Sailing idioms

As Britain is an island nation, with the sea playing a major role in the country’s history and its economy, it is not surprising that the language has developed many idioms from sailing.

To be on the rocks

To be in serious difficulty

E.g. When we took over the hotel five years ago, the business was on the rocks.

To give smth/smb a wide berth

To avoid a person or a place

E.g. I tend to give the city a wide berth on Saturdays because it is so busy.

To cut and run

To avoid a difficult situation by leaving suddenly

E.g. The previous owners of the house had decided to cut and run, but we loved the place and were sure we could make a go of it.

To batten down the hatches

To get ready for a difficult situation by preparing in every way possible

E.g. We battened down the hatches by cutting the costs as much as possible.

To run a tight ship

To control a business or organization firmly and effectively

E.g. She runs a tight ship and has no time for shirkers.

To go by the board

To be abandoned, forgotten or not used

E.g. Does this mean our holiday plans will have to go by the board?

To weather the storm

To successfully deal with a very difficult problem

E.g. While large financial institutions might be able to weather the storm, many of the smaller traders are likely to go under.

To make good headway

To make good progress

E.g. We managed to weather the storm and are now making good headway.

In the offing

Likely to happen soon

E.g. With an election in the offing, the prime minister is keen to maintain his popularity.

To be taken aback

To be very surprised

E.g. We were taken aback when he announced his resignation.

To leave high and dry

To put in a difficult situation which can’t be improved

E.g. Many holidaymakers were left high and dry when the tour company collapsed.

To take the wind out of smb’s sails

To make somebody feel less confident, by saying or doing something unexpected

E.g. Sally was keen on becoming an actress, but her teacher’s criticism of her performance took the wind out of her sails.

In the wake of smb/smth

Following closely behind

E.g. Thousands of people lost their jobs in the wake of the recession.

All hands on deck

Everyone must help

E.g. We will need all hands on deck if we are going to be ready for the party on time.

Any port in a storm

You must accept any help you are offered when you are in a difficult situation

E.g. I really don’t like staying there but I had no choice but to accept his offer: any port in a storm, I am afraid.

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