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a can of worms

a can of worms

Date: Feb 07 2008

Themes: Pop Culture

Quote

1. Quote - Listen to the quote and guess what the slang means.

“It’s a can of worms. Big, fat, juicy worms, but worms.”

- Actress Pamela Anderson on her third divorce. (US Magazine)

Definition

1. Definition - Study the definition.

a bad situation; a problem with an unknown outcome

2. Use - Learn how the slang is used.

A can of worms is a big problem or something that could create a big problem. In America, there are no canned worms (at least, not at the grocery store, anyway). But, people open cans of worms all the time. That is to say, they make problems.

Pamela Anderson’s divorce is a can of worms, not only because divorces are always big problems, but also because she does not want to talk about it and she doesn’t want others to discuss it either. If there’s a topic you don’t want people to talk about, you could call it a can of worms.

Do you know what else comes in a linguistic can? Whoopass. When people say, “Don’t make me open a can of whoopass on you,” they mean “Don’t make me fight with you.” Whoopass comes from the verb, to whoop ass, which means to fight.

Do any slang terms come in a can in your language? What do you think English speakers should start canning next?

Examples

1. Examples - Hear some example sentences.

“He opened a can of worms today.”

“Let’s not talk about that. Don’t go opening a can of worms.”

Winners

1. Winners - See who guessed the slang definition correctly.

yuen88yuen something is so hard to deal with..like the worms in the can...
by yuen88yuen
a lot of big trouble
by chelsea1905
Panduola a source of unpredictable trouble and complexity
by Panduola
something really unpleasant, disgusting even
by if_i_refuse
siouxie She was refering to her failed marriage that made her life in haywire.
by siouxie
dearpesar a big broblem you dont want to talk about
by dearpesar
doom i think can of worms means : a very problematic situation
by doom
ElBeam It is something disgusting and unpleasing.
by ElBeam
Darlene difficult matters to deal with
by Darlene
jacob-iz It's a complicated or embarrassing matter.
by jacob-iz
donnadonna it`s kind of similar to what we call in my country "Pndora`s box"...one may expect the situation to be sorted out after "opening the can full of surprises"; instead, there`s nothing but grossy worms, so that they come to add even more problems to the already complicated situation..."high quality worms" they may be, indeed, as Pamela humourously refers to them as "big, fat , juicy", but it`s nothing but a literary method to help her emphasise the dramatic situation she is in.By that she simply means "it`s getting even worse"
by donnadonna
Droomek A complex unexpected problem or unsolvable dilemma
by Droomek
homyhoo the troublesome problem,unsolved problem
by homyhoo
trustmeok complicated problem
by trustmeok
Situation which is troublesome and complex with problems and she hate to talk about it.
by kaushalyats

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Comments

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a2020

a2020

Iran, Islamic Republic Of

I don’t know any slang in persian in terms of can,maybe the next can is frog.

08:22 AM Apr 30 2017 |

ScienceBoy

ScienceBoy

Turkey

I cannot think of any can related slang in Turkish but the closest one to opening a can of worms is ” to disturb a beehive” like Ola33 mentioned.

01:27 AM Jan 08 2015 |

arman19940326

Iran, Islamic Republic Of

Very interesting slang…

04:40 AM Jul 17 2014 |

mahbubeh92

mahbubeh92

Iran, Islamic Republic Of

thanxx alot for the slang.


opening a can of worms


can of whoopass >whoop ass >to fight


interesting

02:41 AM Jun 29 2014 |

kenlin16

kenlin16

Taiwan

The closet slang to “can” in Chinese is “catch a trutle in a can” which means that you set a trap like a can and then when the prey is trapped like a turtle , then you can easily catch it. So the whole slang means to set up the trap on our enemy and once it get trapped; it would be a pice of cake to finish the mission.

