The Puzzle of English: A Deep Dive into English Phrases That Make No Sense

Grover Laughtonreviewed byKateryna Protsenko / more about Editorial Process6 min
Created: Jul 27, 2023Last updated: Feb 12, 2024
English Phrases That Make No Sense

With its vast and varied vocabulary, English holds a treasure trove of phrases that often leave us scratching our heads. Yes, even those well-versed in the language find themselves stumped by sentences that don’t make sense. From paradoxical sayings to words seemingly defying logic, English is a riddle waiting to be solved. Come with us as we explore this amusing, confusing, and often bewildering world.

Unraveling the Riddle of English: Understanding Phrases That Make No Sense

Understanding the peculiar phrases of the English language can seem like a mind-bending puzzle. The phrases sometimes don’t make sense, but why is this so? A key influence on these baffling phrases is the diverse heritage of English, which has freely borrowed from Latin, French, Greek, and Germanic languages, among others. In this grand melting pot of words and expressions, meanings sometimes morph, giving rise to phrases that might seem nonsensical.

Another factor is the passage of time, which often obscures the original context of phrases. Expressions that made perfect sense in a different era or culture can seem puzzling today. Yet, they continue to be used, their catchy rhythm or vivid imagery granting them a place in our modern lexicon.

Furthermore, these enigmatic phrases showcase the creative spirit of the language. They reflect the human tendency to play with words, to use language not just for clear communication but also for amusement, or to paint vivid pictures.

Baffling Banter: Sayings That Make No Sense

Some sayings people use in everyday conversations stand out for their apparent lack of sense. They make us scratch our heads, wondering how such expressions came into being. Let’s look at these phrases:

  • Bite the bullet. It means to face a difficult or unpleasant situation bravely. The phrase originates from having patients clench a bullet in their teeth to deal with the pain of surgical procedures before anesthesia was invented.
  • Break a leg. The phrase is used to wish someone luck, especially before a performance. It’s believed it stems from superstitions in the theatrical world where wishing someone ‘good luck’ was considered bad luck.
  • Beat around the bush. The expression means to avoid talking about what is important. Historically, it refers to hunting games where the bushes would be beaten to flush out the birds. The beating around the bush was the preamble to the main event, hence the phrase.
  • Spill the beans. The phrase encourages someone to reveal a secret or share confidential information. Its origin can be traced back to Ancient Greece, where voting was done by casting white and black beans into separate urns. If someone accidentally knocked over the urn containing the votes before they were counted, the truth would be revealed as the beans spilled out for all to see.
  • Kick the bucket. It is a rather grim phrase used to denote someone’s death. Some suggest that it relates to an old method of suicide, where the person would kick away a bucket they were standing on, leading to their demise.

These sayings inject vibrancy and humor into your conversations. They add a touch of mystery, a dash of history, and a healthy dose of creativity to your everyday interactions.


A Lens into Pop Culture: Nonsensical Sentences in Films and TV Shows

With the plethora of films and TV shows, pop culture often reflects our society, including its language quirks. Filmmakers and scriptwriters, in their bid to create memorable and engaging content, frequently employ nonsensical sentences.

  • In “Star Wars,” Yoda’s unique speech pattern often results in sentences like “Wars not make one great,” where the word order doesn’t conform to standard English syntax, yet it becomes a defining feature of his character.
  • “Jabberwocky,” a poem by Lewis Carroll, is filled with nonsensical words and phrases. Lines like “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe” captivate audiences with their rhythm and whimsy, even if their exact meaning remains elusive.
  • In “Alice in Wonderland,” the Mad Hatter’s riddle, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” is a classic example of a nonsensical sentence. The riddle has no answer; it’s meant to baffle and amuse.
  • The iconic phrase “I’ll be back” from “The Terminator” is grammatically correct. However, it doesn’t make much sense in its context, as the character is not simply leaving a situation but promising a formidable return.
  • In the television series “Doctor Who,” the titular character frequently uses “Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey” to describe concepts of time and space. It’s an amusing, nonsensical phrase that has gained popularity among show fans.

Words that make no sense in films and TV shows add depth to characters, amplify humor, and create memorable moments despite their lack of logical clarity. They reflect the power of language to entertain, perplex, and stick in our minds, even when it doesn’t make sense.

Playful Language Learning: Using English Phrases That Make No Sense for Vocabulary Building

Learning a new language can sometimes feel like a daunting task. However, the process can transform into an engaging and fun activity with nonsensical sayings. With bizarre literal meanings, these phrases often tickle our curiosity and make the learning process more memorable.

You can turn these phrases into a fun guessing game. List down some phrases without their meanings and challenge yourself or others to guess what they might mean. Alternatively, you could create flashcards with the phrase on one side and its meaning on the other. These activities help you remember the phrases and make learning more interactive and enjoyable. Those who prefer a more structured approach can take advantage of tutoring sessions with Promova.

Using nonsensical phrases also offers an excellent way to practice English in real-life settings. Try using them in your everyday conversations or your written communication. It will help you become more comfortable and fluent in English and acquaint you with the creative and playful side of the language.

Promova – Your Language-Learning Companion

Start your language learning adventure with Promova – a platform designed to meet all your linguistic needs. With us, you can access many resources tailored to different fluency levels, including extensive guided courses as well as group and individual classes.

In addition to the web version, our dynamic app for Android and iOS provides guided courses with interactive quizzes and vocabulary lists, ensuring an engaging learning experience. By using these tools daily, you can enhance your written and spoken skills.

Furthermore, the Conversation Club allows you to practice real-life dialogues with fellow language learners under certified tutor feedback. This feature gives you a vital opportunity to apply learned rules and vocabulary in conversation – the key to mastering any language!

Whether your goal is fluency or improving for academic purposes, Promova is built for you! Sign up today to unlock our robust platform features and start the exciting journey toward becoming multilingual!


From puzzling phrases to baffling banter, English words that make no sense are intriguing reminders of the complexity and dynamism of the language. They represent a delightful fusion of history, culture, and creativity. They’ve become integral to our films, TV shows, and everyday dialogues, adding color, humor, and depth. So next time you encounter one of these expressions, embrace the enigma and appreciate the beauty of language that can both confound and captivate. 


Are nonsensical phrases found in other languages?

Yes, nonsensical phrases are not unique to English. Many languages, including French, German, Spanish, and Chinese, have their own sets of idiomatic expressions or phrases that don’t make sense when translated literally.

How do nonsensical phrases evolve?

Such sayings evolve with changes in society, technology, and culture. Some phrases lose relevance and fall out of usage, while new ones reflect current trends or phenomena.

Can sayings that make no sense be used in formal writing?

While they can add creativity and color, words that don’t make sense are generally avoided in formal writing. They might cause confusion or misinterpretation. However, they can be used effectively in creative writing or informal contexts.

Where can I find resources to learn sayings that make no sense?

Online resources like the Oxford English Dictionary and Cambridge Dictionary provide detailed explanations of these phrases. Also, websites like Idioms Online offer extensive lists of idioms and phrases, often with examples from movies and TV shows.