IELTS – Some footnotes to help you stand on your own two feet.

25th November 2022

Last night I was speaking with my wonderful TA about boosting her IELTS score. Our lesson used the Greek hero Achilles. Furthermore, we had both been standing more or less for four hours. I gave her two expressions then realised they were connected – Achilles heel and my dogs are barking. Therefore, here’s a quick list of foot-related expressions.

Achilles heel – this hero was invincible because his mother immersed him in a special river, as shown in the painting. However, she held her son by the heel so the water didn’t touch the boy’s skin. This was his one weak spot, and he was killed by Paris who shot an arrow into Achilles’ heel.

In everyday English, an Achilles heel refers to a person’s weak point, or flaw.

John’s vocabulary was excellent but his pronunciation was his Achilles heel.

This means John knew many words, but his pronunciation was so bad, he would lose points in a speaking test.

My dogs are barking – this mean your feet are very sore or hurting. Bob Dylan uses the expression in his song ‘Summer Days’

My dogs are barking, there must be someone around
My dogs are barking, there must be someone around
I got my hammer ringin’, pretty baby, but the nails ain’t goin’ down

copyright Bob Dylan 2001

To foot the bill – means to pay for something, or all of something.

We went out drinking but I had to foot the bill !

To put your foot in your mouth – means to say something that you shouldn’t have said – maybe you tell a secret, or you hurt somebody or get somebody in trouble.

Tony said the man was very stupid but he didn’t know he was talking about her husband ! He really put his foot in his mouth.

Foot and mouth disease – this is a very serious disease affecting cows, pigs and sheep. We can also use it to speak about a person who always puts his or her foot in their mouths.

Shelia can’t keep her mouth shut, she always says the wrong thing. She has foot and mouth disease.

To stand on your own two feet – means to be independent, not to need anybody’s help.

It’s time you stood on your own two feet, young man.

To toe the line – to do as you are told, to follow orders, or to follow the rules.

You better start toeing the line, mister, or look for a new job !

You won’t have a foot to stand on – you have no rights, or evidence to help you. You have no chance. Sometimes you may hear you won’t have a leg to stand on.

Without photo evidence or a witness, you won’t have a foot to stand on.

Two left feet – refers to someone who can’t dance.

No, I can’t dance, I have two left feet.

Footloose and fancy free – a person who is not in a relationship, so they can go out and meet new people. Someone who is ‘single and loving it.’

Footnotes – information or explanatory notes at the bottom of the page in academic books. The fiction author, David Foster Wallace was famous for using footnotes in his novels.

Legless – slang for being totally drunk.

You should have seen Peter last night – he was absolutely legless !

To have a hollow leg – someone who can drink a lot of alcohol but doesn’t get drunk, or appear to be drunk.

That’s her 7th beer and she looks fine. She must have a hollow leg.

To be a heel – this is now old-fashioned, but it means to be a bad person, to cheat people or be unfair.

He tricked the man out of $100. What a heel !

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