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10 Idioms for Danger: Or Expressions Which Are Followed by, "Oh Shit!".

Mary loves discovering new things and enjoys sharing these ideas with readers through her articles.

English Expressions for Danger

Danger idioms

Danger idioms

Words and Idioms for Danger

Here in Brazil I teach English, sometimes this is to a class and other times on a one to one basis. Some words and phrases in English are confusing to a non-native speaker.

There are many phrases or idioms in English which, if dissected down to their words, don't make a lot of sense especially if you are new to the language. Some of these phrases are often heard on television or in films. Where would action films be if their main character wasn't in mortal danger?

Because you never know when you might hear them, it is best to learn them now so you can be prepared. Because I always believe learning should be fun, I've thrown a bit of humor in as well.


Fire in the Hole

Fire in the hole does not mean that someone has dug a hole and built a fire in it. Nor does it mean that the curry you ate last night is causing you intestinal grief.

If you are a fan of war films, you may have heard this phrase on television or in cinema. Often these films will be peppered with this expression when someone tosses a hand grenade into a room and shouts this warning to his comrades.

The expression originated not in a war zone but mines, hence the word 'hole,' when explosives were set to detonate in a confined space. Miners were meant to shelter behind something substantial and usually protect their ears from the loud blast.


Yes of course you, as an English speaker knows this means to make yourself lower to the ground otherwise you could get hit. To a non-English speaker, they may do the opposite and look to the sky searching for a flock of ducks.

If something such as a ball or other object has been thrown and is coming in your direction you may hear someone shout, "Duck!"

Watch Out

This does not mean to take your Timex, Rolex, or Apple watch out. It means to be alert to the current situation. If this is shouted in your direction, it implies something unexpected is about to occur.

This can also be used as general advice:

'You'd better watch out that you don't get your heart broken by that Greek waiter.'


Heads Up

This has recently taken on a different meaning in regards to advance notice of something in a general sense.

For example:

'Heads up Bob, the boss is in a bad mood.'

It also means to watch out as explained above.

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Although this usually is less life threatening. Let's say you could get hit on the head with a beach ball as opposed to an angry man running towards you with an baseball bat clutched in his hands.

Put Your Hands Up/ Keep Your Hands Where I Can see Them

Both of these are warnings usually issued by a police officer. Failure to do so, could get you wounded or worse. This is so the officer can see that you are not reaching for a hidden weapon. The hands should be up or away from your body. Do not try and cover your mouth to cough or scratch that itch, just keep your hands elevated.

Booby Trap

Although there is a bird called a booby this is not referring to a trap to capture it.

Also in the US the term 'booby' can refer to a woman's breast, here too this is not what a booby trap is referring to.

A booby trap is a device that has been designed to injure or kill without a person knowing. A good example was the movie Speed starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in which a bus was booby trapped with a bomb which was set to explode if the bus went below 50mph. Dennis Hopper, who played the bomber, also booby-trapped an elevator and his own house in the film.

Thanks to another Hubpages author DzyMsLizzy we have a few more examples. If you saw the film Home Alone, Kevin booby-trapped the house to defend it against the bungling burglars. By throwing marbles on the floor Kevin created a booby trap which made the 'bad guys' lose their footing and fall. A paint can which was suspended on a roped swinging down hitting them in the face, an iron falling onto someone's face and a hot doorknob were all used to great effect in the film.

Hit the Deck

This is not in reference to playing with a deck of cards.

This phrase means you should lie on the floor and possibly put your hands around your head to protect it from whatever is about to occur. The deck is in reference to a ship's deck when there were often low flying enemy planes attacking. By lowering yourself you make less of a target.

Take Cover

This is not referring to a blanket, or insurance coverage .

This means something dangerous such as gunfire or an explosion is about to happen and you should get out of the way. Here again either on the floor or behind a wall which would shield you from danger. If someone is instructing you to take cover it is probably too late to flee the scene.

Rally driving

Rally driving

Hang On

This could be if you are in a moving vehicle and turning quickly. To avoid injuring yourself someone may shout, “Hang On” telling you to grab something to secure yourself.

In a car as a passenger you may opt to grab the 'Jesus Bar' which is a term used for the handle above the door. We believe the term comes from the cries of 'Oh Jesus' which are undoubtly shouted as the car heaves heavily to one side as it takes a corner at speed.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2015 Mary Wickison

Which others can you think of?

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on March 01, 2017:

Hi Liz,

I have now added that, thanks, it will now be easier for others to understand.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on March 01, 2017:

Hi Liz,

I have now added that, thanks, it will now be easier for others to understand.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on March 01, 2017:

Just one more thought; you might add in your descriptions, of what 'booby' means, along with what it does not mean in these instances, that of its use of 'a boob' meaning a foolish person.

Or a couch potato, as in 'watching the boob tube.' :-D

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on March 01, 2017:

Hi Liz,

Kevin's house in Home Alone was indeed full of booby traps and is an excellent example.

Likewise, I love your example of 'look out'. Isn't English a confusing language. LOL

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on February 28, 2017:

Just thought of another example of a booby trap...or more precisely, booby traps galore: the movie "Home Alone." :-)

As for "Look out!" I recall a funny scene described in a book, the fellow, a non-native speaker, while rubbing his head, complained, "Someone yelled 'look out!' so I opened the window and looked out, just in time to get a plant pot on the head!"

