10 Idioms About Technology 📱 bells and whistles, a well-oiled machine, hit the panic button


information technology idioms

Technology is all around us and it is really changing the way we live our lives. Some say technology is making things better and others say that it is making things more complicated.

Whatever you think you cannot deny that technology is here to stay!

So, we have compiled a list of ten idioms that have been given to us by the technology world. There are some fantastic ones here and they can also be used to describe things in the human world.

Before we start, here’s the list:

  1. Bells and whistles
  2. Blow a fuse
  3. Bright as a button
  4. Cog in the machine
  5. Hit the panic button
  6. To be in tune with somebody
  7. To be on the same wavelength
  8. To make something tick
  9. A well-oiled machine
  10. To pull the plug

Bells and whistles idiom

Bells and whistles

When something has bells and whistles on it, it means that it has lots of cool features.

Think about your smartphone and just how many features it has, there are so many that you may not even use and perhaps you don’t need. Even so, companies still continue adding capabilities and extra features which they say make our lives easier.

You can also describe items like cars as having all the bells and whistles.

Take a look below:

Alan: Nice car, Francis!
Francis: Thanks Al, I bought it last week and I’m really enjoying it!

Alan: It looks cool, how much was it?
Francis: It cost a lot of money, 30,000 pounds, but it has all the bells and whistles as well!

Alan: Oh wow, what does it have?
Francis: Well, with this model I get in-car wifi, heated seats and a satellite radio. 

So, as you can see with Francis’ fancy car, to have all the bells and whistles can be a good thing but it may also cost a lot of extra money!

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not working, inoperative, broken, shut down

To blow a fuse

Danger! Bad temper alert!

To blow a fuse means that someone suddenly gets very angry, perhaps over something unexpected.

In the technology world, when something blows a fuse it means that suddenly it stops working. It comes from electronics, for example, if a lightbulb blows its fuse it will suddenly stop working and will perhaps make a sharp popping noise.

Think about someone in your life that often blows their fuse. Do you ever blow your fuse?

Here’s an example:

Jane: Paula, did you hear Valerie this morning?
Paula: No, what happened?

Jane: Well, I brought in some cakes that I had made at home. I simply asked her if she wanted a cake and she blew a fuse! I’m so confused and upset! She shouted at me saying “Go away! I don’t want a cake!”

Paula: Ah, I know what the problem is. Valerie is on a strict diet and is trying to lose some weight so she probably can’t eat cake.

Jane: Well I understand that but she didn’t have to yell at me!

Be careful not to blow your fuse! Try to stay calm and solve the problem first! Also, if a fuse blows in your house, take care when you change it!

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bright as a button idiom

Bright as a button

Now, this one comes from something that is indeed technology related but you probably take it for granted on a daily basis! The button is a fantastic invention, it helps us to keep our clothing closed and also to make it look good.

This phrase is great because it is using the double meaning of bright. Bright can mean both intelligent and shiny.

So in this case, you can say that someone is bright as a button to say that they are very intelligent and also a pleasant person! It’s a great compliment! If someone says you are bright as a button then you should be very pleased.

Heres an example of where this phrase might be used:

Grant: Hey Ruth, I was reading your daughter’s essay the other day. What a fantastic piece of work!
Ruth: Thank you, Grant, I know she worked very hard on it.

Grant: Well that’s excellent. She is such an intelligent young lady, she’s as bright as a button.
Ruth: Thanks Grant, that’s kind of you!

A really nice phrase that you can use to compliment your friends and family today! Do you now anyone that is bright as a button?

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Cog in the machine

Cog in the machine

This is a very interesting phrase to look at but much simpler if you think about it logically.

A cog is something that turns in a machine to make it work, without it the machine could not function properly and would be completely useless!

That being said, being a cog in the machine is a really nice thing to say to someone and will make them feel really valued as a person.

This could be a great expression to use if you are the manager of a large company and want to make an employee feel important.

Let’s take a look at the example:

Joe: Hi Regan, step into my office please! I would like to have a chat.
Regan: Okay sir, what seems to be the problem?

Joe: There is no problem! I just wanted to say how well you are doing for this company. Keep up the good work!
Regan: Oh, thanks sir! I should try and be more positive!

Joe: Absolutely! You are a very important cog in the machine here.
Regan: Thanks sir, that means a lot.

This phrase doesn’t have to be limited to business, it can be used for anyone that works well in a team and that perhaps doesn’t get much praise on a regular basis. Make them feel valued today! Without them, your machine might not work.

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To hit the panic button idiom

To hit the panic button

This is a funny phrase to describe a situation where somebody has acted quickly and without thinking. When you hit the panic button, you forget all logic and act as though the world were about to end.

There are lots of examples of panic in our modern world thanks to the technology from which this phrase came! Think about when you are typing a long document and something goes wrong. Suddenly, you lose everything. All of your words, all of your pictures, gone never to be seen again.

Do you act calmly and try to recover the files? Or do you hit the panic button and start screaming and running around the house whilst thinking about what you will do?

Only you can answer that!

Have a look at the example:

Paul: Oh my god, Mary, did you see what happened to Joe this morning?
Mary: No! Is he okay?

