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On the Rocks

Sometimes idioms can have two completely different
meanings.  This is what keeps English so
interesting!  The expression “on the
rocks” can have a negative meaning about a romantic relationship, but it can
also refer to how you would like your cocktail served!

First example:               

Leila:  Hey, Sarah,
how’s it going? 

Sarah:  Oh, pretty
good, I guess.

What!!!  You are a newlywed; you
should be feeling better than that! What’s up?

Sarah:  Well, to be
perfectly honest, I am not that happy.

Leila:  What do you
mean? Aren’t you happy in your marriage?

Sarah:  Well, at
first I thought so, but now I think that my husband Ryan has been seeing his
ex-girlfriend Mary!

Leila:  Oh no! You have only been married for three
months. I am so sorry!

Sarah:  Yeah, I
really think my marriage is on the rocks. We seem to argue about everything, especially
about his relationship with Mary. I’m
not sure what I am going to do.

Leila:  You poor
thing. I think you might need to think
about marriage counseling.

Sarah:  Yeah, I’ve
already thought about it. I’ll keep you
posted as to what I’ll do.

Leila:  In the
meantime, don’t hesitate to let me know if you need anything. I feel really bad because I introduced the
two of you!

Sarah:  Oh,
Leila! I don’t blame you. Sometimes marriages work out, and sometimes
they don’t. I’ll call you in a few days
and let you know what’s going on.

Leila:  Okay,
Sarah. Talk to you soon.

Sarah:  Bye,

Meaning: When
someone says that a romantic relationship is “on the rocks,” it means that
things are not working out.  It means
that the relationship is in danger of ending. Imagine a ship that is sailing the ocean and nearing an island. Somehow it comes too close to a reef or to
some rocks, and the ship breaks apart. When a relationship is “on the rocks,” it is in a bad way. It may or may not be able to be repaired.  It is an idiom that can be used to symbolize
that a love relationship is failing.

Second example:

Leila:  Hey,
Sarah! I’m so glad you could meet me for
a drink today. I haven’t seen you in

Sarah: I’m happy
to see you, too. Between marriage
counseling and date nights with my husband, I have been pretty busy. It’s like we are falling in love all over

Leila: Oh, Sarah,
I am so happy for you! I’m glad that you
are trying to make your marriage work!

Sarah: Me,
too. And I feel kind of silly. Remember what I told you about thinking that
Ryan was seeing his old girlfriend?

Leila:  Yeah, you
were suspicious. Was it true?

Sarah:  No, not at
all. He was emailing her and calling her
because he wanted to make arrangements to get back his old coin
collection. He had put it into storage
in her mother’s garage because he had been moving around so much.

Leila:  A coin
collection! Wow, I didn’t know that
anyone even collected coins anymore!

Sarah:  Yeah, Ryan
does. He says it’s worth a few thousand
dollars. He wanted to sell some of it so
that he could take us on a cruise for Valentine’s Day! 

Leila:  No
way! That is so romantic!

Sarah:  Yeah, he’s
taking us on a cruise to Mexico, with stops in San Diego and Catalina Island!

Leila:  Sarah, I am
so glad that your marriage is not in trouble. I was so worried about you.

Sarah:  Me, too,
but I feel much better now.

Leila:  Well this
calls for a celebration! Let’s have that
drink. Bartender, I’ll take a shot of
vodka, please!

Bartender:  And
for you, Miss?

Sarah:  Make that
vodka for me, too, but I’ll take mine on the rocks!

Meaning: In this situation, “on the rocks” has absolutely nothing
to do with love or romantic relationships! In this situation, it describes how you would like your cocktail
prepared. You can ask a bartender to
make your drink “neat” or “straight,” which means a pour of liquor into a glass
with nothing else. You can ask the
bartender to make a cocktail, such as a martini; to be made “shaken” or
“stirred”. Remember the 007 James Bond
movies? James always asked for his
martinis “shaken, not stirred.” A
cocktail can be shaken in a shaker and then strained into a glass, leaving the
ice behind in the shaker and not put into the glass. A stirred drink is poured in layers into the
glass on top of the ice (such as vodka, soda water and cranberry juice) and
then stirred by the bartender. Finally,
a drink that is “on the rocks” can be a mixed drink or a
straight pour of only one liquor that is poured directly on top of the ice and
served that way. It is typically not
stirred by the bartender. If you ask
for a drink that is “on the rocks”, it means that you want it served on ice. Think of it this way, in this idiom, the ice
cubes are shaped like rocks. The ice
cubes are the “rocks”. This is what the
expression comes from.