Exasperated? Say it with words

As we saw last week, if you come across a new trend or fad that seems silly to you, you can dismissively ask: ‘So, is this a thing now?’ But when you encounter such a fad repeatedly--or when you are extremely annoyed by something--you need stronger expressions to explain exactly how annoyed or exasperated you are. Our theme for today is expressions that allow us to convey exasperation or annoyance using conversational or slang idioms.

Drive someone up a wall

Its one thing to say ‘you are really annoying me,’ and another thing entirely to say, ‘you are driving me up the wall.’

The difference is that of emphasis. While the first one comes across as a simple statement that conveys some information plainly, the second invokes an image to strongly express how annoyed you are feeling. As you can imagine, the idiom ‘drive up a wall’ is best used in contexts where the exasperation is extreme, and the source of annoyance is prolonged. For example, if a friend of yours keeps whistling while you are trying to read, you can tell her: ‘Quit that whistling now, you are driving me up the wall.’ Often, the idioms is used in contexts where someone wants to express annoyance regarding quirky, minor, yet annoying habits of people.

For example, you might say: ‘I really enjoy his company, but the way he constantly praises his mother’s cooking absolutely drives me up the wall.’ Or: ‘Everyone is playing the new Justin Bieber song, and it’s driving me up the wall.’

To get someone’s back up

One theory about the origin of this idiom suggests that it alludes to the behaviour of cats. When angry and ‘battle-ready,’ cats arch their backs, and hiss angrily. When you get someone’s back up, it means you are really making them angry, either deliberately or unknowingly. For example: ‘He is from Kerala, so any jokes about that region always get his back up.’

Or: ‘We are supposed to be a nation of animal lovers, but the way stray dogs suffer in this country always gets my back up.’ While the idiom ‘driving someone up the wall’ is mostly used to refer to trivial but persistent annoyances, ‘getting someone’s back up’ can be used for more serious contexts, where you get angry because of your strong opinions or beliefs.


This is a slang word that refers to vomiting, and is used in conversational English to express disgust or extreme dislike. In a full sentence, you would probably say ‘makes me barf,’ but conversationally, you can sometimes just say ‘barf.’ For example: ‘All these vampire romance movies make me want to barf.’ Or: ‘So the vampire hero in the movie believes in true love. Barf.’

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 12:45:06 AM |

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