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又中又英|Walking on eggshells

又中又英|Walking on eggshells

2022-06-15

As I said in my previous column, readers had emailed me with many suggestions on what topics to write about, including idioms and proverbs. I heard two interesting idioms while watching the TV news last week. The first was “walking on eggshells”. An eggshell is the hard but easily breakable outside of an egg. Eggshells will break if you walk on them. You have to be careful even when holding an egg. It will break if you drop it. The expression “walking on eggshells” means to be very careful about what you do or say so you won’t offend anyone. People close to outgoing Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor have told me they have to walk on eggshells when talking with her because she is easily offended.

 

The expression originated in the 1800s. In those days people who collected eggs in hen houses had to be very careful not to walk on broken eggshells that might disturb the hens. The other expression I heard was “the juice is not worth the squeeze”. It comes from the expression “is the juice worth the squeeze?” I explained this expression several years ago but will explain again for new readers. Squeezing oranges by hand to get orange juice is hard work. You have to put a lot of effort into squeezing enough oranges to get just one glass of orange juice. If you say “is the juice worth the squeeze?” it means is it worth trying very hard to achieve something when the end result is minimal?

 

If you passed an exam after studying very hard you can say the juice was worth the squeeze. If an employer offers you a job that requires you to work long hours seven days a week with very little pay, you can tell the employer the juice is not worth the squeeze. If an employer offers you a job that requires you to work long hours six days a week but with very high pay you can say the juice is worth the squeeze.

 

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