Idioms in Depth: English Mouse Idioms

mouseRodents may not be the most popular creatures in the real world but they are definite VIPs in the world of common English expressions. Be they mice or rats (and lets be honest, there’s not much of a difference between the two), as the following examples prove, there are a lot of common English mouse idioms.

As quiet as a mouse – very quiet or introverted

  • Don’t worry, I’ll be as quiet as a mouse when I leave tomorrow. You won’t hear a thing.

To play cat and mouse with someone – to tease or manipulate someone

* Oh that Judy can be such a monster. She pretends to love Raymond but really she’s just playing cat and mouse with his heart.

Note: This idiom relates to the idea that cats like to play with their food (and thereby draw out the suffering).

To rat out (someone) – to betray (someone)

  • You can’t trust him! He would rat out his own mother!

Rat race – an expression used to describe a hectic lifestyle or situation

  • After years of the rat race on Wall Street my brother retired to a quiet farm upstate.

Note: This idiom is meant to suggest the frantic pace that is characteristic of rats in a maze,

To smell a rat – to be suspicious of, or otherwise sense that, something is wrong

  • I knew you couldn’t be trusted! I smelled a rat from the very beginning.

Note: This expression is very similar in meaning “to smell fishy” as both are related to their negative smell.

When the cat’s away, the mice will play – an expression used to describe a situation where unsupervised people cause problems

  • Of course they caused problems while you were out of town – when the cat’s away the mice will play.

If you have any doubts about these or any other English idioms, be sure to scurry over to our idioms main page!


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