Weird English idioms and some history behind the “Ides of March” in this month’s newsletter!

March 2023 Vol 5 Issue 3


Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):
Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Linguistic Communication
Let me teach you to tell your story!

Welcome Mid-March, 2023!

After enduring unseasonably cold weather for the first 10 days of March, we have seen temperatures gradually rise, as we reached a calendar milestone— the famous “Ides of March!” You may recall that March 15th is the day when Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was assassinated (in 44 BCE, an event made famous by Shakespeare’s tragedy in 1599).

Although Saskatoon sidewalks and roads continue to be slick with ice, for the most part, there are no toga-clad conspirators, waiting with daggers for us at work! (Perhaps the risk is why some of us prefer self-employment? Lol!)

If such “workplace safety” isn’t relief enough, our daylight hours are lengthening beautifully and, after a stretch of grey days, our familiar prairie sunshine has returned!

I expect that none of you, good readers, were accosted (much less, assassinated) by Roman senators (or other “back-stabbing” colleagues) on your commute to work, yesterday! And hopefully, you weren’t headed for the Theatre of Pompey, either. . . . You may remember Wayne & Shuster’s
famous retelling of the story of Caesar’s demise on the Ides of March, from his wife Calpurnia’s perspective: “I told him, ‘Julie, don’t go!’”).

After having addressed serious philosophical and psychoanalytic concepts of stoicism, shame and resilience in recent postings of this newsletter and my blog, today I share some more lighthearted “fare.”

In “Article One,” I present some “weird and wonky” English idioms from a list compiled by the team at in the UK (from whom I earned my accreditation to teach ESL, in 2021). Newcomers and native English speakers alike may have been puzzled by some of these expressions.

And in “Article Two, “Word Nerd’s Corner,” I present some humourous aspects and history of the date of March 15th, more than two millennia after the date gained its murderous origins. (Thinking Edward Gorey, anyone?)

May the coming of spring dispel any superstition from your minds, good readers, so that yesterday’s “Ides of March” will connote no disloyalty or violent ends!

Storytelling Communications

ARTICLE 1: Ten weird English idioms from (in the UK)
Some history behind the date, the “Ides of March”
Article One: Ten weird English idioms from mentors and colleagues at (UK)

While other languages may be very direct and use fewer figures of speech, English has many idioms that arise everywhere, whether in ordinary “watercooler” chat to official government documents.
Some of our simple phrases sound normal to native-speakers, but very odd to newcomers as they study English:

(1) “The Elephant in the room”: The metaphor of the “elephant” generally refers to a controversial or difficult topic that most people want to avoid. The idiom as a whole is attributed the Russian writer, Ivan Krylov, who wrote a fable (in 1814) of a man who visits a museum, observes small trinkets but not a large elephant in the room.

Fyodor Dostoevsky then used the idiom, writing in his book, Demons (1871-1872), that “Belinsky was just like Krylov’s Inquisitive Man, who didn’t notice the elephant in the museum.”

(2) “You can say that again”: This idiom can cause confusion, as it seems to ask a speaker to repeat themselves, when it means simply to express agreement on something. For instance, if I tell you that the weather is unseasonably cold for late March, you might say, “You can say that again!”

(3) “Lose your marbles”: To lose one’s marbles is to forget something, be frustrated or confused by something. These connotations are common, especially in UK English, since competitive marble playing has occurred for centuries there, and with much attention.

A secondary meaning known better in Canada, connects “losing marbles” with “cognitive deterioration” (i.e. insanity). “The mail deliverer must be losing his marbles today, because he stooped down while delivering our letters, to pet our Rottweiler.”

(4) “Butterflies in my stomach”: The metaphor of having insects occupy your digestive tract reflects the feeling of “flutters,” or nervousness about something. This idiom gets trotted out when you have a job interview, go on a blind date, or worry that a costly parking ticket awaits you, as you leave an appointment that ran late.
So, when you are nervous, your mind kicks into “fight-or-flight” mode, and this causes a fluttery feeling in your stomach or digestive tract..

(5) “Easier said than done”: This is an unusually literal idiom which refers to something that is challenging to do, but may not be acknowledged as such. So a newcomer student might say, “I’m going to master the perfect conditional tense” today, when that is much easier said than done.

(6) “To let the cat out of the bag”: refers to revealing a secret, especially if it occurs by accident. To accidentally reveal a surprise retirement party to a good friend would be a typical example. TEFL friends clarify that the idiom “has nothing to do with cats, or indeed, bags.”

(7) “Hit the sack” or “Hit the hay”: these are two idioms that refer simply to “going to bed.” Historically, human beds were not always bought in furniture stores (“move over, IKEA”), so people commonly rested their heads on some loose fabric (sack) or even on some harvested farm crops (hay).

(8) “The best thing since sliced bread”: In the US, where sliced bread was first sold in the 1920s, it was advertised as “the greatest forward step in the baking industry, since bread was wrapped.” The convenience of buying pre-sliced bread led to the simplified phrasing of “the best thing since sliced
bread.” Americans started to apply the term to all kinds of modern conveniences and it persists today.

