Here are seven of the most common ones:
1. You snooze, you lose
Have you ever suddenly woken up with a pesky alarm ringing loudly in your ears? You’re not ready to get up yet, so you hit the snooze button to delay the alarm for a few minutes. Then you pull the covers over your head and go back to sleep. Never mind when the unthinkable happens; when you sleep right through your alarm and end up late for work. As the saying goes, “You snooze, you lose.” Later you wake up frantically, check the time, and hurry up to get to work. You hop in the car and arrive late because you slept in. You snooze, you lose. This means you lost the time you could have used, because you were sleeping instead.
2. To be in the dark
After arriving at work late, you enter the meeting room and feel “in the dark” about the discussion. Turns out it’s a new project, but since you were late to work, you weren’t there to hear the introductory details about it. So you don’t know what everyone is talking about. When you’re “in the dark” about something, it means you’re missing important information. After the meeting you kindly ask your coworkers to fill you in on the details so that you won’t feel so lost. After they tell you what you missed, you’re not “in the dark” anymore. You thank your coworkers, promising them some homemade cookies.
3. Beyond your wildest dreams
In this idiom, the word “dream” refers to a wish. When something amazing happens, which was better than what you imagined, it was “beyond your wildest dreams.” Perhaps you won a free trip to visit the gorgeous Taj Mahal in India, or maybe you won pizza for an entire year. Maybe the wish you’d originally imagined involved traveling locally or getting a free lunch, and so visiting another country or getting free food for a year would be “beyond your wildest dreams.” The word “wild” can describe freedom, because it means without restrictions. A good example is a wild horse running free in the plains.
4. To not sleep a wink
You lay down in bed, turn off the lamp, and close your eyes. An hour later you’re still awake, thinking of the endless thoughts of the day. You drift in and out of sleep, but the next morning you are exhausted because you “didn’t sleep a wink.” This means you didn’t get enough sleep. When you go to work you feel overly tired. You’re not really paying attention to the meeting presentation, so you sleep through it with your eyes open. “Wink” means to blink. “I didn’t sleep a wink” literally means your eyes were open and you didn’t sleep at all.
5. To burn the midnight oil
You want to sleep because you’re tired and it’s nighttime, but you remember you have a deadline the next day. You decide to stay up late to “burn the midnight oil.” What does oil have to do with midnight, you might ask. Well, the oil refers to the lamps people used in the past (thank goodness we have electricity nowadays!). Back then, people would use oil lamps in which they’d add oil to keep the lamp lit. The oil would burn until it ran out and then the light would fade. The person would have to add more oil to keep the lamp burning, so they would have enough light to see in the dark.
6. To catch some Z’s
You wake up tired and realize you should have gone to bed early the night before. When you have some free time, you decide to take a nap in order to “catch some Z’s.” Have you ever watched kids’ cartoons and seen the line of Z’s whenever a character was sleeping? “Catching some Z’s” likely comes from these cartoons and comics. So to catch some Z’s means to fall asleep. I don’t know why the letter Z is associated with sleep. Perhaps the Z’s are related to the sound of snoring.
7. To sleep with the fishes
You might think this means you suddenly have the power to breathe underwater and can sleep in the ocean peacefully with the fish, but, unfortunately, this idiom has a tragic meaning. “To sleep with the fishes” means to die at sea. In this idiom, the word “sleep” refers to death. For example, let’s say a pirate ship is hit by a terrible storm. After the storm passes, a few pirates are missing. The captain asks where they are, and the other pirates say, “They’re sleeping with the fishes.”
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