TOP 50 Traditional phrases sent to the knacker’s yard

TOP 50 Traditional phrases sent to the knacker’s yard BLOG Friday 4th February 2022




Traditional phrases sent to the knacker’s yard – the 50 ‘endangered’ sayings

|People who pepper their speech with traditional phrases may find they are casting their pearls before swine, after new research found that dozens of sayings are at risk of dying out.

Phrases such as “nail your colours to the mast” and “know your onions” were among those barely used by modern speakers, according to the survey of 2,000 adults aged between 18 and 50.

Asked if they had ever used dozens of historical phrases, 78 per cent said they had never used the phrase “pearls before swine”, which has its origins in the Bible and was used by both Shakespeare and Dickens.

A further 71 per cent had never used “nail your colours to the mast” and 64 per cent “a stitch in time saves nine”.

At the less endangered end of the spectrum, 51 per cent of respondents said they had never uttered the phrase “see a man about a dog” and 49 per cent said “snug as a bug in a rug” had never crossed their lips.

Not all the at-risk phrases are likely to pass muster among younger generations. Pronouncing the words “knickers in a twist” or “colder than a witch’s t–” might cause a conversation quickly to go pear-shaped.

The English language continually evolves. Jealousy and envy were once very distinct words – one could not be jealous of something one did not already possess.

Nevertheless, those surveyed expressed disappointment at the disappearance of old sayings, even if they would need to Google them first. In the survey, 73 per cent of those asked said that it was a shame when a phrase died out.

Ellie Glason, from Perspectus Global, which commissioned the poll, said: “It’s interesting to see from our research, how language evolves and changes over the years.

“It would seem that many of the phrases which were once commonplace in Britain are seldom used nowadays.”

Britain’s 50 ‘endangered’ sayings

(Percentage of recipients who never use the phrase)

  1. Pearls before swine                                                 78%
  2. Nail your colours to the mast                                71%
  3. Colder than a witch’s t–                                         71%
  4. Pip pip                                                                       70%
  5. Know your onions                                                   68%
  6. A nod is as good as a wink                                     66%
  7. A stitch in time saves nine                                    64%
  8. Ready for the knackers yard                                 62%
  9. I’ve dropped a clanger                                            60%
  10. A fly in the ointment                                              59%
  11. Keen as mustard                                                    58%
  12. A flash in the pan                                                    57%
  13. Tickety boo                                                              57%
  14. A load of codswallop                                              56%
  15. A curtain twitcher                                                  56%
  16. Knickers in a twist                                                 56%
  17. Dead as a doornail                                                  55%
  18. A dog’s dinner                                                         55%
  19. It’s chock a block                                                    55%
  20. Storm in a teacup                                                   55%
  21. Could not organise a p— up in a brewery        54%
  22. Not enough room to swing a cat                        54%
  23. Flogging a dead horse                                          54%
  24. Toe the line                                                            54%
  25. Popped her clogs                                                   54%
  26. Drop them a line                                                    53%
  27. Steal my thunder                                                   53%
  28. A few sandwiches short of a picnic                    53%
  29. A legend in one’s own lifetime                           52%
  30. Be there or be square                                           52%
  31. Fell off the back of a lorry                                   52%
  32. A bodge job                                                            52%
  33. Eat humble pie                                                      52%
  34. Having a chinwag                                                 52%
  35. Put a sock in it                                                       52%
  36. Mad as a Hatter                                                    51%
  37. Spend a penny                                                      51%
  38. Cool as a cucumber                                              51%
  39. It’s gone pear shaped                                          51%
  40. It cost a bomb                                                       51%
  41. Raining cats and dogs                                         51%
  42. See a man about a dog                                         51%
  43. It takes the biscuit                                                50%
  44. He’s a good egg                                                     50%
  45. Snug as a bug in a rug                                         49%
  46. Chuffed to bits                                                      49%
  47. Have a gander                                                       49%
  48. Selling like hot cakes                                           49%
  49. Pardon my French                                                48%
  50. A Turn up for the books                                       45%

Source: Daniel Capurro – Daily Telegraph.

REMEMBER: The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.

– Nicolas Chamfort



The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot. – Michael Altshuler


Happiness is…using traditional phrases in your speech.


I had to quit my job at the shoe recycling factory. It was just sole destroying.


Love is… when his world revolves around you.


A time to ‘spend a penny’…A time to ‘see a man about a dog’.







©2022 Phil M Robinson