(9) “The bees’ knees”: this idiom was part of a popular movement in language in the 1920s that used the animal kingdom to create fun expressions of praise. This idiom means something of high quality; and there other idioms that had similar meaning, such as “the cat’s pyjamas” and “the sardine’s whiskers.” While none of these may strike you as terribly persuasive today, the 1920s were a completely different time, linguistically.

(10) “It takes two to tango”: TEFL writers say that the “tango” originated in the border between Argentina and Uruguay and was considered a “risqué and working-class” dance when it began. Now it’s a regular influence on network television, such as on the American program “So You Think You Can Dance.”

Do you use any of these weird and wonky idioms in your conversations in English? Do you know some that didn’t make it to the list? Please share; I’d be happy to post them in a future issue!



STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: Words, stories, riddles and more on writing and editing . . . Some history behind the date, the “Ides of March”

• The word “Ides” (the 15th day of a month) comes from the Latin word, “idus,” which refers to the middle day of any month in the ancient Roman calendar.

• The Ides refer the 15th day of the months of March, May, July or October; and the 13th day of the remaining months.

• There is much superstition surrounding the origins of the date, but in fact it only marks the first day of a full moon in every month (falling between the 13th and the 15th days).

• Part of the negative connotations of the “Ides” is that they were designated as the date to settle outstanding debts each month in the ancient Roman calendar. Debtors who could not pay their debts were typically thrown into prison or forced into slavery. Therefore, the “Ides” were thought to be especially unlucky days.

• The connotations of an unlucky day with particularly disastrous implications is, of course, tied to Ancient Rome. Roman Emperor Julius Caesar was murdered on the “Ides of March” in 44 BCE. Historians have said that Caesar’s senators murdered him out of fear that his popularity would turn him into a dictator (and them into slaves).

• A lot of the story surrounding the “Ides of March” comes from Shakespeare’s sensational dramatization of the murder of Julius Caesar. For instance, Shakespeare dramatizes that Brutus was Caesar’s best friend and the leader of the assassination plot, which are not true.
In fact, there were three conspirators, among whom Decimus, not Brutus, was most trusted and known by Caesar. And it was Decimus who led the murderous plot.

• Caesar was not warned to “Beware the Ides of March” by an anonymous soothsayer (in Shakespeare’s version). The omen was actually “Beware the next 30 days,” uttered on February 15, 44 BCE by an Etruscan soothsayer, called Spurinna (historians tell us).

• Dictator Adolf Hitler chose this day in 1939 to attack and seize the provinces of Czechoslovakia.

• Some parts of the world observe March 15 with national holidays that are not deemed unlucky, such as Constitution Day in Belarus; National Day in Hungary; and even Youth Day in Palau.

What was your “Ides of March” (yesterday) like?

Do you have a concept, story, joke or problem involving any aspect of writing or communications? Please share it with me; I’d be delighted to use it in an upcoming issue



Every month brings new ways for me to thank my Raj Manek mentor and dear friend, Monica Kreuger. This month, she included me, among other team members of Global Infobroker’s ”Praxis School of Entrepreneurship,” in a deferred Christmas party.

A death in Monica’s family sadly occurred shortly before last Christmas, pre-empting the usual holiday festivities.

But amazingly generous soul that she is, only three months into the new year, Monica graced Elaine Mantyka, Deanna Litz, Silvana Cracogna, Grace Wang, Carmen Karin Rosner and I with pampering spa services (including several kinds of facials, sugaring, ion cleanses, foot wax, eyebrow and nail

It was heavenly! Missing but in our thoughts were also team members Marie Weinkauf and Jolene Watson. (On who the magical service providers were for the evening, see below.)

And in Monica’s impeccable way, the food was scrumptious, featuring the charcuterie and desserts of local entrepreneur, Colleen Middlemiss, of Colleen’s Catering.

Thank you, Monica, and to fellow entrepreneurs of the Praxis team, who have learned from Monica’s genius and generosity!

Entrepreneur of the month:
Writing two days after the above evening spa event, my skin still feels great. So I’m delighted to shine a spotlight on the service providers at Bailey Kreuger’s woman-owned business, “Drop Dead Gorgeous Day Spa.”

Along with estheticians Sara Kreuger, Megan Kent and “Essentials” hairdresser, Crystal Hill, “Drop Dead Gorgeous” provides a wide variety of services that will make you feel as beautiful as you look, including facials and skin care, lashes and brows, hands and feet, makeup application, hair
removal, tanning, tattooing and permanent makeup.

As proud daughters of amazing entrepreneurial parents, Monica and Brent Kreuger, Bailey and Sara belong to the Chamber of Commerce and support “Totally Locally Saskatoon.” They do so by also promoting the work of entrepreneurs who are among their regular and loyal clients.
Ready to feel as gorgeous as you look? Visit their website or their Facebook page at !

There are always new businesses and new ideas to promote and discuss. Please write me to shareyour stories! . . . . But for now, this is a wrap for mid-March!


Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now help newcomers to Canada land better jobs by improving their English skills; I help SMEs close more sales by communicating more effectively, and I help major companies tell their legacy stories.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant
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After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!
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