Are you ready to go back to school?

School idiomsThe summer holidays are drawing to a close, which means it’s almost time for the kids to go back to school.

It seems fitting, therefore, to take a look at education-related idioms as the next in my series.

As is the case with all idioms, school idioms are an integral part of the English language. Although many of these sayings use words like “learn” and “teach”, few of them actually have anything to do with learning, studying or schooling.

In fact, the majority of these school idioms are used by native speakers outside of the classroom, primarily in a business context.

A-Z of school idioms

A for effort = recognition that someone has tried hard, even if not very successfully

As easy as ABC = very simple and uncomplicated

Be a swot = a student ridiculed for studying excessively

Bookworm = someone who reads or studies a lot

Can’t teach an old dog new tricks = the older you are, the more set in your ways you become

Copycat = someone who copies the words or actions of someone else

Know one’s ABCs = know the most basic things about something

Learn something off by heart = memorising something completely

Learn the hard way = have a bad experience

Learn the ropes = learn how to do a job

Learn your lesson = suffer a bad experience and know not to do it again

Live and learn = to learn as you grow older and gain experience

Make the grade = be satisfactory and of an expected level

Old school = ideas that were popular in the past but which are no longer popular or common

Pass with flying colours = pass a test or complete something easily, with a high score

Pull an all nighter = study throughout the night

Put one’s thinking cap on = think in a serious manner

Saved by the bell = rescued from a difficult situation in the nick of time

School of hard knocks = way of learning valuable lessons in life through practical experience, not through books

School of thought = a particular way of thinking, living, or acting

Skip class/cut class = choosing not to go to school; playing truant

Teach one’s grandmother to suck eggs = giving advice to someone about a subject that they know more about than you do

Teach someone a lesson = doing something to someone, usually to punish them

Teacher’s pet = the teacher’s favourite student

Tell tales out of school = tell secrets or spread rumours

University of life = daily life and work where you learn more than from going to university

Delving a bit deeper

To blot your copybook means to make a mistake that will be noted and remembered. The expression harks back to Victorian times when older schoolchildren would practise handwriting in a ruled line book – called the copybook – using a dip pen and ink from an inkwell. The first line was printed, or copied carefully from the blackboard, and then the pupil filled the entire page with identical lines. Any mistakes, e.g. splodges or ‘blots’ of ink, stood out glaringly, hence the origin of the phrase.

There are plenty more school-related idioms. Are there any others that you can think of to add to this list?

(image via)

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2 comments on “Are you ready to go back to school?
  1. Epifania says:

    I really love your site.. Excellent colors & theme.
    Did you create this website yourself?Please reply back as I’m looking to create my own personal blog and would love to learn where you got this from or
    what the theme is named. Thank you!

    • Thanks for your lovely comments. No, I didn’t create it myself but used a local agency, who had designed my previous site too. I can’t remember the actual name of the theme but it’s a responsive child theme from WordPress. Good luck with your blog!

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