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“Two shakes of a lamb’s tail / Two ticks”

How was your Easter? Did you go for a picnic on Easter Monday (“Pasquetta”)?

It’s interesting how we use symbols from nature to celebrate Easter. Last week we looked at an idiom about eggs, so this week we’re learning about an idiom connected to baby sheep, lambs. Notice that we say /lamz/ because the “b” is silent. Since some of our teachers are vegetarian we’re not going to focus on the tradition to eat lamb on Easter Sunday!

The meaning of this idiom is actually about time. We usually refer to days, weeks, hours, minutes and seconds etc, as units of time, but here a shake of a lamb’s tail is also a unit of time. If you imagine a lamb shaking its tail it happens in nanoseconds, so we use this phrase when we want to say something will happen really quickly. Nowadays you might hear people shortening it to two shakes in a conversation.

We also have another idiom that means very quickly – two ticks. Since the noise a clock makes is “tic-toc-tic-toc”, two ticks is technically two seconds. In a typical conversation people could say:

  • “Can you help me with this heavy bag?”

“Yes, I’ll be with you in two shakes!”

  • “It only takes two ticks to connect to the Internet.”
  • “I’m just going to the bar for a coffee. I’ll be back in two shakes.”
  • “Where are you – I’ve been waiting for half an hour!”

“There was a traffic jam on the Colombo, but it’s cleared now so I’ll be there in two ticks!”

Can you use this idiom this week?

You can post your example on our fb page!

The English Tree Team