02:29 AM Jul 25 2013 |

DaeNg

DaeNg

Thailand

resist feeling

07:56 AM Mar 14 2013 |

dr.nals

dr.nals

Iran, Islamic Republic Of

ur best

11:04 PM Sep 22 2012 |

ErinDong

ErinDong

United States

i don’t like opening cans of worms. it causes a lot of trouble and it makes me grouchy.


it also discomforts other  people

12:47 PM Aug 03 2012 |

Yoyo Chen

Yoyo Chen

China

Interesting

11:23 PM Feb 17 2012 |

Amy Sunshine

China

It seems like a difficult problem.

05:48 AM Feb 17 2012 |

ola33

ola33

Japan

Lesya, “Everyone has his own cup of tea” shows that everyone has his own thing, interests, likes or dislikes that might be crazy as well. Yes, it’s not that evident as cocroaches in the head :) but still has got the sort of a similar meaning.

05:29 AM Feb 17 2012 |

kotlesya

kotlesya

Belarus

Ola33, thank you for the feedback. :) I heard the saying “to open Pandora’s box”. You are right not everybody knows the meaning of Pandora’s box and people do not use it often.


I would’t say “Everyone has his cocroaches in the head”  and  ” Everyone has his own cup of tea ” are equal :) The first one shows your unusual (odd or even insane) attitude towards life and the second one shows the things you like or dislike.


Have a good day, Ola33. Hope to see you on-line in the forum :)

11:54 PM Feb 16 2012 |

ola33

ola33

Japan

Lesya, what comes into my mind as an equivalent of ”can of worms” into Russian language is” to disturb a beehive or wasp’s nest or an ant hill”. Nothing that i know has “a can” word to express the meaning of ” don’t trouble trouble until trouble troubles you”.


About “Everyone has his cocroaches in the head” just got from the lesson ” Everyone has his own cup of tea ” :)


Actually, we have that too, with the container—a box (can) To open Pandora’s box. The same meaning as the can of worms. But Pandora’s requires the knowledge of Greek myths. With worms, it’s more coloquial,  the meaning is more or less understandable as something not pleasant…


 

03:42 PM Feb 16 2012 |

kotlesya

kotlesya

Belarus


I don’t remember any slang terms come in a can in Russian.


Ola33, have you any idea what Russian idiom includes a can? Help me if you can, thank you in advance.


The only one expression comes to my mind, but it does not have word a can. :(


The expression is   a pig in a poke. It means something has been accepted/bought without first seeing it or finding out. For example,buying clothes by mail is (like) buying a pig in a poke.


Usually we say a cat in a poke in Russian language. I have no idea why I get  the translation of that expression  like  a pig in a poke.


Seems to be English speakers  prefer to see a pig in a poke in opposite cat. :-)


We have an expression everyone has his own cockroaches in the head  it means everybody has his peculiarity. I will not be surprised if one day English speakers will start canning the cockroaches :) 

03:18 AM Feb 16 2012 |

mavjuda

Uzbekistan

very much difficulties which u dont want to talk

01:36 AM Jan 26 2012 |

jotagusto

Peru

similar to lose the control of anything or for someone,anddont like to accept that  situation,at less in public….

10:35 PM May 18 2011 |

Zambuka

Zambuka

United States

This way, can of worms must never be cut open !

11:02 PM Mar 30 2011 |

etterci

Brazil

In my country we hve a similar expression: "touch in a house of bees" 

11:06 AM Mar 24 2011 |

1 person likes this

mitra.700

mitra.700

Iran, Islamic Republic Of

Talkin about those days is just like opening a can of worms for me, never remind me….

04:06 AM Nov 23 2010 |

MIGUEL051

Dominican Republic

IF YOU DO NOT WANT THAT NOBODY DISCUSS YOUR PROBLEM DO NOT ACT SO SILLY BECAUSE EVERYONE WILL TRY TO MAKE MOCKING OF YOU AND YOU WILL HAVE TO OPEN THE CAN OF WORMS IN SOMEONE ELSE.

 

09:02 PM Oct 21 2010 |

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