Music idoms in English

Language and Music are often considered separate but there are a number of idioms that depend on music.

To be tone-deaf (to something): if someone is tone-deaf they have trouble telling the difference between similar musical notes, but metaphorically if someone is tone-deaf to something it means they are insensitive to it. Example “Simon, who only lives a 10 minute walk from work, is tone deaf to complaints about parking troubles.”

To strike a chord: if something strikes a chord with you it means you identify with or like the idea expressed or proposed. Example “Clair’s suggestion that we work from home during the transport strike struck a chord with many employees, but management fear it will be treated as an extra holiday.”

To ring a bell: (well bells are musical instruments) this means you recognise something, a name or a face for example but you can’t quite put it in context. Example: “Her name rang a bell but it wasn’t till I saw her that I realised we’d been at school together 20 years ago.”

To miss a beat: to pause or interrupt something often because of surprise or confusion. Example “Boris Johnson clearly missed a beat when he realised he’d won the referendum.”

To sing from the same song sheet: this means that you agree with someone and probably publicly support their position. Example: “Carla and Tom are always singing from the same song sheet, it’s a pity they don’t get on.”

To be in-tune with something/someone: this means that you naturally agree with them and often think, do, or feel the same way. Example “Sue and Mike are really in tune with each other, I’ve never seen them argue.”

Harmony: Musically this refers to different but complementary notes, but it’s often used to describe a state where everyone is peacefully happy despite any differences they might have.

Discord: this is when notes do not go together well, but it’s also used to describe trouble, arguments, or even violence. Example “Sadly since the referendum there has been a lot of racial discord in Britain.”

To blow your own horn: to boast or be publically proud of yourself. Example “Nobody likes to blow their own horn too much but in a job interview you may need to.”

To march to the beat of a different (their own) drum: to do something independently, differently or eccentric to normal expectations. Example “Anne has always marched to her own drum, it’s little surprise to me that she turned down the manager’s job to travel round the world.”

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To bang the drum for/against something: this means you publicly state your enthusiasm for something. Example “Oscar is always banging the drum for people getting involved in politics, even the ones he knows will disagree with him. It might be boring to some, but you have to respect his passion.”

There are of course many more, why not leave them in the comments.

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