What does ‘keep a lid on it’ mean?

What does ‘keep a lid on it’ mean?


Feifei: Hello and welcome to The English We Speak. I’m Feifei. Neil: And hello, I’m Neil. Phwa! What is that smell? Feifei: Rob’s homemade cooking. Neil: Rob cooks?! Feifei: Yes, he does. But it doesn’t taste very nice. Neil: So why do you have to eat it – and why do have to make the studio stink of it? Feifei: Well, I don’t want to offend him. He keeps giving me his homemade food and asking me for some honest feedback. And I just tell him ‘it’s interesting, unique, special’. Neil: Oh Feifei, you need to keep a lid on it. Feifei: Well, if you think that’ll stop the smell, I will. Neil: That’s not what I meant, although it’s a good idea. If you ‘keep a lid on something’ it means to keep something under control – to stop the situation getting worse. Feifei: OK, Neil! Neil: Here are some examples of this phrase in action. I couldn’t keep a lid on my feelings about the rota so I shouted at the boss! With rising food prices, it’s hard to keep a lid on how much I spend at the supermarket. Feifei: This is The English We Speak from BBC Learning English and we’re looking at the phrase ‘to keep a lid on something’ which means to keep something under control and to stop the situation from getting worse. But this isn’t the only meaning, is it? Neil: No. If you keep a lid on something, it can also mean you keep something secret. Like this… I’ve heard that Daisy is expecting a baby – but keep a lid on it until it’s official! Feifei: OK Neil, you’re telling me to keep a lid on things by telling Rob to stop giving me his homemade food? Neil: Yes – unless his cooking is amazing. Feifei: It’s not. Neil: Right, well tell him you’re on a diet or you’ve become vegan and that should stop him. And I will keep your little lie a secret. Feifei: You mean, you’ll keep a lid on it? Neil: Exactly. But in the meantime, could you actually keep a lid on that box of food please? It stinks! Feifei: OK. Right, I’m off to speak to Rob. Bye. Neil: Remember to be firm and say what you mean. Rob: Hi, Neil. Feifei doesn’t seem to want this delicious food I made. Would you like it? Neil: Err… go on then. Looks lovely. Bye.

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