Back to square one You have been working hard on a problem and you think you might have a solution. However, it doesn't work. You sigh and say: 'It's back to square one.' In other words, you need to start all over again. It is easy to imagine this phrase comes from a board game, such as Snakes and Ladders, where your progress can suddenly be brought to a halt and you slide down back to square one. The idiom seemed to have been made popular by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Commentators describing a football match on radio tried to make it easier for listeners to follow by dividing the pitch into eight squares. After half-time, the commentary would begin with the phrase: 'Well, it's back to square one.' The idiom, though, is a little more negative than this. It's usually because something has gone wrong and you have to go back to the beginning. There are other idioms involving a square. If someone does not fit into a group (think of a very shy person in a noisy sports team), they are a square pin in a round hole. This comes from plugs and sockets. Square and round plugs are equally effective in the right place, but do not mix well. An attempt to handle a difficult situation involving a contradiction (participate in lots of extra-curricular activities and really concentrate on academic studies) is to try to square the circle, a problem that may puzzle many mathematicians. A fly on the wall 'I wish I was a fly on the wall.' English-speakers sometimes express this rather strange hope. What exactly do they mean? They actually want to be nosey - or meddle in affairs that are none of their business. In other words, they enjoy listening and watching what's going on in private without anyone noticing them. They imagine themselves turning into a fly and buzzing into a room where Ming is going to ask Sue to marry him, or Jim is about to admit he has been seeing another girl. Curiosity is one of the special features of human beings and, as you may have found out for yourself, keeping something secret is very difficult. However much we promise not to tell anyone what we know, we all make exceptions and soon everyone knows everything. It is, in fact, very difficult to avoid those flies on the wall. A related saying is: 'Walls have ears.' You have to be very careful when you whisper to your friend in the classroom during recess. Someone is bound to be passing by, even if it is only a fly ... And worse still, the walls may have ears!