Idioms relating to Intelligence, Understanding and Logic

by Prashant Kumar Sharma

  1. Be on the ball If you are on the ball, you are aware of what is happening
    and are able to react to the situation quickly.
  2. Bang your head against a brick wall If you bang your head against a brick wall, you continue vainly to
    try and achieve something  in spite of several unsuccessful attempts.
    “I’ve been banging my head against a brick wall trying to explain the
    internet to my grandmother.”
  3. Think better of something If you think better of something, you decide not to do something
    that you intended doing.
    “I wanted to go shopping, but when I saw the crowded car park,
    I thought better of it.”
  4. It’s beyond me The expression “it’s beyond me” means:  “it’s impossible for me to
    “It’s beyond me why Mary wants to marry John.”
  5. Big picture To refer to the big picture means the overall situation, or the project
    as a whole, rather than the details.
    “While each aspect is important, try not to forget the big picture.
  6. I wasn’t born yesterday This expression is used to indicate that you are not as foolish or as
    easily deceived as some people seem to think.
    “Stop inventing silly excuses.  I wasn’t born yesterday you know!”
  7. Build bridges If a person builds bridges between opposing groups, they help
    them to cooperate and understand each other better.
  8. Can’t make head or tail of something If you can’t make head or tail of something, you can’t understand it
    at all.
    “Julie’s message was so confusing, I couldn’t make head or tail of it! “
  9. Put on your thinking cap If you tell someone to put their thinking cap on, you ask them
    to find an idea or solve a problem by thinking about it.
    “Now here’s this week’s quiz – it’s time to put your thinking caps on!”
  10. Not have a clue If you don’t have a clue about something, you don’t know anything
    about it.
    “My wife’s grandmother’s maiden name? I don’t have a clue!” 
  11. Collect one’s thoughts If you collect your thoughts, you try to  think calmly and clearly
    in order to prepare yourself mentally for something.
    “Anne stopped to collect her thoughts before calling back the customer.”
  12. Come to grips with something If you come to grips with a problem or situation, you start to understand
    or deal  with it properly
    “After the initial shock, the patient began to come to grips with his illness.” 
  13. Come to your senses If you come to your senses, you start to think clearly and behave
    “She finally came to her senses and realized that public transport was
    faster than driving.” 
  14. Common knowledge When information is well-known to everyone (particularly in a
    community or group), it is called common knowledge.
    “You didn’t know the intern was Jack’s son? I thought it was
    common knowledge.” 
  15. Crash course If you do a crash course, you do an intensive training course in order
    to learn something quickly.
    “Before going to Tokyo, he did a crash course to learn Japanese.”
  16. Dumbing down If something, such as a television programme or a film production, is
    dumbed down, it is deliberately made less intelligent or less
    demanding, in order to attract a larger audience.
    “Some TV channels are dumbing down their programmes in an attempt
    to increase their audience ratings.” 
  17. Eyes wide open If you do something with your eyes open, you are fully aware of what
    you are doing.
    “I took on the job with my eyes wide open, so I’m not complaining.”
  18. Get someone’s drift To tell someone that you get their drift means that you understand
    in a general way what they are trying to say.
    “‘I didn’t understand every word but I got the drift.” 
  19. Get the message If you get the message, you understand what someone is trying
    to tell you, even if it is expressed in actions or gestures rather than
    “When Tony pointed at his watch, I got the message – it was time
    to leave for the airport.” 
  20. Get the picture To say that a person gets the picture means that they understand what
    is being explained or described.
    “The alarm went off, people were running everywhere – you get the picture
    I’m sure!”
  21. Ignorance is bliss This expression means that if you don’t know about a problem or
    unpleasant fact, you won’t worry about it.
    “I didn’t know our neighbour was an escaped prisoner until the
    police arrived – ignorance is bliss!” 
  22. Know the score When you know the score, you are well-informed about a situation
    and know what to expect
    “If Julie damages the car, her dad won’t lend it to her again. She
    knows the score.” 
  23. Know which side your bread is
    If you know which side your bread is buttered, you know where your
    interests lie, or what will be to your advantage.
    “Jack never argues with his father-in-law.  He knows which side his bread
    is buttered.”
  24. Learning curve
    This expression refers to the length of time needed to learn something
    “The new system has a long learning curve so we’ll have to give the
    staff time to get used to it.”
  25. Lose the thread If you lose the thread of something such as a conversation or a story,
    you are unable to follow it.
    “There were so many interruptions during the film that I completely lost
    the thread.”
  26. Make sense of something If you make sense of something, you manage to understand
    something that appears complicated or incomprehensible.
    “I couldn’t make sense of the instructions.”
  27. Not miss a trick If a person never misses a trick, they are very aware or alert.
    “The old lady next door will know if Bill is there or not – she never misses
    a trick!”
