Being Confused or Distracted

Being Confused or Distracted

Reference: McLAY, Vera. Idioms 1 (1990). Canadian Government Publishing Centre. Section 2.


1. Slipped my mind

Escaped my memory; I forgot (it)
"O.K. guys, we're off. Red Lake here we come."
"I hope we didn't forget anything important. Did you remember to pick up the booze, Jack?"
"Oh no. It completely slipped my mind."
"Are you crazy? How could you forget the most important thing for a fishing trip?"
"It's not too late. Where's the nearest liquor store?"

2. I haven't got a clue

I have absolutely no idea
"Tom, what's the capital of Yugoslavia?"
"Don't ask me. I haven't got a clue. You know I'm hopeless at geography."

3- Can't make heads or tails of

I can't understand them
"Have you managed to assemble the bookcases yet?"
"I'm afraid not. I've been studying the plans for the last hour but I can't make heads or tails of them. I read the French instructions too, but that confused me event more."
"Let me have a look. Two heads are better than one."

4- On the tip of my tongue

Something I can almost remember
"Quick. Terry. What's the name of the guy who gave the talk at this morning's session?"
"Gee, let me see. It's an unusual name - Polish I think. Kowalski? No it's not that, but it's close. That's annoying. It's on the tip of my tongue but I just can't get it out. "
"Oh-oh! He's coming over here, and I want to ask him to give a talk at our next training session. It looks bad if I can't remember his name."

5- Don't know which end is up

Am totally confused
What's up, Joe? Your door is always closed. I've been trying to get in to see you for two days.
"It's this new computerized, financial information system. For the last two days I've been studying the print-outs until my head's spinning and I still can't understand them. I'm thoroughly confused. In fact I don't know which end is up anymore."
"I know what you mean. Computer print-outs do the same to me."

6- Beats me

I am uncertain; I don't understand it
"How come the new photocopier isn't working?"
"Don't know. (It) beats me.
The repairman just left fifteen minutes ago and said it was working fine."
"I know how to make it work. How about plugging it in."

7- I've lost my train of thought

I forgot the idea I was talking about
(Mary and Alice)
Mary: "What we really need is a new approach to work. I was thinking ..."
Jack: "Hi Mary. Did you have a nice weekend?"
Mary: "Not bad! And yourself?"
Jack: "Can't complain. Can't complain."
Alice: "What were you going to say?"
Mary: "I can't remember. With Jack interrupting me, I've lost my train of thought ."

8- Raking my brains

I've been thinking hard
"What are you scratching your head for?"
"I've been raking my brains all morning trying to remember the name of the company that gave that course in Transactional Analysis. I know it's a Toronto company and the name's on the tip of my tongue but I just can't remember it."
"Why don't you look it up in the files?"
"'Cause I can't remember what I filed it under."

9- Couldn't get a word in edgewise

Didn't have a chance to say anything
"Well, did the boss approve your request for extra man-years?"
"Are you kidding? The minute I hinted at extra staff he started talking about budget restrictions, man-year cutbacks, overspending in other sections - he went on and on for at least an hour. I tried to interrupt a couple of times but I couldn't get a word in edgewise. After a while I just gave up and left."

10- Are over my head

Are too difficult for me
"How's your computer course going?"
"I'm not really sure, to tell you the truth."
"What do you mean, you're not sure?"
"Well, I understand the manuals - at least I think I do - but I don't understand half of what the prof talks about. He uses too many technical words. I'm afraid his lectures are over my head. Maybe I should have taken the introductory course."

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