time. I won’t bore you with the full history but, in summary, the extra day’s holiday was introduced in the Bank Holidays Act of 1871. Believe it or not, its original purpose was to allow bank employees to attend cricket matches!

I dutifully took my family to visit the grandparents in the north of England, where it seems to rain for most of the year. But just to prove that every cloud has a silver lining, the rain provided a great excuse for my husband to stay in and watch sport, which is what most men in Britain secretly want to do over the bank holiday. Athletics, motor racing, cricket, football, tennis; all bases are covered. I soon kicked that idea into touch, however, knowing that the children were chomping at the bit to get outside. Seeing that I had a face like thunder, my husband wisely decided not to argue the toss and, throwing caution to the wind, we went out.

We took a rain check on hiring bikes and went to a transport museum instead. All in all it was a lovely day because, when it comes to the British weather, the only thing you should expect is the unexpected. After a rainy start, the clouds parted and the sun came out. And guess who ended up carrying all the coats and boots?

Back at the grandparents’ house, my dad was on cloud nine because Manchester United had beaten Arsenal 8-2. And news that the greatest sprinter of all time had been disqualified after a single false start came as a (Usain) Bolt out of the blue. The day ended with everyone watching the football highlights on TV. It’s terribly British to watch a lot of sport on TV while doing virtually no sport ourselves. Still, horses for courses, as they say!

Your challenge is to find all the sporting and weather-related idioms and fit them into the following categories. It’s not an exact science as the origin of some idioms is unclear, so the numbers in brackets are a guideline!

Weather: (9 idioms)
Sport: Cricket: (3); Baseball (1); Rugby (1); Horse racing (2); Sport in general (2)


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