  28. More money than sense If you have more money than sense, you have a lot of money which
    you waste by spending it in a foolish manner.
    “He celebrated the birth of the baby by buying a sports car.   He’s got
    more money than sense!”
  29. Muddy the waters If you muddy the waters, you make something less clear by giving
    confusing information
    “I had difficulty understanding, but Alan’s explanation just muddied
    the waters!” 
  30. No-brainer A decision or choice that requires little or no thought, because the best
    option is so obvious, is called a no-brainer.
    “The choice was between a cash refund or having the amount credited to
    my account – it was a no-brainer!  –  I took the cash!
  31. Non-sequitur This latin term refers to a statement which does not seem to be
    a logical follow-up to the previous statement or argument.
    “After announcing the merger, the chairman began talking about
    global warming which seemed a complete non sequitur.”
  32. One-track mind If you have a one-track mind, you have a tendency to think about only
    one subject.
    “That boy has got a one-track mind; all he thinks about is football!” 
  33. Out of your depth If you are out of your depth, you are unable to understand a subject
    or deal with a situation because it is too difficult for you.
    “The level of the class was too high for me, so very quickly I felt
    out of my depth.” 
  34. Out to lunch To say that someone is out to lunch means that they seem to be
    either unaware of what’s going on around them, or unable to understand
    what is happening.
    “He’s hopeless as a leader – considered as ‘out-to-lunch’ by the group.”
  35. The penny drops When a person has difficulty understanding or realizing something,
    and then the penny drops, they finally understand.
    “The teasing continued for some time until the penny dropped and
    he realized it was a joke!” 
  36. Put two and two together To say that a person puts two and two together means that they
    reach the right conclusion based on the information they have.
    “Forget your explanation.  She’ll never believe you. She can put two
    and two together!” 
  37. Quick off the mark To say that someone is quick off the mark means that they are quick
    to react to an event or take advantage of an opportunity.
    You’ve got to be quick off the mark to avail of the airline’s special offers.” 
  38. Quick/slow on the uptake Someone who is quick or slow on the uptake is quick or slow to
    understand what is meant.
    “Please explain the problem in simple words – I’m a bit slow on the
  39. Rocket science If you say that something is not rocket science, you emphasize that
    it presents no particular difficulty.
    “Bob will explain how it works.  Don’t worry – it’s not rocket science!” 
  40. Sharp cookie Someone who is not easily deceived or fooled is a sharp cookie.
    “You can’t fool my grandmother.  She’s a sharp cookie!”
  41. Smart alec A smart alec is an annoying self-assertive person who tries to
    show off how clever they are.
    “Some smart alec interrupted the game claiming that the answers
    were incorrect!” 
  42. Spot on To say that something is spot on means that it is exactly right.
    “That’s absolutely correct!  Your answer is spot on!
  43. Street smart A person who is street smart has enough experience and
    knowledge about life in the city to be able to deal with difficult or
    dangerous situations.
    “The kids living in this area are in less danger than us – they’re
    street smart.”
  44. By no stretch of the imagination This expression means ‘however hard you may try to believe or imagine
    “By no stretch of the imagination could he be called handsome.”
  45. Tech savvy People who are tech savvy have sufficient technical knowledge and
    skills to be comfortable using computers and other electronic devices
    and gadgets.
    “Many students are more tech-savvy than their teachers.” 
  46. That figures! This expression is used to say that something seems logical or
    is as expected.
    “We’ll have to get a bigger car when the baby arrives.” “That figures.” 
  47. Tie yourself (up) in knots If you tie yourself up in knots, you become totalled confused
    or confuse others when trying to explain something.
    “She tied herself up in knots when she tried to explain the rules
    of the game.” 
  48. Tunnel vision If a person has tunnel vision, they focus on only one aspect of
    something, or they are unable to see more than one way of doing
    “Our manager has tunnel vision. He sees no reason to change
  49. Use one’s noodle If you manage to understand something by using your noodle,
    you use your brain or your common sense.
    “How did I figure that out? I just used my noodle!” 
  50. Walking encyclopaedia This term refers to a person who is very knowledgeable about a
    particular subject.
    “The origin of Halloween?  Ask Jill – she’s a walking encyclopaedia!”
  51. Weigh your words If you weigh your words, you choose your words carefully in order
    to express exactly what you mean and avoid any misunderstanding.
    “At the press conference he spoke very clearly, weighing his words.”
  52. Wise up/get wise to something If you wise up or get wise to something, you become fully aware
    of a situation, finally accept the facts and are no longer fooled.
    “When Mike finally wised up to the methods being used, he
    resigned from the company.” 
  53. Wrap your brain around something If you concentrate on something so as to try to understand it,
    you wrap your brain around it.
    “I need a translation of that report urgently, so wrap you brain round it fast!”

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