What Is Under Your Hat?

Can You Keep a Secret?

I love wearing hats! And all my friends and family know that I love wearing hats. That is no secret. I have hats to wear when the sun shines. I have hats to wear when it is cold. I have hats to wear for special celebrations. Whatever the weather and whatever the occasion, I like to wear a hat.

Katy Blake in a flat cap.
Katy Blake in a flat cap – a kind of flat hat.

So what is the connection between hats and secrets? No, I do not have a secret hat. The connection is to do with an idiom about hats.

Native English speakers often use idioms in their speech. These are words and phrases where the meaning is not clear from individual words. Native English speakers use idioms in informal situations.

There Are Lots of English Idioms About Hats.

Here is an idiom about hats and secrets:

Keep something under your hat

This phrase means to keep something a secret. It does not mean that anyone has something physically under a hat.

Perhaps a person has some exciting news. But that information can only be shared with one other person. It cannot be shared with everyone. It has to be kept secret.

Woman: “I have some great news. I am pregnant! We are going to become parents.
Man: “That’s wonderful news. I am so happy. Let’s tell all of our family and friends.
Woman: “I would like to wait a few weeks before we tell anyone. Please keep the news under your hat for now.”

a gray hat with feathers
Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Here Are Six More Idioms About Hats.

1. I take my hat off to …

You do not need to be wearing a hat to use this idiom. And if you do wear a hat you do not need to take your hat off to use this idiom.

You can use this phrase about someone to show that you admire and respect that person for what she has done.

‘I take my hat off to my friend who works 3 jobs to pay for going to college. My friend is determined to get a great education. Do you admire anyone?’
‘I take my hat off to the men and women who take part in the Special Olympic Games. They do not let their disabilities stop them from being great athletes.’

2. Be wearing your [teachers’/lawyers’/doctor’s] hat

You know that I wear different hats. These are real hats. But I also wear hats that are not real. Everyone does. These are the ‘hats’ that we wear when we work. This is what this idiom is about.

Everyone says or does different things when working in different roles. If you are a lawyer a friend might ask you a question. They want you to answer ‘wearing your lawyer’s hat’. They want the answer of a lawyer, not just a friend.

‘My friend was wearing her teacher’s hat at the meeting. You could tell that she knew how to speak to large groups of people.’
‘I’m worried about the pandemic. With your doctor’s hat on can you tell me what you know about COVID-19?’

hanging hats
Image by Couleur from Pixabay

3. Hang up your hat

This idiom is about leaving your job. So when you retire from a job you ‘hang up your hat’.

Worker 1: ‘Why did she leave her job?’
Worker 2: ‘She told me that she had stopped enjoying her work. That was why she decided to hang up her hat.’
Worker 1: ‘I am going to hang up my hat too. I am too old to do the heavy lifting that is needed in my job.’ 

BONUS – A variation of this idiom is sometimes used for people who play sports. People who retire from playing sport sometimes say that they are ‘hanging up their boots’.

4. I’ll eat my hat

If you use this phrase you are saying that you will be very surprised if something does (or does not) happen.

‘Do you expect your student to pass his math exam?’
‘No, I don’t. He does not do his homework. And he does not attend class. If he passes this math exam I will eat my hat.’

Adam Navis and Katy Blake eating ice cream (not their hats)
Adam Navis and Katy Blake eating ice cream (not their hats)

5. Pass the hat round/around

This idiom probably started when people really did pass a hat around to collect something. This idiom is about collecting money from a group of people.  Today, they do not actually pass a real hat around between them to put money into.

Perhaps a group of people from your work office want to buy a leaving present for someone who retiring from work. They will collect money from each other to buy a leaving gift. They will ‘pass the hat round’. Sometimes it is phrased that they will ‘pass the hat around’. Both phrases mean the same.

‘Have you heard? Sally is getting married.’
‘Yes, I have heard. It would be lovely if everyone in the office could buy her a present to celebrate.’
‘Great idea! Let’s pass the hat around.’

Money in a hat
Free image/jpeg, Resolution: 3076×2104, File size: 1.19Mb, Photo of money in a hat

6. Throw/toss your hat in the ring

This idiom is about competing with other people for something. The phrase is mostly used with competing for a political position. It could also mean that you want to try for a new job or position.

‘Do you think that Fred will be a candidate for the election of class President?’
‘Yes, I think he is going to throw his hat in the ring.‘
‘Great! I hope that he wins.’

Why not try to use one of these idioms in a conversation this week? If you do, I will take my hat off to you!

– Katy

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Further reading

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