“I’m feeling under the weather” “Jane is sick today, she can’t come to class.” “My grandfather is ill.”
All of these sentences have similar meanings, but let’s take a look at the differences.
First off “Under the weather” is an idiom that means “sick”. It is believed to come from sailors who had to stay below decks on ships when sick (under the deck and under the weather outside).
Although it has the same meaning as “sick” since you are speaking indirectly through an idiom it is a little less strong. It is also more common to use with softeners like “a little under the weather” when you feel only partially sick.
“Sick” and “Ill” are synonyms, two words that mean the same thing, but we tend to use them a bit differently.
We more often use “sick” for short term things like a cold, flu or food poisoning that last several days.
“Ill” is more often used for long term diseases or hereditary illnesses like cancer.
“I missed work last week because I was sick.” Is common, however “I missed work last week because I was ill” is still grammatically correct and not unnatural -just less common. “My grandfather is sick, he has cancer.” Likewise is not wrong, just a less common use of the word sick.
“Under the weather” though can only be used for short term, temporary things and would never be used for a fatal disease.
“Oh man, I lost that coupon I had for the coffee shop.” “Well, no use crying over spilled milk.”
Crying over spilled milk (or “spilt” milk in UK English) means to be upset about something bad that happened that you can’t change. The bad thing that happened is usually a minor thing.
The image this idiom evokes for me is a young child who has spilled their glass of milk all over a table and starts to cry about it. Of course crying won’t undo the spill, and it won’t clean it up. It is a fruitless action. Also it is such a minor accident that full-blown crying seems overboard.
If you tell someone “not to cry over spilled milk” you are implying that the problem isn’t major. This can be used to comfort or chide someone who seems too worried about something minor.
“I wanted a chocolate shake, but the clerk said all they had left was vanilla.” “Well, don’t cry over spilled milk. It’s just a drink.”
But be careful not to use it for things that are actually important. “My girlfriend just dumped me.” “No use crying over spilled milk. Plenty of other fish in the sea.” <==Could seem a little insensitive.
“Janine, when am I going to get a chance to meet that new boyfriend of yours? Oh, speak of the devil, here he is now!”
“Speak of the devil.” is an old idiom that is derived from the superstition “Speak of the devil and he will appear.” In olden times people were afraid to say the name of the biblical devil (Satan, Lucifer, Beelzebub… he had many names) because they thought that would draw his attention and he would come after they said his name.
These days we use it to indicate that soon after we mention someone they suddenly show up. We know it is coincidence, but we use the idiom: “Speak of the devil” as if our conversation had some power. Since it is such a coincidence to mention someone and have them appear this phrase is usually said with some surprise.
“Speak of the devil, we were just talking about you!”
Although the phrase originates from calling the devil, an evil creature, we use it very neutrally these days. It doesn’t have to have a negative meaning. You will be able to tell from the tone of voice.
“Where is Gus today? Oh. Speak of the devil, you’re late again Gus!”
“I can’t wait until the postman gets here. Speak of the devil! I’m dying for my mail”
“Lucy is really on the ball, she already finished all her essays for this term.”
“Samsung is really on the ball with their new smartphone, it addresses user needs perfectly.”
“On the ball” is an idiom with a positive meaning. It means that someone is competent and attentive, able to do a good job because of their focus. It can also mean that someone is knowledgeable and alert, able to pay attention to new trends and ideas.
The origin is believed to be from sports. Coaches would tell players “Keep your eye on the ball” telling them to look at and pay attention to the ball, and not get distracted. We use it now for people that exhibit good focus or for people that are successful in something because of competent actions. “Lucy is really on the ball, she already finished all her essays for this term.” = Lucy has used her focus and hard work to be successful in completing her work quickly. “Samsung is really on the ball, with their new smartphone, it addresses user needs perfectly.” = The Samsung company is really aware of current trends and needs, and uses that knowledge to make a successful smartphone.