Do you have something to hide? Try “sweeping it under the rug”

And now, Words and their stories, from VOA Learn English.

On today’s show, we’re going home! We are talking about a common object which gives us some useful expressions.

This object is a rug. Carpets are floor coverings that serve multiple purposes in a home. They add color and style to a bedroom. They protect the ground. Rugs can make a home more comfortable and quiet. They can also do a sliding safer ground to walk on.

But since they’re on the floor, rugs can trap a lot of dirt. When we clean the floor, it is advisable to remove the carpets first. This way you can sweep away all the things that are trapped below.

But if you don’t have time or feel a little lazy, you can still clean the floor quickly and simply sweep the carpet. The dirt under the carpet cannot be seen. It’s as if it wasn’t there.

And that brings us to our first expression: “sweep something under the rug”.

When we “sweep something under the rug”, we are trying to hide something. What kind of things are we trying to hide? things that are illegal, immoral, annoyingor just plain wrong.

For example, the corrupt politician was re-elected because he swept all his failures and dirty business under the rug.

Here is another example:

Before meeting her new boyfriend’s family, my friend carefully and completely swept all her past mistakes under the rug. She wanted a fresh start. She decided to hide her complex past.

You might also hear someone say “run something under the rug”. The word “brush” in this case means to clean something.

Now, as we said earlier, one of the purposes of a mat is to make the floor safer. But there are also ways a rug can be dangerous. If someone rips a rug from under your feet, you’ll probably fall. And you could hurt yourself.

So when we “pull the rug out from under someone’s feet”, we put that person in a difficult and unexpected situation. We suddenly take away support or help from them.

For example, I felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under me when I found out my building was being demolished. I only had a week to find new accommodation!

You can also say “pull the rug out from under someone’s feet.” It means the same thing.

We end today’s program not with another expression but with a to joke.

As we discussed earlier, a rug covers and protects the floor. But the word “hedge” has several meanings. “Covering” can also mean offering protection or paying for something. So let’s say I’m going out to dinner with a friend and she forgets some money. I can say, “I have money. I’m taking care of it. It means I will pay.

Here is another example:

some at home Insurance politicians do not cover flood damage. The policies do not protect against high water damage.

Knowing this definition of “cover” helps you understand this joke.

Once upon a time there was an old floor in an old house. He learned that the owner of the house wanted to lay a new floor. The ground cried and cried over the bad news. Hearing the floor crying, the carpet wanted to make the floor more pleasant. So what did the rug say to the floor?

“Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered.

This joke is a pun on the word “cover”.

And that’s all the time we have for that Words and their stories. Until next time… I’m Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English.


words in this story

style – nm a method, manner, or quality that is felt to be highly respectable, fashionable, or appropriate

sliding – adj. causing or tending to cause something to slip or fall

lazy – adj. not liking or wanting to act or work

immoral – adj. failing to conform to a high moral standard : morally wrong

annoying – adj. causing a feeling of confusion and conscious distress

to joke – nm something said or done to induce laughter

Insurance – nm coverage by contract whereby, for an agreed payment, one party agrees to indemnify or hold another against loss from a specified contingency or peril

pun– nm a form of joke in which a person uses a word in two senses


What do you think of this story? Did this help you understand the phrase “sweep something under the rug”?

We want to hear from you. We have a new comment system. Here’s how it works:

  1. Write your comment in the box.
  2. Below the box, you can see four images for social media accounts. They are for Disqus, Facebook, Twitter and Google.
  3. Click on an image and a box appears. Enter your social media account ID. Or you can create one on the Disqus system. It’s the blue circle with “D” on it. It’s free.

Comments are closed.