English Phrases Designed To Confuse Non-Natives

Some common English phrases that literally make no sense.


Dopkowski Joshua

3 years ago | 4 min read

If you want to confuse a non-native English speaker, there are plenty of ways to do it, but perhaps the most fun method is to utter some of the more commonly used catchphrases that us native speakers tend to take for granted.

When we take these phrases literally, they make absolutely no sense in the context that we use them in. Yet, the meaning behind these weird word combinations are universally understood in America, and oftentimes around the broader English speaking world.

Here are a few examples of some of these phrases, and how bizarre they are when we take them literally:

Let it Ride — Think about this. Let it ride what? Where is it going? Who’s driving? And how long will it take? What if there’s an accident, does whatever we’re talking about have insurance? Does it need a ticket to a ride, and if so, is that ticket refundable?

Dodged a bullet — I’m happy to hear that, but maybe you should think about moving to a different neighborhood.

I’m going to hit the books — Why don’t you try reading them first? You might actually like them. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Unless of course, they’re dusty, then hitting them might be a good idea, but maybe try blowing on them first.

Hit the roof — Well I need to see this. I can barely touch the ceiling, let alone hit the roof. But how will that make things better? Won’t that just damage the roof?

Got the best of us — “Boy they really got the best of us on that one.” Which one? And what did they do with the best of us once they got it? How’d they get it? Did they tear it off? Carefully remove it? Where’d they go with it, and are they keeping it safe? Most importantly, how do we get it back?

Out of the loop — You know, I don’t think I’ve ever been in a loop before. This sounds like a good thing though, especially if the loop is a noose.

Do you have a light? — No, but I have a small device that makes fire. Do you need fire, or do you need light? Next time someone carrying an unlit cigarette comes up to you and says this, pull out your cell phone and turn it to flashlight mode.

You hit it on the nose — Was it self-defense? If not, you should probably seek legal counsel. Hitting it on the nose is usually a felony unless you’re a Republican political candidate from Montana.

Under the weather — Well yeah, if you were over the weather it would be a bit difficult to breathe. Not a lot of oxygen up there. The only time I’m ever over the weather is when I’m flying on an airplane, and I’m always looking forward to when we get back under the weather so that I can take a shit without slamming my knees into a flimsy door.

One woman man — You know when you think about it, the origins of gender fluidity can be traced back to this very statement. I’m a one-woman man. Very progressive of you to place woman before man also. I personally am a one-man woman, but some days I like to be a one-woman one man.

I don’t buy it — Well then, I guess you can’t take it with you.

Plenty of fish in the sea — Yeah… it’s the sea, that’s where fish live.

I ran into something — Are you okay? You really should be more careful, if you keep running into things your insurance premiums are going to hit the roof.

Run with it — How? I have a hard enough time running without it, now you want me to run with it? How far? And how fast do I need to run? Are you going to be running with me? When do I stop running, and what do I do if I run into something while running with it?

Divorce myself from the situation — Is it that serious? Won’t that be expensive? What did the situation do? Did it fuck the mailman and forge your signature to withdraw your money to pay for its meth addition? Well chin up, I’m sure you’ll meet a new situation in no time, there’s plenty of fish in the sea.

Beat around the bush — This one is just bizarre. What’s around the bush that needs to be beaten? If the bush is the problem here, why not just beat the bush? But what did the bush ever do to you? Is that what you ran into earlier?

We’re better than that — Are we? Then why does “that” have so much power? Who made “that” so important that we have to be better than it? Was “that” elected? Did someone vote for “that?” If so, who, and are we better than them, or are they better than us? Seems like maybe they got the best of us in this situation.

I’m good or You’re good — No you’re not. You’re not good, and you’re not bad, you’re somewhere in between. And if you’re telling me I’m good, how do you really know? Maybe you’re wrong, or maybe you hit it on the nose.

Writing on the wall — Who wrote it? And why did they use the wall? What if I didn’t see the wall, does that mean I’m out of the loop?

English can be confusing for those who aren’t native speakers. For those of us who grew up knowing it, count your blessings, because, for much of the world, counting blessings means to count how many times your friend sneezed.


Created by

Dopkowski Joshua

Couldn’t deal with the stress of bartending so went into Finance & Marketing. Founder of The Blunt Ogre. Prof. France.







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