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on February 26, 2017:

Hi Martie,

I had the same experience with modern American English. I lived in England for 20 years and when I met up with some Americans, they said, "let's book", I had no idea what they meant. They meant, let's leave.

Because language is evolving it is difficult to always be au fait with all the nuances.

Hi Paula,

"Right Arm", how funny. Yes, thank goodness she could see the humor in her errors. It makes language learning easier when you're not uptight. Languages can be so colorful but so darn confusing.

I'm glad you both enjoy it.

Suzie from Carson City on February 26, 2017:

Mary...Thanks for the light-hearted & also Interesting read....I laughed throughout! We (Native English speakers) just don't give these things a second thought, unless and until we may have a discussion or interaction with someone whose 1st language is not English.

I thought about my cousin's wife who was from Yugoslavia. Believe me, we had many a huge laugh when she would come out with some words or phrases she "thought" were what we were saying!! When my sons were much younger, they used the expression, "Right on!!" My cousin's wife use to hold up her arm and blurt out, "Right Arm!!" Do you really believe we could hold back the laughter?? She was a good sport, thank heaven...

Your excellent hub also reminded me of "Ziva" on the TV series "N.C.I.S." I believe she plays an Israeli. Every now and then, she comes out with an idiom and gets it her male investigator-partners will smirk and correct her. It's done in a really cute way. Peace, Paula

Martie Coetser from South Africa on February 26, 2017:

Some of these idioms are hilarious. I often find myself not catching an idiom or modern saying in English, as English is not my mother tongue. The video of the man fighting the quick sand had me on the edge of my chair. Thanks for the smiles :)

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on March 29, 2016:

I have found that the more I try and understand and explain the English language, the more confusing it gets. This of course goes for all languages, as they all have their own sayings. Here in Brazil they refer to someone who is tight with money as the 'foot of a cow'.

Language learning is always good for a laugh.

Doris James MizBejabbers from Beautiful South on March 29, 2016:

Great article. I like your explanations of our idioms, and we do have quite a few. Perhaps most of them come from the fact that the U.S.A. is such a diverse country. I've never been in an ESL situation, but my husband took engineering at the University of Tokyo. His instructor asked him to explain how he worked a problem and he said by the PEMDAS method. When he tried to explain "Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally," he had a difficult time explaining to the students what an "aunt" was and why anyone would call her an animal (deer).

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on September 08, 2015:

Hi Roy,

I think it is what keeps learning interesting. All languages have their own crazy sayings, and their roots aren't always clear. It is only when we try and explain these to a foreigner that we realize just how confusing and funny they can be.

royblizzard from Austin / Leander, Texas on September 01, 2015:

I enjoyed your article. When I was in ESL at UT Austin I would pull aside the foreigners and get them familiar with odd English idiomatic and regional dialectic expressions. They seemed to enjoy learning these oddities.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on August 31, 2015:

Oh, I'm glad you liked it. As native speakers we feel confident in their usage but for others it can be a stumbling block.

Wonderful to hear from you.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on August 31, 2015:

We don't realize just how confusing some of our idioms can be to someone who does not speak the language. This was very entertaining! :)

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on August 23, 2015:

Hi Avian novice,

I think we don't appreciate just how difficult it can be until we try and explain it to another person.

thanks for reading.

Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on August 23, 2015:

I have taught a few foreign folk some of these idioms. They had otherwise very good English, just not in this arena. These are some that I didn't think about. Thanks!

Certified Noob on August 22, 2015:

Funny hub . Made me smile.

The first time I heard "fire in the hole" was about 5-6 years back when I watched the Terminator 2 for the first time and thought it must have war field origins. I had no idea it had roots in the mines .

Thank you for another wonderful hub.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on August 21, 2015:

Hi Ms Dora,

The more I teach English the more I learn about it. Some things are just down right confusing for learners of a new language.

I think learning has to be fun to be remembered.

Glad you enjoyed it.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 21, 2015:

Your explanations make me smile, especially the what-it's-not part. Fun lesson on idioms and usage.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on August 17, 2015:

Hi Bill,

I'm glad I tickled your funny bone on this lovely Monday.

Thanks for reading.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on August 17, 2015:

Hahaha! We native speakers do take these idioms for granted and don't give them a second thought.

The car's grab bar, I've not heard called by that name, but rather as the "Oh, shit handle."

When my mother was still working, one of the ladies in her department, an ESL speaker, was very confused by the expression of someone being called a "knucklehead." She understood both words in their separate use, and the combination made no sense to her.

Voted up, interesting and funny.

Mary Wickison (author) from USA on August 17, 2015:

Hi Ann,

I have found that the sayings are similar in Portuguese but equally as quirky. There is one which translates as 'cow hand' but means someone who is a skinflint. lol

I think it is these which makes learning so fun.

I would love to drive a rally car Everyone thinks of me as being an overly cautious driver but I would love to have a go at that.

Thanks for your visit.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on August 17, 2015:

Too funny! I was laughing at the title and just kept on laughing...."oh shit" is right.

Ann Carr from SW England on August 17, 2015:

We do have some weird idioms don't we? I used to have fun with many of them, with my foreign students in London and then later with my dyslexic students over the last decade or so.

Love the rally car photo; I used to do that when I was much younger!

Great hub.


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