Make ends meet With the high cost of living in Hong Kong, it is possible that your parents sometimes have trouble making ends meet, that is, balancing their income and expenditure. There is a famous quotation from Charles Dickens' character Mr Micawber, who sadly ends up in debt: 'Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty ought and six, result misery.' There are 20 shillings to a pound - so if you earn a little more than you spend you'll be happy. But if your expenditure exceeds your income, you will be unhappy. Making ends meet is important. If you are running up debts, it is time to tighten your belt (or to economise). Possibly this idea of a belt is where the idiom 'making ends meet' comes from. It might also have to do with tailoring and having enough material to make a garment. Or it could be derived from book-keeping, with money coming in and going out, but the two columns must ultimately balance out (their ends must meet). Some of the idioms about earning a living offer a clear picture of life centuries ago. The breadwinner works hard to keep the wolf from the door - to have just enough money to be able to eat and survive. Anyone who has a little spare cash should save it for a rainy day. The moral is: Be careful with your pocket money. Tie the knot Shall we tie the knot? What would you think someone meant if they said this to you? Have you heard the news? Tommy and May are tying the knot. What are they doing? They are getting married. The first question would be a very casual way of proposing to someone. As usual with idioms, there are a number of theories about where this one comes from, but its origins are not clear. There is a rather complicated one about 17th century brides wearing ribbons with knots, and a more romantic one about wedding ceremonies with the couple knotting their hands together to express their devotion. There are ceremonies where the bride and groom's hands (wrists) are tied together. This happens in some Asian countries, but that won't explain an old British idiom. Probably, it is simply a good metaphor for marriage. A knot holds things tightly together and that's what marriage does to two people. If you visit Wales, you can buy a traditional Welsh love spoon with a knot-shaped handle for the special one in your life. There is an even more informal version of the idiom: To get hitched. Hitch also means tie and is particularly associated with attaching animals to carts. For safety's sake, a very strong knot is needed.