1. A piece of cake
- Unclogging the sink was a piece of cake for Carlita. She’s a plumber.
- Reinstalling Windows is a piece of cake for Peddy because he works in an IT department.
The idea of cake being “easy” originated in the 1870's when cakes were given out as prizes for winning competitions. In particular, there was a tradition in the US slavery states where slaves would circle around a cake at a gathering. The most “graceful” pair would win the cake the in middle.
2. Break a leg
- I hope the performance goes well, Peter.Break a leg!
- I am looking forward to your performance, now go break a leg.
Another comes from ancient Greece, where the audience didn’t clap but instead stomped their feet to show appreciation. If the audience stomped long enough, they would break a leg. Some say the term originated during Elizabethan times when, instead of applause, the audience would bang their chairs on the ground — and if they liked it enough, the leg of the chair would break.
3. Under the weather
- Kevin was feeling under the weather, so he took half day off.
- I canceled my meeting because I was under the weather.
The term under the weather is a nautical term from the days of old sailing ships. Any sailor who was feeling ill would be sent below deck to protect him from the weather. (Being below deck, the sailor would literally be under the weather.)
4. Beat around the bush
- I wish Jack would stop beating around the bush and tell me what he really thinks of the new Sony camera.
- If we beat around the bush in this meeting, we will be wasting everybody’s time.
The origin of this phrase lies in medieval hunting. During bird hunts, some participants would rouse the birds by beating the bushes so that the others could hunt them.
5. Steal someone’s thunder
- Peter stole my thunder when he told the boss about my idea.
- I’m going to steal Emily’s thunder by telling her husband about the baby’s gender.
The idiom comes from the peevish dramatist John Dennis early in the 18th century, after he had conceived a novel idea for a thunder machine for his unsuccessful 1709 play Appius and Virginia and later found it used at a performance of Macbeth.