Paul: He got a phone call this morning saying that his son had not come to school and they didn’t know where he was.
Mary: Oh no! 

Paul: Yeah, he hit the panic button. He leapt from his seat and ran out to his car to go and find his son.
Mary: And did he find him?

Paul: He got halfway down the road and then he had another call from the school saying that he didn’t need to worry, it was just a mistake.
Mary: Oh thank goodness. What a relief!

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To be in tune with somebody

To be in tune with somebody

This is a beautiful phrase that you can use to describe your relationship with your best friend or significant other.

Think about the technology parallel, if you are in tune with something, it is usually to do with television or radio. On television, you tune the television (or at least you used to) to get a better signal and to make the picture clearer. On the radio, the same is true, but instead it is to make the sound clearer.

Let’s bring that back to the real world now, if you are in tune with somebody then it means you completely understand them and you can speak to each other without words.

It’s a wonderful thing to share with somebody and it can make your relationship so much better!

Here’s an example:

Barry: Julie, how was your date last night?
Julie: Oh it was fantastic, we are really getting along well.

Barry: How wonderful!
Julie: Yeah I’m so happy! We seem to be completely in tune with each other!

Barry: I’m very happy to hear that, Julie.

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party, new year, happy new year, fireworks, pyrotechnics, rockets

To be on the same wavelength

Do you have someone with whom you are in tune? It’s a wonderful feeling!

You can also say that you are on the same wavelength with somebody. This means the same thing and has the same origins but can also be used for casual acquaintances. It is a bit less serious that being in tune with somebody!

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To make something/somebody tick

To make something/somebody tick

Another nice phrase that is a balance between to be in tune with somebody and to be a cog in the machine. When you make somebody tick it means that they really like you and respond well to you. It’s a great compliment to receive and something that other people will notice.

  • You can make your best friend tick, you can make your friend tick or you can even make your work colleagues tick.

Another phrase similar to this is to keep things ticking over. This means that you are constantly making things happen. In a factory, you make sure things are working without making much of a fuss about it.

Here’s a great example:

Sarah: Hey, June, how are things going with your new boyfriend?
June: Oh it’s wonderful, I’m loving it.

Sarah: Wow, you have a great relationship then?
June: Yeah, he really makes me tick. He always knows what to say and how to say it. I’m very lucky!

Sarah: You certainly are! I’m so jealous of you!

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a well-oiled machine idiom

A well-oiled machine

This is a great phrase to show that a unit of people or a group of things work very well together. This can be used in the workplace or indeed to describe your family. It means that as a group you all get on well together and things seem to run very smoothly without problems.

Being part of a well-oiled machine is brilliant, you barely have to think and things just seem to work!

When you look at the technology parallels, it is clear that a machine that isn’t well-oiled will not work very well and will also make lots of noise. This will make life more difficult for anyone that needs to use the machine.

The workplace is the most common place in which this phrase is used. A machine is generally something that is used to make money or accomplish tasks, so it makes sense.

Here’s an example:

Rod: Okay, so Andy do you have the reports ready?
Andy: Yep, I certainly do!

Rod: Great! And Leanne, have you prepared the presentation?
Leanne: It’s ready, Rod! 

Rod: Fantastic work guys! Our group really is a well-oiled machine!

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to pull the plug, charge, energize, fill up, load

To pull the plug

This is a phrase that can be used in a number of different situations. They are usually negative situations.

Thinking literally about technology, when you pull the plug on something, it means that it no longer has a power source and will therefore switch off. If you pull the plug on a computer, it will switch off immediately, the same goes for a television or a lamp.

It is commonly used for someone that has been on life support, which is equipment that keeps someone alive. If you pull the plug it means that they will die. Families often do this if their loved one is not getting better and they can stop the pain. It’s a very difficult decision.

In terms of ideas, if you pull the plug on an idea it means that you stop thinking and developing that idea immediately. This might be because there is a problem with the concept or simply that people do not want to carry on developing. However, imagine if Apple had pulled the plug on the iPod!

Don’t despair just yet, don’t pull the plug and keep on thinking!

Here’s an example to explain further:

George: So Lionel, have you been working on your new invention?
Lionel: Well, not much really. I’ve been so busy with my work that I haven’t had time to be creative or even relax!

George: Oh dear, well maybe it will get better soon.
Lionel: No, I don’t think so. I’m considering just pulling the plug on the whole thing.

George: No! Lionel, you can’t give up, you have a fantastic idea and you need to keep developing it to see just how good it can get! Don’t pull the plug just yet, have a think about it.
Lionel: Thanks George, we’ll see, I will give it some thought. Thanks for your kind words.

Hopefully that has helped you to understand!

Okay, so that wraps up our list of the best ten technology idioms!

We added all the bells and whistles for you and we hope you didn’t blow a fuse whilst reading. Remember, you’re as bright as a button and an important cog in the machine!

Thoughts and comments are always welcome!

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3 years ago

The dictionary says that “cog in the machine” has a negative meaning, it makes you feel unimportant

Seyed Alireza Ghasemi nezhad
5 years ago

very nice
myenglishteacher is the best ever

Reply to  Seyed Alireza Ghasemi nezhad
5 years ago

Thank you!